WILKES-BARRE — Administration and school board members in the Wilkes-Barre Area School District have heard recurring complaints of low test scores and shoddy academic performances at schools, including frequent quotes from lists that put it on the academic slag heap of the state’s 500 public districts.
But they may have been handed a counterclaim Tuesday: Meyers High School made the “Niche Standout High Schools” list for 2018.
In Pennsylvania, 24 high schools made the standout list. Meyers ranked 15th among those, with an overall grade of B. No other Luzerne County schools were on the list.
The “Standout” rankings start by limiting scrutiny to public high schools with at least 50 percent of students identified as economically disadvantaged. Those schools must also score an overall “Niche Grade” of B or higher — a separate “report card” letter grade devised using factors including test results, survey results, teacher salary and absenteeism, and clubs and activities, to name a few.
In naming “standout high schools,” Niche uses U.S. Department of Education data, which is often several years old. In this case, most of the data is from 2014-16.
A school’s overall “standout” score derives from these factors: SAT/ACT scores; Niche scores for the colleges a high school’s students are most interested in attending (or enroll in); the graduation rate for 12th grade students who are economically disadvantaged or from racial minorities; state reading and math test results for economically disadvantaged students; racial diversity in the student body; and the percentage of students who are economically disadvantaged.
The goal is to highlight “public schools that are making a difference in their community,” the group’s website says. Focusing on minority and economically disadvantaged students makes sense for that goal; statistically those two groups don’t do as well in standardized tests.
Based in Pittsburgh, Niche bills itself online as “a unique blend of data scientists, engineers, parents and ‘yinzers’ who are passionate about helping you discover the schools and neighborhoods that are right for you.”
For the record, “Yinzer” is a variation on “Yinz,” a self-identifier used by some Pittsburgh residents proud of their blue collar roots. “Yinz,” in turn, is generally considered a version of “yunz,” itself a contraction of the contraction “you-uns,” for “you ones.” The coalcracker equivalent would be “youse,” as in “youse guys crack me up.”
Reach Mark Guydish at 570-991-6112 or on Twitter @TLMarkGuydish