(UPDATE: Our principal, Ted Appel, has a pretty strong reaction to Jay’s list. Here is his response to it:

“These kinds of lists are meaningless, certainly not helpful, and quite possibly destructive to pushing schools towards practices which are focused on helping students get smarter and healthier.  Two years ago we were on a list of schools described as ‘dropout factories.’ And now, two years later, without doing anything substantially different, we are listed among the top nine percent of high schools in the country only because a different metric was used.  This seems to be a blatant example of how these types of quantitative evaluations lack substance.”)

Yes, rankings and schools are not a good mix. They can be easily manipulated in the worst ways and can seduce schools into doing things that are geared towards getting high-rankings that might not be in the best interests of student learning (similar to the dangers of being data-driven).

Given all that, sometimes it can’t hurt to be on one of those lists, especially if you don’t do anything specifically to get on it.

And being named today on The Washington Post’s Jay Mathews list of America’s most challenging high schools is not a bad one for our school, the largest inner-city high school in Sacramento, to be on. Even more so since teaching to any kind of standardized test is not encouraged and, instead, thanks to the leadership of our principal, Ted Appel, we focus on developing life-long learners.

And we certainly didn’t solicit being named — Jay called our principal out of the blue yesterday asking for some more information.

I still don’t quite understand how Jay comes up with his list each year, which highlights ten percent of the high schools in the United States, though he does offer this explanation. Here is his post on this year’s list. He also did a Q & A about it last year.

And here is our school’s page on the list.

Of course, there’s some irony here since, because of our School Board’s refusal to respect a judge’s ruling, we’re in line to lose twenty-one of our teachers who received their final lay-off notice three days ago.