US News Ranks Wellesley High #28 Among Mass. Public High Schools, Down from #15

You think spring in New England is a roller coaster? Just check out the latest high school rankings.

Wellesley High School ranked 28th among Massachusetts public high schools in the 2024 Best High Schools released by U.S. News & World Report this week. 

In 2023, WHS was #15. 

WHS ranked 703rd in the nation in 2024, down from 539th last year. See the full U.S. News rankings list here.

The annual rankings evaluated more than 350 public high schools in Massachusetts and more than 17,000 across the country on factors including performance on state assessment tests, how many students took AP tests and how many passed, graduation rate, and performance of Black, Hispanic and low-income students. 

Boston Latin School was once again #1 in the state (#27 in the nation, up from #50 last year), followed by Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School in Hadley, Mass., (#100 in nation) and Lexington High School (#192 in nation). 

The top-ranked high school in the nation was BASIS Peoria, a 263-student public charter school in Peoria, Ariz., which was not in the U.S. News top 10 in 2023. Notably, all of the top 20 public high schools in the country have selective enrollment, meaning students must apply via an exam or lottery, or have a GPA minimum. 

For those of you keeping track, yes, this is just six months after Boston Magazine named Wellesley High as 11th among public high schools in the Boston area. On that list, Lexington ranked 15th and Boston Latin School ranked 25th. 

But there is some good news: WHS grabbed the #60 spot in the U.S. News STEM Rankings, which evaluates public high schools for a “robust curriculum of college-level math and science courses” and performance on AP math and science exams. 

And, at least we beat Wellesley’s 2022 U.S. News ranking of #32. Still, some of us remember the good old days of 2014, when we captured #4 in the state on the U.S. News list.


With all this up and down, do rankings mean anything? 


“Wellesley Public Schools has never used any external ranking services as a benchmark of our progress,” Superintendent David Lussier said in an email response to questions from the Swellesley Report. “It is also worth mentioning that U.S. News & World Report is just one ranking system – there are a number of different rankings with differing methodologies and results. Over the years, we have seen that even small differences in school data can result in significant changes to the rankings that are produced by these entities.”

Lussier noted that Wellesley High is among the top performing schools in the state according to the MCAS state assessment tests and has been named a School of Recognition by the state for its performance.

And in case you were wondering, Lussier did his homework about the 2024 U.S. News ranking. In his email to the Swellesley Report, Lussier noted that the 2024 rankings are based on student performance during the 2021-22 academic year. We checked–-he is right. 

“Please know that we do pay close attention to all the metrics that factor into the various rankings,” Lussier said. “It is also worth mentioning that the scope of these ranking services are limited. None of them measure the depth or breadth of the outstanding classes, sports, and extracurricular activities we offer at the high school. We have incredible teachers and students who are constantly demonstrating excellence on any number of fronts – in academics, athletics, performing arts, and more.”


How Nearby Schools Fared

Massachusetts once again took the lead for the state with the largest proportion of schools in the top 25 percent of the U.S. News rankings: 154 high schools were in the top quarter of the list, or 44 percent of Mass. schools. 

Here’s how some of our rivals, ahem I mean, peer schools ranked:

  • #3 Lexington (#6 in 2023)
  • #8 Dover-Sherborn (#5 in 2023)
  • #11 Wayland (#24 in 2023)
  • #12 Weston (#10 in 2023)
  • #20 Concord-Carlisle (#25 in 2023)
  • #23 Needham (#19 in 2023)
  • #38 Brookline (#35 in 2023) 
  • #43 Newton North (#43 in 2023)
  • #46 Newton South (#37 in 2023)


How Schools Get Ranked


“The highest ranked public schools in U.S. News & World Report‘s 2024 Best High Schools rankings are those whose students demonstrated outstanding outcomes above expectations in math, reading and science state assessments, earned qualifying scores on an array of college-level exams, and graduated in high proportions,” according to U.S. News’ methodology. 

Among the factors considered in ranking, and how Wellesley measured up:

  • student-to-teacher ratio: 12:1
  • math proficiency: 85% 
  • reading proficiency: 83% (keep in mind, these are from 2021-22, and we know the more recent MCAS results show WHS bouncing back from the pandemic)
  • percentage that participate in AP exams: 71%
  • graduation rate: 98%

One interesting note to help put the rankings into context relates to AP tests. U.S. News ranks college readiness based on how many 12th graders take AP exams, how many tests they take, and how they do. 

  • At WHS, 71 percent of 12th graders took at least one AP exam with a passing rate of 88 percent. Pretty good, except overall at WHS just 62 percent of 12th graders earned a passing score on at least one AP exam. 
  • In comparison, at exam-entrance-required Boston Latin School, 98 percent of students took an AP exam with a pass rate of just 79 percent. However, 95 percent of the senior class earned a passing grade on at least one AP exam. That means BLS students took more AP exams than WHS students, another factor rewarded by U.S. News.  

Another ranking factor is performance on state math, reading and science tests by students who are typically underserved, meaning students who are Black, Hispanic, or from low-income families. 

  • At WHS, 47.3 percent of underserved students are proficient on math, reading and science assessment tests, compared with 83 percent of non-underserved students. 
  • In comparison at Boston Latin School, 95.7 percent of underserved students at Boston Latin School are proficient and 93.5 percent of non-underserved students are proficient. That ranked Boston Latin as #1 in the nation (tie) in that category.

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