September 13, 2022 --
Dear Medfield Families,
I recently sent a communication to families about Medfield High School’s ranking in the latest edition of Boston Magazine’s Best Public High Schools in Greater Boston. At the time, I reported that our significant drop to #52 on the list was likely the result of an error on the district’s part related to the college attendance data we submitted. I have since learned that is not the reason for the inaccurate ranking, so I am writing to provide the community with a clarification.
We did mistakenly miscode 11 students from the Class of 2021, and we believed that error was the reason our college attendance was incorrectly listed in the magazine as 78.5% -- a data point that has averaged over 90% for more than a decade – and the primary cause of our lower ranking. However, since then, I have learned that those 11 students were simply not counted in the tabulation and therefore had no impact on the magazine’s algorithm.
Rather, upon our inquiry into this matter with officials from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), we discovered a significant discrepancy in the data generated by a third-party organization DESE uses to track college enrollment. Specifically, 23 graduates from the Class of 2021 – all of whom we have confirmed were attending college – were classified by the third-party organization as “unenrolled.” If these students had been captured correctly in the data set, the college attendance rate would have been accurately reported. Instead, DESE posted the lower college attendance rate on its website, where Boston Magazine collects its data, yielding a lower ranking for Medfield High School.
I have spoken directly with DESE Commissioner Jeffrey Riley, who confirmed that the data was provided by their contractor. He said he fully understands the frustration associated with the inaccurate ranking. However, the Commissioner stated that the data on their website cannot be updated without an updated submission from the vendor. He emphasized that DESE is not involved in the calculation of Boston Magazine’s rankings, but also expressed concern that any change in ranking for one school would have an impact on many other schools. I also spoke with the Research Editor of Boston Magazine, who confirmed that they rely exclusively on data from the DESE website for their calculations, and they would only consider a correction if the data on the website were revised. Based on these conversations, we have concluded that we have no further recourse, and the ranking for this year will stand.
Like many parents, students, and staff, we are deeply frustrated and disappointed with this unfortunate situation. As I said in my earlier communication, we know that the inaccurate ranking does not reflect the exceptional quality of education provided at Medfield High School. Our leadership team and I are sharing this important information with other residents in our community, so there is no misperception that this decline in one ranking system indicates any actual decline in the caliber of Medfield High School.
Over the past week, we have also heard concerns among some parents that the lower ranking may have an impact on our high school students’ college admissions. I have been reassured by individuals with extensive experience in college admissions that high school ranking lists published by Boston Magazine or any other news outlet have no bearing whatsoever on the admissions process. These professionals in the field have stated unequivocally that colleges and universities have far more sophisticated systems for evaluating the success of each applicant and the rigor of the high schools they attend. In fact, the associate director of admissions from Boston College commented, “High school rankings make zero impact. What is most important is that Medfield has been very good to Boston College through the years by sending us qualified students who have thrived at BC for a very long time. We view Medfield as one of the top high schools in Massachusetts. "
I am hopeful that we can put this matter behind us, focus on the vital work of teaching and learning, take pride in our outstanding schools, and continue to get the 2022-2023 school year off to a great start.