GBHS didn’t place in national school rankings

Key focus of magazine list is results on standardized tests


Gazette/ file photo/KABE TEAGUE

GBHS students discuss the rising stresses of finals.

  Rankings, test scores, and academic achievement have consistently driven Granite Bay High School’s success and reputation – perhaps until now.

  The U.S. News and World Report recently published the 2018 National High School Rankings. More than 600 public high schools in California made the list based upon data from the 2015-2016 school year.

  Roseville Joint Union High School District schools that made the list included Oakmont, Woodcreek, Antelope and Roseville.

  Despite being known for its academic strength, GBHS failed to make the rankings.

  Principal Jennifer Leighton said the reason GBHS didn’t make the rankings was because of the effects of the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) testing scores in 2015-16.

  “The juniors decided that they didn’t care about the test, so that’s why we scored lower than all of those schools,” she said.

  The schools were evaluated and ranked based on multiple categories including: performance on state standardized testing, graduation rates, and AP/IB participation and passing rates among students in the graduating class.

It is really unfortunate that the CAASPP scores affect our ranking because it has such long-term repercussions,”

— Madison McDermott

  In order to qualify for a top ranking, schools must receive a national bronze, silver or gold medal. GBHS did not qualify for a medal because of its failure to adequately meet standards within one of the components reviewed.

  Standardized state testing scores from the 2015-2016 school year prevented GBHS from receiving a medal, and therefore holding a highly coveted spot among the top public high schools.

  “I think that was a big year (with) changing our math program from algebra and geometry to the integrated program,” Spanish teacher, Jill Cova said.

  GBHS scores decreased significantly during the 2015-16 testing period. In the mathematics category, 67 percent of students achieved or surpassed the proficient level. Reading scores fared essentially the same as 64 percent of students scored within or above the proficient level. However, both results reflected a significant drop from the previous year – and that drop-off had consequences.

  “It is really unfortunate that the CAASPP scores affect our ranking because it has such long-term repercussions,” senior Madison McDermott said.

  A number of factors were responsible for the drop in student performance on state-mandated tests. However, Leighton said most of the problem came from a communication error.

  “I didn’t think of emphasizing the importance; I just didn’t know I needed to,” Leighton said. “I feel like I really blew it.”

  The lower scores not only affected the GBHS rankings in U.S. News and World Report, they also had an effect on student college applications.

  “There’s a school profile on the Common Application (for) Granite Bay (High), (and) it pull(s) up the ranking, so it ended up affecting college applications,” Leighton said.

  In addition to high school rankings and college application season facing dramatic effects, the lower standardized testing scores left GBHS ineligible for the highly acclaimed National Blue Ribbon Award.

I didn’t think of emphasizing the importance; I just didn’t know I needed to. I feel like I really blew it.”

— Jennifer Leighton

  The award is a prestigious honor, and one that GBHS has not obtained since 2002. During the 2015-2016 school year, Leighton and the faculty came very close to winning a Blue Ribbon.

  “We got all the way through the process and they (said) depending on your scores on the standardized test, you’re getting (the award) and I had no reason to believe we wouldn’t score well,” she said.

  Following the dramatic decline in CAASPP testing scores, GBHS was officially eliminated from the award competition.

  “I even had it written in our single school plan and our (Western Association of Schools and Colleges) report that we got this award,” Leighton said. “And then I got a phone call saying, ‘I’m so sorry, you’re disqualified based on your scores,’ (and) that was brutal.”

   After putting a substantial amount of time and energy into the application for the award, the disqualification left some staff and faculty members upset because of the fact that GBHS would not receive the public recognition. 

  “The education you get here at Granite Bay and the challenge you get is extraordinary, so it’s fun that we get to show that to the world,” Leighton said. “It (was) embarrassing (and) excruciating the year we dipped.”

  GBHS was ranked No. 67 in California n the 2013 U.S. News and World Report high school rankings California and 355th in the nation.

  However, despite GBHS disappearing from the most recent list, Leighton said she has a strong belief that GBHS will reclaim the recognition and reappear in the rankings because of the steps that have been taken to prevent the tanking-the-test issue in the future.

  “The teachers were not necessarily understanding the importance of them taking it seriously, so the adults had to take a step back and (ask) how we contribute(d) to this situation,” she said. “As soon as the adults responded, then the kids did.”

I called them in (and asked) how could the AP Lang test be so much easier? And they were like deer in the headlights.”

— Jennifer Leighton

  Following the decline in scores, GBHS staff members were able to work together cohesively in order to ensure that all students understood the importance of the CAASPP tests.

  “We learned from the pitfalls and that experience,” Cova said. “The next year we rose to the occasion and we worked as a team.”

    In addition to encouraging teachers to highlight the importance of standardized testing, Leighton said she has also done her own investigative work to uncover the motivations behind the low scores.

  “A lot of (students) had passed the AP (Language) test, but they had not passed this (exam),” she said. “I called them in (and asked) how could the AP Lang test be so much easier? And they were like deer in the headlights.”

   During the most recent testing last spring, current GBHS seniors far surpassed standards. Almost 90 percent of students achieved proficiency in English, and nearly 75 percent reached proficiency in mathematics. Still, however, some students said they did not receive vital information about the importance of the test before taking it.

   “I feel that (school officials) did a lot to stress the importance the year before me (in 2016-2017), but after that went well, they became more laid back,” McDermott said.

  With the significant increase in scores, Leighton said GBHS will improve its ranking, and she also acknowledged the value of maintaining a strong reputation.

  “I do believe people choose where they are going to live by knowing how good the schools are, so it’s important for us as we take these standardized tests to realize that we’re affecting our own property values,” she said.

  In addition to affecting property values, GBHS administration faces an infrastructural threat if standards are not met.

  “Unfortunately, a reality (is) that funding’s now going to be tied to this,” Leighton said. “You have to increase your scores, so you don’t end up in differentiated assistance.”

  Differentiated assistance is a form of state intervention for schools that aren’t meeting standards – something Leighton is anxious for GBHS to avoid.

 “I continue to communicate the importance, and we reward the seniors’ efforts,” Leighton said. “When we all do well, our school looks better.”