Newsweek Picks Officially Troubled HISD High School As One Of Nation's Best

Newsweek has come out with its latest ranking of the nation's best high schools, and the Houston school district is crowing that a record number of HISD highs made it.

The usual suspects are there -- DeBakey, Carnegie, Bellaire and Lamar -- but joining the list this year are 11 others, including Waltrip, Chavez, Sharpstown, Milby and -- WTF? Sharpstown?

The same Sharpstown that is on quite another list -- HISD superintendent Terry Grier's "Apollo 20" list of failing schools? (Lee HS, too!)

Yes, the same Sharpstown. Which comes in as the 556th best high school in America, ten slots ahead of Lamar.We've had our problems with the Newsweek rankings in the past, and it looks like things haven't improved.

The magazine describes its ranking process here; there's a lot of talk of standardized tests and improvements made and so on and so on.

Yet, in other news, Sharpstown is one of the 20 schools where 162 teachers were not offered jobs for next year because the school has been performing so poorly. So take it all with a grain of salt.

We've asked HISD spokesman Norm Uhl for a reaction to Newsweek's Sharpstown pick; we'll let you know what he says.

In the district's release to the media, Grier is quoted as saying, "I am extremely proud of our schools that made the Newsweek list, particularly those that are appearing on the list for the first time. This is a testament to our commitment to increase the rigor of instruction. During the 2009-10 school HISD students took about 5,300 more AP tests than they did the year before."

In case you're curious, here are the HISD schools picked by the magazine, and where they're ranked on the list:

Carnegie Vanguard   29
DeBakey High School for Health Professions   70
Bellaire   130
Lee  151
Westside   312
High School for the Performing and Visual Arts   388
Sharpstown    556
Lamar    566
Chavez   744
Scarborough   1,042
Sam Houston Math, Science and Technology Center   1,182
High School for Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice   1,248
Challenge Early College High School    1,299
Waltrip    1,382
Milby     1,418

Update: Uhl responds:

Sharpstown and Lee are both Apollo 20 schools and are both on the Newsweek list. Both schools have made progress especially in encouraging more students to take more rigorous classes, which is what the Newsweek rating is based upon. But both schools are still rated unacceptable and in order to avoid sanctions they must shed that rating for two years in a row.

Apollo 20 will build on the progress at both schools with a goal of getting all students to take more rigorous classes such as AP. Lee has missed AYP for three years and has had a state rating of unacceptable for two years. Sharpstown has missed AYP for five years and has been rated unacceptable for two out of the last three years.

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Richard Connelly
Contact: Richard Connelly