Rankings and Perspective

We’ve been down this road before. In December 2007, the Wall Street Journal ranked College Prep the sixth best private high school in the country. Last week, Forbes.com ranked the top twenty prep schools in the nation and College Prep ranked seventeenth.

As a school, we enjoy this recognition with some reticence. The article’s author refers to the top schools collectively as a “pipeline to elite higher education” and a professor of education is quoted, “Prep schools are organized to ensure elite college placement–that’s the whole idea.” We bristle at the notion that College Prep is nothing more than a means to that end.

In the aftermath of this latest publicity, among varied reactions, two stood out to me.

In an email to all faculty, Head of School Murray Cohen writes, “As several of you have noted, late last week, Forbes.com came out with a ranked list of the twenty ‘best prep schools’ in the country, and College Prep was included in some very eminent national company. Eighteen of the twenty schools are ‘spread’ from New York all the way to Boston (!), leaving just two ‘left coast’ schools.  The main takeaway, given the criteria Forbes used, is that College Prep among all these much older and much wealthier schools has done the most educationally with the most modest resources.  It has always been the case here that we concentrate, not disperse, our resources, and the focus is always on teachers and students.  Thanks to you and your predecessors, Prep has kept pace with the talents, passions, and spirited inquiry of generations of students.”

Finally, who better to contextualize this honor than a current College Prep student? Junior Daniel E. had this to say via the school’s intranet message board:

“Some interesting facts:

  • College Prep is the youngest school on the list by more than 40 years
  • College Prep is one of only two schools on the list from the west coast
  • College Prep has the fourth highest percentage of faculty holding advanced degrees
  • College Prep has the smallest endowment of all the schools on the list by a measurable amount

These facts aren’t meant to cast aspersions on other schools on the list, schools that didn’t make the list, or those who don’t hold advanced degrees.  I simply included these facts to save time for the many students that would have surely looked for such information.

A side note: Although I’m thrilled we made this prestigious list, I am not any more or less proud to be a part of this special place (for lack of a better description) than I was before I discovered this.  Sure, the school’s facts and figures place us #17 in the country, but, in my opinion, there are far more important things about this place then how many students go to Harvard, Yale or MIT. I am so grateful for having the opportunity to be a part of this community, and, to me, no label or number can truly express how important it is for everyone who is a part of it.”

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