The Student News Site of High School for Mathematics, Science and Engineering

The Echo

The Student News Site of High School for Mathematics, Science and Engineering

The Echo

The Student News Site of High School for Mathematics, Science and Engineering

The Echo

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Number One in New York?!

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Art By Nicole Chen

Recently, U.S. News released their “2023–2024 Best High Schools Rankings,” and our very own High School for Math Science and Engineering was placed at the exciting number one spot in the state (#22 in the nation). Reactions were certainly varied: many were excited about the number, and many were skeptical. But everyone seemed pleased that we beat Stuyvesant.

 

The rankings have certainly created a lot of buzz, but it’s important to remember that schools are multi-faceted institutions, making them very difficult to quantify and place in a set order. This begs the question: what exactly are the factors that make HSMSE number one? Unless we understand what goes into the decision making process, HSMSE’s top spot is just an arbitrary number with no concrete basis. Luckily, U.S. News has explained the 6 factors they consider in their algorithm.

 

According to U.S. News, the most significant elements of a high school are college readiness and curriculum breadth, state assessment proficiency and performance, underserved student performance, and graduation rate. College readiness measures how many seniors took and passed at least one AP or IB exam in high school, and breadth measures this across multiple subject areas. HSMSE obviously excels in this area, as every student has to take AP World History, AP Calc, an AP science class, and AP Lit or Lang at the very least, and many students take more than that. State assessment proficiency looks at student’s test scores in standardized state exams (Regents for New York). State assessment performance compares schools’ actual exam scores to the value predicted from the school’s percentage of historically underserved students using a linear regression model based on the state’s data. Lastly, graduation rate measures the percentage of twelfth graders who graduated. The rate was 100% for HSMSE in 2021, the year used for the data. Even with a small school size, it is an impressive feat to ensure that every single student graduates successfully. 

 

You may notice that many of these factors are based on standardized test scores, which makes sense as it’s by far the easiest way to quantify a student’s academic performance. It’s impossible to notice this and not bring up the fact that HSMSE is a school where admission is entirely based on a standardized test score. It’s basically a prerequisite that everyone at HSMSE is able to study for and perform well on large tests, so it’s not very surprising that students do well on APs and regents. It’s also important to consider there’s a lot more to schools than the numbers they produce. 

 

Take HSMSE’s example: we have incredible sports teams, a large number of active clubs, and a wellness center. Although these are all influential parts of the quality of life at a school, they are not considered anywhere in U.S. News’ highschool rankings. What are the achievements that students think make our school number one? Jana P., a senior, reflects that “Our school is really rigorous, and I think Mr. Klein and Ms. Barnewold do a good job advising us with college admissions.” Applying to college is an incredibly stressful time, and HSMSE does a great job of preparing students for it early on, and supporting them through the process. What really impacts a student’s school experience, though, is the people they share it with. Another senior, Debjoti K. says that “You’ve got the greatest community ever! All the people here are nice, that’s always a plus side, right? The teachers are more than good — you can actually talk to them.” HSMSE is home to a brilliant student body: Arian C. states that “I think everyone’s kind of like me: they’re smart, they know what they want to do.” The students are passionate, and create a special, tight-knit community. “I think the size of the school—since it’s small you get to interact with people more and get to know them,” Sofia G. says. “The clubs are also really good and there’s a lot of opportunities to do what you really like.” Although the ranking isn’t based on a wholistic review of the school, as Tann W. says, “From where we’ve started—in the trailer vans—it shows how much this school has improved, how much diversity there is, and how much we’re able to help out all the students and teachers.” Fowzia I. expresses that “We’ve worked very hard, our faculty has worked very hard, and I’m very proud of our school! I hope that people will finally know our name when I say HSMSE!” 

 

The U.S. News rankings are not a comprehensive evaluation of each school, but a measure of student performance on various exams. U.S. News uses test scores because they are the clearest, most standardized measure of quality, and it allows them to make objective rankings. However, what makes HSMSE deserving of the number one spot for U.S. News is clearly different from what makes it #1 for us. To MSE-ers, it’s the students and the community that makes the school so special. HSMSE is a very academically talented school, yes, but it’s also a great home for passionate, intelligent, and proudly nerdy students. The students here are a lot more than the numbers on their tests, they’re incredible people that contribute to an incredible community.

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