​Bumped: DISD's Talented & Gifted School Falls Off Top ​spot in High School Rankings Despite Better Scores

The streak had to come to a close at some point. But Ben Mackey, the principal at Dallas ISD's School for the Talented and Gifted, was surprised the end came this year.Despite all of its metrics trending higher, Dallas' TAG high school did not hold onto the top spot on U.S. News and World Report's rankings of the nation's best high schools - breaking a five-year run at No. 1.Instead, TAG placed fourth in a ranking of more than 20,000 schools, finishing behind three Arizona campuses run by BASIS Charter Schools: Scottsdale, Tucson North and Oro Valley.Nothing to sniff at, certainly."We're thankful to be on the list, regardless of where we are," Mackey said. "When anyone recognizes the hard work that our kids and teachers put in, we're grateful for that."Once again, DISD continued its impressive showing in the rankings, with three other magnets finishing in the Top 100: School for Science and Engineering (No. 9), Booker T. Washington School of the Performing Arts (No. 92) and Irma Rangel Young Women's Leadership School (No. 99).No other public school district or charter operator in Texas had as many schools in the Top 100 as DISD.Two area Uplift charter campuses finished in the Top 100 as well: Arlington's Summit International (No. 76) and North Hills Prep in Irving (No. 96). Other high-ranked schools include Uplift's Williams Prep (No. 139) and Highland Park High School (No. 141).As former DMN education writer Jeffrey Weiss pointed out in 2012, there are serious limitations to these rankings. U.S. News' methodology favors magnets or charters with socio-economically and racially diverse enrollment and a high number of students who take AP tests. No private schools are included.Schools that make it through the first three rounds of scoring - using relative performance on state assessments; the performance of their black, Hispanic and low-income students; and graduation rates - are then graded on college readiness. But the AP test data U.S. News uses is from 2014-15. And this year, International Baccalaureate data wasn't included in the metric, as in years past.Mackey said that TAG's performance across the board has improved over the past four years. The school's average ACT score has jumped from 28 to 30. Its passage rate for AP tests has bumped from 73 to 84 percent. And the number of "advanced" level scores on the state's STAAR tests has climbed from 60 to 76 percent.All of this has been accomplished while the school's student body has become more socio-economically diverse. In recent years, Mackey and his staff have been very deliberate in trying to enroll more low-income students to "better reflect the students we have in our district."Nearly 88 percent of DISD's enrollment is considered economically disadvantaged. Next year, 40 percent of TAG's student body will be low-income - making it federally recognized as a Title I school."We are proud of what we are doing here," Mackey said.  Continue reading...

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