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"All of the high schools listed by Newsweek are obviously educating some of their students well," Governor Wise wrote.

In its May 16 issue, Newsweek published a list of America’s best high schools based on which schools were getting as many students as possible ready for higher education. The magazine used a formula developed by Washington Post columnist Jay Mathews that ranked schools based on participation in Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) tests that were written and graded by outside experts. While Mathews concedes that there is much to debate about the value of standardized tests and AP in particular, he maintains that “no other standard works as well to measure a high school’s success at challenging all students to perform at a high level.”

In a letter that was published in the May 30 issue of NewsweekAlliance for Excellent Education president and former West Virginia Governor Bob Wise commended the magazine for its recognition of the crisis in America’s high schools, but argued that successful high schools are “complex entities that defy efforts to rank them by simple criteria.”

“All of the high schools listed by Newsweek are obviously educating some of their students well,” Governor Wise wrote. “Those young people who are taking AP or IB classes are no doubt better prepared than many of their peers for the demands of college or other postgraduate training. But less than 60 percent of U.S. high schools participate in the AP program, and fewer than 500 schools in this country offer an International Baccalaureate degree.”

Wise noted that many of the one hundred best high schools from Mathews’s list are considered “in need of improvement” by the U.S. Department of Education-in most cases because some subgroup of their students are not making Adequate Yearly Progress. Nor does Mathews’s analysis take into consideration how many students in the schools enroll in the ninth grade but drop out prior to graduation.

While Wise acknowledged that rigorous coursework is a necessary element of a successful high school education, he maintained that students also need “caring, well-trained teachers, effective programs to help them raise their literacy levels, individual learning plans that help them achieve their academic objectives over a four- or six-year period, personalized learning centers, relevant curricula, and a variety of other supports that will make the difference between success and failure.”

In concluding, Wise applauded the schools that made the list, but urged parents and community leaders to “look at all of the factors that go into making successful schools as they rate the high schools in their neighborhoods and beyond.”

More information on Newsweek‘s “America’s Best High Schools” issue is available at

Governor Wise’s complete letter to Newsweek is available here

I Want My MTV!: Gates Foundation Partners with Music Television Network to Stress Importance of a High School Diploma 

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced a new partnership with MTV to raise young people’s awareness about the importance of finishing high school with the skills needed for college. The joint project is called “think MTV: Education” and will inform millions of young people with a focus on low-income and minority students. The project will offer key facts about the importance of graduating from high school and provide resources on how to prepare for and gain access to college.

“We’re thrilled that MTV is getting the message out, having this told through the eyes of the kids themselves. And we think it can make a huge difference,” said Bill Gates, cofounder of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “As students expect more, it actually helps the system to change. It’s not only great for those kids but this whole momentum we want to build about having great high schools-[young people] can be part of what helps that happen.”

More information on the partnership, as well as an MTV News interview with Bill Gates, is available from the Gates Foundation.

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Every Child a Graduate. Every Child Prepared for Life.