Douglas County High School has one two prestigious awards in the last two years, making it the crown jewel of the school system, and the envy of other high schools. These awards portray a false impression of the quality of the school, and are not even reflections of actual student achievement.
Challenging Schools Ranking –
In 2014, the Washington Post designated DCHS as the 9th most challenging school in the state of Georgia. According to the Post website, the rankings were determined simply by the number of Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate (IB) and Advanced International Certificate of Education tests given at a school each year, divided by the number of seniors who graduated that year. Thus, the award was granted by the number of exams taken, not on the performance on those exams.
Since the IB program at DCHS is so large (over 70 graduates in 2013 on which these figures were based), inevitably a high percentage of the senior class took these exams.
Top 10% in the Nation –
In 2015, the U.S. News and World Report ranked DCHS as a Top 10% school in the nation. This ranking was based on three indices: College and Career Readiness, Reading Proficiency, and Mathematics Proficiency.
DCHS performed significantly better than the other four high schools in the system only on the College and Career index. And the other four high schools did not score high enough to even earn a ranking.
Unlike the Washington Post ranking, the criteria for this ranking was sophisticated and took into account student performance on exams, but when this includes IB exams instead of AP Exams, the results can be distorted.
One metric used was percentage of seniors taking at least one IB exam. Since there were so many students in the program (110 out of 470+), this number was high (23%). Another metric was the percentage of seniors passing at least one IB exam. This number was also 23% since 100% of IB students passed at least one exam. Since IB students take 5 to 6 exams, depending on their academic electives, it is highly likely that they will pass at least one of them. In fact, even though 45% of the IB students did not earn the IB Diploma in 2015 (compare to around 20% globally), all 45% of these did manage to pass one exam. Therefore, the student performance part of this award is essentially meaningless.
The metric the state of Georgia uses to measure school performance is called the CCRPI. According to the DOE searchable database, DCHS ranked 4th in CCRPI out of the 5 high schools in 2014 (most recent data available). Again, none of the others were scored high enough by US News to earn a ranking. So, the one high school that was ranked in the county underperforms three of the high schools in a comprehensive metric of student achievement.
77.3 – Alexander
77.1 – Chapel Hill
70.9 – Lithia Springs
68.9 – Douglas County
66.3 – New Manchester
In conclusion, then, the U.S News Top 10% Ranking, the most prestigious recognition received by a high school in Douglas County in recent years, is based entirely on having a large number of students in an IB program in which just a little over half merited an IB Diploma.