A tale of two high schools

Why is Brookfield Central ranked 315th in the nation and Brookfield East lands so much lower in the list at 855th?

That’s right. Newsweek’s high school rankings are out.

Anyone from East can tell you how hard we have to fight to equal the playing field with Central. From artificial turf on the football field to non-resident enrollment. From accelerated classes to gym space. It’s been one heck of a push over the years. Obviously, East is still second fiddle.

315 Brookfield Central Brookfield Wis. 2.543;6;51
855 Brookfield East Brookfield Wis. 1.67;7;48

The first number following the school name is the index, “the number of Advanced Placement, Intl. Baccalaureate and/or Cambridge tests taken by all students at a school in 2008 divided by the number of graduating seniors.” The second is percentage of students using federally subsidized meals. East is a percentage higher. The third number is “the portion of all graduating seniors at a school that had at least one passing grade on one AP or IB test.”

You see, Newsweek has decided that Central Students are smarter than East students, so the school is better. Guess which school carries a higher percentage of non-resident enrollment?

Brookfield Central students can rally in the splendor of being in one of the top 500 schools in the nation, while Brookfield East graduates get to look across town and wonder just why the board let such disparity happen.


  1. The Lorax says:

    But it’s also deceiving because Rufus King ranks higher than all of them–and I don’t know that the education quality is better at Rufus King. Yes, there is more diversity and International Baccalaureate.

    How do you feel about two magnet high schools, Cindy? One goes IB the other stays more traditional?

  2. Not going there, Lorax. Chance of change is nil. Elmbrook would never aspire to IB. Still, they have no trouble keeping the two high schools uneven.

    Rufus King is a heck of a school. Here are their numbers:

    271 Rufus King Milwaukee Wis. 2.712 48 50

    Overall it’s not about subsidized lunches. Half of the kids that are there really want to be there and are whooping IB backside. It’s the jewel in the MPS crown. They’ve worked really hard to make it that way. But do they have problems? Oh, yes.

  3. Sounds like BEHS ratings may get a boost if more students take and pass an AP exam?

    The new buzzword in student services may be AVID. Focus may have shifted from programs for the gifted, to serving a larger population of mainstream students believed to be underachieving, enrolling them in AP courses. (http://www.avidonline.org/)

    I understand AVID was recently introduced into BEHS with positive results. (Board mtg 4/7/09) Stimulus dollars may be available to fund AVID.

    With AVID, BEHS may be well positioned to earn better ratings in the future.

  4. Or, if those not interested in things like AP exams aren’t at the school…

    It’s the same socio-economic pool of resident students; all of Elm Grove is at East, do you really think it comes down to AVID?

  5. I dunno if it comes down to AVID. I do know a couple of EG kids selected for AVID. Underachievement is not exclusive to any particular socio-economic class.

    I believe the Newsweek stats showed the #2 HS in the country had about 50% of kids qualifying for subsidized lunch; the #10 HS had about 100% … an illustration of socio-economically disadvantaged kids achieving like crazy.

    Donald Moore raised an interesting point when running for the school board. It was something to the effect that for our $ investment per student we might expect to be reaping higher benefits in terms of student achievement. Perhaps it is easier to accept that as true now that the Newsweek stats are out. Unfortunately, at that time, some may have wanted to kill the messenger. Perhaps he was right… just a man ahead of his time.

  6. I conceded achievement wasn’t hindered by the free lunches. But given that all things should be equal between the two district high schools, it does make a difference in this comparison.

    Bang for the buck was mentioned in the comments here.

  7. The Lorax says:

    My opinion?

    Block scheduling and year-round school.

  8. Cindy, you made a wonderful point about higher non-resident enrollment at BEHS. It may be interesting to learn the student composite of AVID. Was AVID brought in primarily to serve a target non-resident population? I wonder about this because I recall there was something published a while back about a known performance gap along ethnic lines which needed to be addressed… the change in Thursday early release schedule was touted early on specifically as planning time to bridge that gap.

  9. Whatever says:

    Does anyone else think this entire Newsweek ranking index is a complete joke?

  10. Kathryn says:


  11. It might be interesting to see what better statistics might be proposed to measure comparitive HS performance? Some aspect of cost per student might enter into it? Possibly a costs/benefits ratio? Assessing costs relative to student grades as a measure of achievement? Tracking each students’s yearly or benchmark year’s performance on standardized tests at the district level, may provide data to roll up and summarize?

  12. Joke or not, they are one of the few methods of measurement that will be in homebuyers’ hands as they look for a place to educate their children.

  13. Whatever says:

    So we can expect a flood of homebuyers rushing to Milwaukee for a chance to send their kids to Rufus King? Or a rush of Elmbrook people looking to open enroll their kids in MPS for that same chance? Probably not. I also don’t think we’ll have a lot of the current West Allis residents who open enroll in Elmbrook suddenly going to Hale because it is ranked higher than BEHS. There is plenty of other data readily available to all homebuyers that give a more accurate impression about a school than these rankings.

  14. The Lorax says:

    No, and you know that’s not the case.

    What is this more accurate data? Please do share, Einstein.

  15. Whatever says:
  16. Good morning Whatever. Hmmm. Article from popular magazine I can hold in one hand or Web site that’s impossible to navigate.

    You’ve sent us to an administrator’s geek spot. You guys may sit around the teachers’ lounge and compare notes, but the rest of us would have no idea how to get where you just linked.

    That reminds me, isn’t it about time for Milwaukee Magazine to rate the suburbs?

  17. Kathryn says:

    Well, I knew how to get there, but you are right. Websites can be Byzantine, and print media is comfortable.

    As a point of interest, Elmbrook is redoing the high school profiles (the information sheets that are distributed with student transcripts and also given to prospective students.) They should be good marketing tools when completed.

    If it’s not too geeky for you, SAT and ACT have some good info. on the web too.

  18. The Lorax says:

    Newsweek is still the gold standard. Even if I think it’s not the best tool. Sometimes reality and rationality diverge.

  19. Whatever says:

    Cindy-I know you have some data geek in you 🙂

  20. Or there’s this one :
    It’s put together by Standard & Poor’s

  21. Well isn’t that 16.6 and 16.7 students per teacher ratio misleading! It does give a racial breakdown for testing, but it doesn’t seem very complete.

    Maybe we should move the discussion to how you measure a school.

    (PS good to hear from you, Kelly)

  22. I’m a student at East and we should be ranked that high two.

    I mean I be taking hard English classes, history, math, foods, shop, and geology. I had to write a 3 page paper and even though I didnt rewrite it to improve it I only gots a “B.” Can U believe it?

    And that prank was awesome, lol, I mean WOW, that was creative yet they got busted. US News should enter a new category for how hard the adminstrators are cuz East’s are hard, you know?


  23. Nice try, Dave.

    Your mother may have said you were clever, but I’m not buying into it.