The 2015 list of Best High Schools is out and as expected, Tucson’s University High had a strong showing, coming in as the 17th best high school in the country — a slight drop from its No. 7 ranking last year.
Noticeably absent, however, is Basis Tucson North, which last year took the No. 5 spot on the list, which includes more than 2,500 of the nation’s top public schools.
U.S. News & World Report, which has published the list since 2007, says Basis failed to qualify for one of three steps to be ranked.
But school officials said Tuesday that the lack of a ranking is a mistake and it plans to submit data that will restore its award-winning reputation.
“This is not representative of the work being done and if the data are pulled together to accurately reflect the graduating class, we are confident we will land in the top 15,” said Basis spokeswoman Katie Sarvas.
The school, however, has not received any assurance from U.S. News that rankings would be recalculated. The media organization has only said schools may seek explanations regarding placement, and data questions are handled on a case-by-case basis.
The Best High Schools are determined through a three-step process that first considers whether a school is performing better than statistically expected for its state, followed by an analysis of whether those schools’ disadvantaged students are outperforming disadvantaged students in the state. For each of those criteria, math and reading data from state proficiency tests are used.
The final analysis, where Basis Tucson North reportedly fell short, is based on students participating in and achieving passing scores on Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate tests.
The discrepancy stems from 2012, when Basis Tucson students moved to the charter school’s new campus, Basis Tucson North.
At the time of the move, 52 of the school’s 54 seniors had completed AP testing by the end of their junior year at Basis Tucson, leaving only two who needed to finish that process at Basis Tucson North.
When U.S. News pulled the data it failed to incorporate those who had already tested at Basis Tucson, making it appear as though only two students participated in the testing process, Sarvas said.
U.S. News differentiates high schools with gold, silver and bronze medals to indicate the greatest level of college readiness. Only those earning gold and silver were ranked.
Basis Tucson North earned bronze, as did Basis Oro Valley. Basis does not take issue with Oro Valley’s rating given that the school only had 13 graduates for the 2012-2013 school year — the year the rankings are based on, Sarvas said.
Basis requires students to take six AP exams by the time they graduate, all of which are paid for by the school.
schools that were not ranked this year after making the list in 2014 are Tanque Verde High School and Vail Academy and High School, which were Nos. 1,279 and 1,522 in the country, respectively.
Like Basis, University High School has consistently earned top marks on the Best High Schools list, along with other honors.
While University High slipped from No. 7 in 2014 to No. 17 this year, Principal Dean Packard says the recognition is welcome.
“We’re always thrilled to get recognition for the efforts of our UHS community,” Packard said. “It takes a large number of very skilled teachers that are willing and able to put in a huge amount of time to support students, and it takes students that are willing to put in a lot of effort in school and out of school to maintain that high level of rigor.”
In addition to offering a top-notch education, enabling students to gain entry into elite colleges across the country, UHS is focused on ensuring that students have access to the money needed to attend, Packard said.
“So many of our kids get into amazing schools, but to be able to afford those schools is a very different thing,” said Packard, who noted that UHS is working to enhance its college and career center, which works to support students in finding scholarships.
Though the Tucson-area Basis campuses were left off of the list, their sister school, Basis Scottsdale, was for the second year in a row named the second-best high school in the country.
Basis Scottsdale was beaten out by the School for the Talented and Gifted in Dallas, which has held the top honor for four straight years.
Two other Arizona schools cracked the top 10 — No. 8 University High School in Tolleson, and No. 10 Gilbert Classical Academy High School in Gilbert.
Nationally, 500 schools earned gold, 2,027 earned silver and an unranked 3,990 schools took home bronze.