Northview's Test Scores Present Questions

By David Tay

US News, a respected authority on college rankings, recently released its list of the best high schools across the country. Northview high school is ranked 78 out of the 137 schools in Michigan. Despite the fact that US News’ rankings may not be fully comprehensive of a school’s academic performance, it does raise the question of why Northview was ranked below many other schools in the surrounding area.
To look at another statistic, during the 2015 school year, Northview’s average SAT score was 1026.5 out of 1600. This score was almost 60 points below the national college-bound average of 1083 for the 2015 school year. Among other districts in West Michigan, Northview had the 21st highest average SAT score out of the 52 high schools in both Kent and Ottawa counties.

However, critics have spoken out against these methods of ranking high schools. Northview high school counselor Dave Witucki stated that he is not in full support of these rankings because they don’t take into account many important factors such as socioeconomic status, or overall wealth, of a district. The US News rankings were determined through math and reading proficiency levels along with AP test scores. Valerie Strauss, a reporter and education correspondent for the Washington Post said, “How anybody could consider this a complete way of rating, much less ranking, a school is unclear.”

According to US News, Northview was outscored by several schools from Kent County including East Kentwood (ranked 63rd), Rockford (50th), Forest Hills Northern and Central (24th and 21st, respectively) and East Grand Rapids (9th). Despite the criticism surrounding these rankings, they can’t be completely ignored. For the most part, one can see a correlation between a high school’s rank and the percentage of students that attend a 4-year college or university post graduation. At Northview, 44% of all graduating seniors go on to attend a 4-year college or university; at East Grand Rapids high school that number is 86%. On the flip side, Northview’s graduation rate is higher than that of East Grand Rapids with 95% of all students finishing their diploma at Northview and 94% at East Grand Rapids. So with all of that in mind, what do all of these numbers really mean?

The statistics here paint a picture of what each of these schools value. While East Grand Rapids may push its whole student body towards attending a 4-year college or university, Northview has expressed to its students that there are other, often more practical, methods of education post high school. This brings into question, what should a Northview student who still wishes to attend a competitive college or university do to make themselves stand out against students from other top performing high schools in the area? Witucki said that it very often comes down to their test scores. He continued to say that Northview does provide a few opportunities for those students to prepare such as Khan Academy and out of school practice tests. Ultimately though, “the more that students are proactive at doing those types of activities for themselves, the stronger scores they’re often going to have,” Witucki said.  As with most things, there is no easy answer to many of the questions posed by this article. For the moment though, it seems that students who wish to attend competitive schools post graduation must have the drive to get there themselves.

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