By Bob Skolnik
Lyons Township High School ranked 40th and Riverside-Brookfield High School ranked 49th among high schools in the Chicagoland metropolitan area according to the most recent rankings of best high schools by the U.S. News & World Report magazine.
Last year, both LTHS and RBHS were unranked, as the rankings were based on the discontinued PARCC Exam that administrators say students didn't take seriously.
Kristin Smetana, assistant superintendent at Riverside-Brookfield High School, pointed out other issues related to using the PARCC exam as the basis for the U.S. New and World Report rankings, including the fact that schools were given leeway in choosing who took the PARCC exam.
At RBHS, for example, sophomores took the PARCC exam, while others chose juniors or even freshmen.
The rankings issued last month are based on students' performance on state-mandated tests given during the 2016-17 school year. The rankings were revamped this year to focus on six factors including the proportion of seniors who passed Advanced Placement exams, performances in math and reading on state-mandated tests -- which was the SAT in Illinois in 2017 -- graduation rates and how minority and low-income students did on tests.
Smetana said in an email that while the magazine's ranking criteria has changed and relies heavily on standardized test scores, the rankings did serve a purpose.
"National rankings are important because they provide a benchmark with how RB students compete academically with other students throughout the nation," Smetana said. "This year's rankings show that RB is among the top 6 percent of high schools in the U.S. This ranking is a reflection of students' and teachers' hard work day in and day out to advance student learning."
While LTHS also made it back into the rankings this year, school officials there say they don't place too much importance on the magazine's assessment.
"We don't put too much stock in the rankings especially since the methodology changes from year to year," said Scott Eggerding, director of curriculum and instruction at LTHS, which serves Brookfield south of Southview Avenue. "This year there seems to be a weight given to the percentage of 'underserved' students."
Walter Payton College Prep, a Chicago magnet school, was ranked number one in the area by U.S. News. Stevenson High School, which was ranked sixth in the Chicago area, was the highest rated school that was not a selective enrollment school.
The judging criteria chosen by the magazine appears to favor schools like Payton College Prep, said Eggerding.
"Again, magnet schools or selective enrollment schools are still favored," he said. Eight of the top 10 schools in Illinois are selective enrollment schools. There appears to be a higher weight given to students scoring a 3 or better on the AP as well."
U.S. News ranked LTHS 837th nationally while RBHS was ranked 1,128th in the nation.
"Since the data is usually two years old by the time they make the rankings, it is hard to guess what the results will be, but we are glad to see that we are included, since the community does put stock into them," Eggerding said.
Bob Uphues contributed to this report.