Does Patterson have what it takes to become a “Top 500” school?
By Sartre Ndebaneza,
For more than 5 years, Patterson High School has had a goal of being ranked in the top 500 best high schools in the country, as rated by the magazine U.S. News and World Report.
Some seniors at Patterson don’t believe in this academic goal that Mr. Benton and the school staff have set. They refer to Patterson’s reputation and performance, and compare them to the schools that are on the list of Best High Schools in the country for 2016. According to these students, Patterson’s goals are unrealistic.
“We gonna die of old age before that happens,” one senior at Patterson said of the goal. Discipline problems, low attendance, and poor academic performance on state and national assessments are still issues at Patterson. Patterson High School was unranked in the 2016 national ratings.
However, regardless of these challenges, Mr. Benton, principal at Patterson High, who has served the school for almost 6 years, believes that Patterson has improved already. He stated that “we are no longer identified as a turnaround school,” which is a big step for Patterson High School.
Mr. Benton is optimistic about the future of the school, but many students’ views are antithetical to the principal’s. Students see it as an impossible goal to achieve. The rank is based on student performance, but Patterson still needs to invest a lot of effort to improve school issues, including food fights in the cafeteria, security and student motivation. Students who attended Patterson for four years say hope for a better Patterson is an unbelievable thing.
“Things are getting worse every year. Students are misbehaving, racist, and don’t want to study,” Natasha Abrev Moran, a senior at Patterson High School, said.
In spite of the pessimism of many students, Mr. Benton is ready to challenge students and teachers in order to achieve Patterson’s goals. “We need teachers’ commitment and students collectively to improve academic success.” Mr. Benton said.
So what specifically does Patterson have to do to qualify as a “top 500” school? In order for any school to participate in the elimination process they must meet specific criteria established by U.S News and World report and North Carolina-based RTI International, a global nonprofit social science research firm. There is a four step process for determining which schools will be considered for the list:
- The school must be performing better than statistically expected for students in that state.
- The school’s disadvantaged students – black, Hispanic and low-income – must be outperforming disadvantaged students in the state.
- The school must meet or surpass a basic benchmark for its graduation rate.
- Schools that make it through the first three steps are judged on their college-readiness performance (based on Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate test scores).
19 schools in Maryland made the top 500 list in 2016, although none of them were in Baltimore City.
As the saying goes, if your dream doesn’t scare you, know that it is not big enough. Patterson High School’s leaders have already crossed that limitation off their minds. They are determined to make Patterson a “Top 500” school, even if it may take many years to achieve. The journey is long to reach the goal, but Patterson is making changes for the better every day.
To read the 2016 “Best High Schools” report, visit http://www.usnews.com/education/best-high-schools .