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Harrison among top US high schools

Harrison High School was ranked 135th among the top 500 schools in the country, according to a Newsweek study. The school’s graduation rate was in the 99th percentile; its college-bound student rate was in the 96th percentile. File photo
Harrison High School was ranked 135th among the top 500 schools in the country, according to a Newsweek study. The school’s graduation rate was in the 99th percentile; its college-bound student rate was in the 96th percentile. File photo

Six Westchester County public schools are among the top 500 in the country, according to a study commissioned by Newsweek in August.

Each year, Newsweek compiles a list of the nation’s top high schools, rating most highly the institutions which best prepare their students for college.

Harrison High School was not ranked in 2015, but was placed at No. 135 on this year’s list.

Louis Wool, superintendent of Harrison schools, lauded the high school for allowing all of its students to take more difficult Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate courses which resemble college-level work.

“The more we’ve encouraged students to take these risks, the better we’ve done on these lists,” Wool said. He added that Harrison High School does not require an entrance exam to enroll in the IB courses. “The most important part is how we are preparing [students] for college, especially for [their] freshman year,” he said. “We do not preclude any kids who want to take these courses.”

Both Eastchester and Rye high schools returned to the top half of the chart this year. Rye, which was ranked 98th in the 2015 study, ascended to No. 96, while Eastchester dropped from No. 132 to No. 194.

Brian Monahan, interim superintendent of Rye schools since August, said he was impressed by the degree to which Rye students challenge themselves by taking college-level courses, and added that the school district was honored to be included on the list.

Jeff Capuano, principal at Eastchester Senior High School, said he has also seen a growth in students taking college-level classes, and added that the school implores students to challenge themselves. “Rankings aside, research shows that the higher level courses a student takes, the higher likelihood that they’re going to succeed when they’re in college,” he said.

The study ranked schools based on stats like “college readiness,” graduation rate and percentage of students who are college-bound, enrollment in college-level programs like Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate, and also looked at student retention, counselor-student ratio and average SAT and ACT test scores.

However, the Newsweek list is not necessarily a chart of the best schools; only schools that participate in the study are considered for the final list.

Matthew Finster, a senior research associate with Westat, research partner for the Newsweek study, said the firm compiles a list of about 16,000 schools using data from the U.S. Department of Education. Westat sends a survey to those schools seeking in-depth information.

Only the schools that respond—normally about 25 percent of the initial list—are considered in the study.
Westchester County’s top school in 2016 was Briarcliff—33rd overall—which also ranked high in the previous two years.

Of the counties in New York state which had ranked schools, Westchester ranked second, behind Nassau County which had 12 schools ranked in the top 500.

Eleven Westchester schools were featured in Newsweek’s 2015 poll. Bronxville, which was ranked 29th last year—the best in the county and fourth overall in the state—was not ranked in the most recent poll. Rye Neck, which was ranked 140th last year, was also absent from the 2016 list. Those schools did not submit data for this year’s Newsweek poll. However, both schools were listed on this year’s Washington Post index of most challenging high schools, along with Mamaroneck, Rye, Harrison and seven other Westchester County schools.

Only public high schools were ranked in the Newsweek and Washington Post studies.

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