Heading toward the test, probably. (Photo: Elizabeth Lavin)

Education

Dallas ISD’s Top Elementary Schools Beat Highland Park in New Rankings

Plano ISD also landed four schools in the Top 50 of the new U.S. News and World Report list.

The U.S. News and World Report cut its teeth on college and university rankings before expanding its purview to cover high schools in an annual list that evaluates schools on a few metrics, but most heavily weights test scores. This year, U.S. News brought elementary and middle schools into the mix for the first time.

To come up with its just-released 2021 rankings for elementary and middle schools, U.S. News looked exclusively at reading and math standardized test scores from the 2018-2019 school year. As you may recall, there was a pandemic between then and now. COVID-19 has not been great for students, and 2019 test scores might as well have been recorded in another world entirely. Many people have questioned, with solid justification, whether these sorts of rankings accurately reflect a school’s quality or do much of any good at all.

With those caveats out of the way, let’s see how North Texas schools fared in the latest U.S. News list. I’m going to stick with the statewide rankings for public elementary and middle schools (those are the new lists) throughout this article.

Carroll ISD, which has had a lot going on lately, landed a handful of elementary schools on the statewide Top 50, with Old Union Elementary (No. 3) and Carroll Elementary (No. 4) among the Top 10 in Texas.

Some of Dallas ISD’s elementary schools put up numbers, including William B. Travis Vanguard Academy for the Academically Talented and Gifted (No. 1), the Sudie L. Williams Talented and Gifted Academy (No. 2), Lakewood Elementary (No. 27), and the School for the Talented and Gifted in Pleasant Grove (No. 34). (Dallas ISD’s magnet secondaries also absolutely cleaned up in the high school rankings, with TAG taking the top spot.)

Plano ISD has four elementary schools in the Top 50. Allen ISD has two. Frisco has two, including Talley Elementary at No. 10. Richardson has one, Prairie Creek Elementary at No. 26. Garland ISD’s Kimberlin Academy for Excellence was ranked 41st.

Highland Park ISD squeaked into the Top 50 with University Park Elementary at No. 46. Hyer Elementary was ranked 59th. (Earlier this year, Highland Park High School was ranked 42nd, down a few notches from past years’ U.S. News rankings—No. 34 in 2019, 27 in 2018.)

As mentioned above, there are good reasons to take rankings like this with a grain of salt. There’s always context the numbers don’t show.

That won’t stop school districts from using these rankings in their marketing. And if I’m in Dallas ISD or Plano ISD or Richardson ISD, I’m using this line in an ad: “Our elementary schools outperformed Highland Park ISD’s elementary schools.”

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