As we approach the end of the year, it is worth reviewing what we know about how Wheatley students are performing based on the metrics so often reported online and in newspapers. As a community, we certainly value the incredible performance of our students on state and national examinations. That said, we also value the many educational opportunities provided to students that never show up as a statistic. These opportunities include our many fine and practical arts activities, our Day of Service and Learning, our dedication to our Life Skills program, our SWS program, our wonderful travel abroad programs and our celebration of the role teachers play in so many of our students’ lives.
That said, here are some of the more commonly-reported data regarding Wheatley.
Over these past several years, Wheatley has had one of the top graduation rates in Long Island. Of particular pride has been our Advanced Designation Diploma Rate, which has steadily climbed. Over the past several years, our graduation rates place us at the top or near the top of all Long Island districts.
Advanced Placement Program
Over the past decade, Wheatley’s Advanced Placement participation, course offerings and results have changed dramatically. AP courses added over this period include: AP Psychology, AP English Language, AP Physics C, AP Human Geography, AP World History, AP Art History and AP Italian. This coming year, we are adding the AP Capstone program to our offerings. As the AP course offerings have expanded, we have steadily removed the many obstacles previously facing students interested in challenging themselves with an AP course, offering open enrollment for all courses. Consequently, student participation — in absolute terms and as a percentage of the population — has increased notably. More students are taking more AP exams than in the past. These students are finding much greater success on these examinations than in the past.
AP Participation, Exams and Passing Rate
AP Participation by Class
Notes on AP Participation and Passing Rates
How does Wheatley’s passing rate compare to other schools in Long Island? What about a recent report that Wheatley’s passing rate ranks it near the middle of Long Island schools? As mentioned earlier, over the past 7-8 years, Wheatley has opened access to its AP courses to all students — not just the “high achieving” students. This “self-direction” permits students to challenge themselves upward as they see fit. This is not the practice of most Long Island high schools. The more common restrictive access to AP courses limits the number of students taking AP examinations and ensures that only the “top” students take the exams. As such, the passing rates for these schools can be artificially elevated.
The most recent AP data readily available for Long Island schools are from 2013. Initially, this data set included only the number of students taking AP and the number of students earning scores of at least 3 (considered a “passing” score on the five-point scale). With the assistance of the SED school database, I tallied the number of students in the 10th, 11th and 12th grade in order to calculate the “openness” of a school’s AP program. School passing rates should be taken into account with this value.
A snapshot of the 2013 data, sorted by AP passing rate:
Is Wheatley’s passing rate of 76.3% the same as William Floyd High School’s passing rate of 76.3%? Well…yes and no! Whereas William Floyd High School had only 12.1% of its eligible 10-12th graders taking AP examinations, Wheatley had 62.3% of its students involved in AP exams.
What does this list look like when sorted by the percentage of eligible test takers? Here are the same data sorted by the “openness” of the AP program.
The list looks quite different! This listing provides far more information (and accuracy) regarding AP passing rates than the simplistic listing recently provided in news reports. For a full listing, check out the following: AP Results in Long Island.
AP Scholars Recognized
AP Scholar Awards are given in recognition of exceptional achievement on AP Examinations. Nationally, fewer than 20% of AP students earn this designation. AP Scholars complete three or more AP exams with grades of 3 or higher; AP Scholars with Honor complete an average grade of at least 3.25 on all AP exams, with grades of 3 or higher on at least four of these exams; AP Scholars with Distinction earn an average grade of at least 3.5 on all AP exams, with grades of 3 or higher on at least five of these exams; AP National Scholars earn an average grade of at least 4.0 on all AP exams taken, with grades of 4 or higher on at least eight of these exams.
Over the past decade, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of designated scholars. (Note that all National Scholars are included in the Scholar Distinction totals.)
Dual Enrollment (DE)
Even as Wheatley has seen a dramatic increase in AP enrollment and participation, we have expanded our offerings of dual enrollment courses. Dual enrollment courses are offered in conjunction with a local or regional college or university, permitting students to earn college credit while they take the high school class. This college credit is offered at a reduced tuition, often 1/3 to 1/2 the normal credit cost.
For many years, the sole DE program was an English course offered through Syracuse University’s Project Advanced (SUPA) program. In 2009-10, we partnered with Adelphi to offer a dual enrollment course through our business department. Over the following years, we partnered with Molloy College (mathematics), Stony Brook (social studies), St. John’s University (Italian) and Farmingdale College (business). Students have responded well to these increased offerings.
In 1998, a relatively obscure education reporter came up with the idea of “ranking” high schools across the country. High schools were ranked based on an index value that was easy to calculate: the number of AP examinations taken the previous year divided by the size of the graduating class. Schools with an index value of 1.000 or above were included in his list, which came to be known as the Jay Mathews Challenge Index. In 1998, the Wheatley School appeared at the top of this list, with an index value of 2.862 (meaning that there were approximately 2.8 times as many AP exams taken as there were students graduating).
Over the past decade, there has been a proliferation of different lists ranking high schools. Each list has its own criteria, emphasizing different aspects of what the list creators value when assessing high schools. The lists attempt to organize and categorize the more than 26,000 public high schools in the United States.
In April 2016, the Washington Post released the “Challenge Index 2016” rankings. Wheatley ranked #170 in the country.
How does this ranking compare to past rankings? Take a look at the historical data:
As you can see from the table, Wheatley was ranked #1 when this list was first released! Is our current ranking of 170 cause for concern? Not at all. A quick glance at the Index Value (which is what determines your placement on the list) demonstrates that this year’s Index value is the highest it has ever been for Wheatley —a nearly 84% improvement over Wheatley’s value when the list debuted.
The very simplicity of this list makes it relatively easy to manipulate. With a relatively stable graduating class size, a school simply needs to make sure more students are taking more AP examinations. Wheatley could improve its ranking with a few actions:
- Eliminate all SUPA courses, forcing students to take AP Courses instead
- Eliminate our Dual Enrollment courses, forcing students to take AP Courses instead
- Follow the lead of other Long Island schools and have all students take AP World
- Follow the lead of another high performing Long Island school and have all 11th graders take AP English
We do not take these steps because they are not in the interest of our students or school right now. We make decisions based on the internal needs of our students, not the external demands of a ranking system. We have appreciated the tremendous growth of our Dual Enrollment program, which has permitted hundreds of students to receive college credit while completing high school courses in a wide variety of areas (e.g., business, mathematics, engineering, forensics). We also appreciate the approach of our SUPA English courses. Schools interested solely in rankings take steps that are not always in the interest of their students.
US News and World Report
US News and World Report created its own ranking system in 2008-09. Although the system has evolved somewhat over the year, presently, it uses a three-step process as a way to try to account for a school’s expected and actual performance:
- Comparison of school’s performance on state mathematics and English against the statistically expected performance
- Comparison of the performance of least-advantaged students (black, Hispanic, low-income) with state-wide results for these same groups.
- Schools that made it through these first two steps were then judged nationally on college-readiness. This metric took into account AP/IB participation and passing rates using a formula that combined the number of 12th Grade students that took and passed at least one AP/IB exam during high school with a simple AP/IB participation rate.
Unfortunately, this ranking system has been prone to errors, including its 2012 rankings (which were widely criticized for using erroneous data) and its 2015 rankings (which were widely criticized for using inconsistent methodology and inaccurate data).
With these aforementioned caveats in mind, Wheatley has been regularly listed as a “Gold Medal” school — representing the top 500 of all high schools in the country (the top 2%). For 2015-16, Wheatley’s ranking of #225 placed it in the top 0.87% of all public high schools in the country.
A recent news report highlighted that Wheatley’s average SAT scores were the 6th best in Long Island. An overview of past scores highlights the overall growth in scores, even as students adapted to the changes in the examination (e.g., the addition of the writing component).
This has been a long post! Most of the data presented are available through a variety of presentations that have been done at various Board of Education meetings. We pride ourselves on presenting data, learning from data and making adjustments to our programs if necessary.