U.S. school rankings: Santa Cruz charter is No. 10; five Bay Area schools in top 100

BySharon Noguchi

Read the full article at MercuryNews.com >

Five Bay Area high schools, three of them small charters, were listed among the nation’s top 100 public schools, according to an annual ranking published Tuesday by U.S. News & World Report.

Santa Cruz’s Pacific Collegiate Charter was ranked tenth in the nation, the highest rating of any school in California. KIPP San Jose Collegiate ranked 23rd, Lowell High in San Francisco was 59th, University  Preparatory Academy in San Jose was 72nd, Mission San Jose High in Fremont was 76th and Oakland Charter High was 91st.

The website chose three Basis charter schools in Arizona as the nation’s top three public high schools, among 6,041 schools it ranked and labeled as gold, silver or bronze to indicate their level of college preparation.

At University Preparatory, a charter school that just celebrated its 10th anniversary, Principal Daniel Ordaz credited the school’s size and focus for its good showing. “There’s a lot of unity here. Teachers are able to focus more on individual students,” he said. At schools with thousands of students — like the one where Ordaz formerly worked, “it’s impossible to focus on individuals and pay attention to students,” he said.

The listings reflect the weight that the website places on the education of low-income, black and Latino students. California schools that U.S. News & World Report ranked from 101 to 200 included smaller schools — Summit Preparatory and Everest Public High in Redwood City and the 273-student Dr. T.J. Owens Gilroy Early College Academy in Gilroy — along with academic powerhouses Gunn in Palo Alto, Saratoga, Campolindo in Moraga and Miramonte in Orinda.

The number of students taking AP tests, the scores on those tests or poor equity showing — failure to provide educational opportunities to disadvantaged students — affected some schools’ rankings.

The website reviewed data from more than 22,000 public high schools in the nation, then ranked the schools by a formula weighing achievement, comparison with state averages, performance of disadvantaged students and scores on advanced-placement exams.

In analyzing the success of KIPP Collegiate San Jose, Principal Tom Ryan said, “There’s no secret formula.”

The school has just 490 students in grades 9 through 12. He credited the school’s focus and selective hiring for its success.

“The staff we hire truly believe all our students will learn,” he said. “We have the entire community of families, students and staff on the same page, with a common goal of going to and graduating from college.”