Challenged Index Redux

WaPo’s Mathews responds to this paper that Sara Mead and I did criticizing the Challenge Index as a measure of “America’s Best High Schools.” Thoughtful and worth reading, especially if you’re one of the fifteen people absolutely riveted by this debate! There is also a Mathews response in the original paper so now he’s up 2-1 on us…we’re contemplating our next salvo now…but what’s that they say about no picking fights with people who buy ink by the barrel…

Seriously, Jay’s point that other ways of rating schools might eliminate high-poverty urban schools from the list is important. After all, starting on third base isn’t the same as hitting a triple. But, this is not a binary issue. A good index can account for the challenges schools face but also have face validity, which we contend the Challenge Index does not because, for instance, according to it, the third “best” high school in the country has only 12 percent of its black students at grade-level.

An index that takes these factors into account will be more complicated, as Jay notes, but we don’t think that simplicity should trump accuracy and currently the Challenge Index isn’t an accurate way to find the very best public high schools in America.

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