Mansfield HS Graduation 2021

2021 Mansfield High valedictorian Nikhil Lankipalle speaks at last June’s commencement.

The best public high school in the Attleboro area is … Mansfield High School.

That’s not me saying that. That’s U.S. News and World Report, which this week came out with its annual rankings of public high schools across the country.

As long as I can remember — and my high school days were over nearly half a century ago — there’s always been competition among schools, not just in sports but in academics. Rightly or wrongly, some schools were considered easier than others — especially at the college level.

This reminds me of a joke I once heard told between two University of Michigan grads. While rival Ohio State may have had a slight advantage on the football field, Michigan considered itself far superior academically.

Michigan grad 1: Hey, what’s that Ohio State grad doing on your front steps?

Michigan grad 2: Delivering the pizza.

In any case, U.S. News worked with North-Carolina based research firm RTI International to rank 17,840 public high schools during the 2019-2020 school year. They restricted the rankings to public high schools that had a 12th-grade enrollment of 15 students or greater or schools that had sufficient enrollment in other high school grades.

U.S. News did not collect data directly from the high schools. The website used information from the Common Core of Data, statewide math, reading and science assessment test — such as the MCAS — as well as information from the College Board and International Baccalaureate.

The schools were grouped based on six factors: College Readiness (30%), College Curriculum Breadth (10%), State Assessment Proficiency (20%), Underserved Student Performance (10%) and Graduation Rate (10%).

In any case, here is how U.S. News ranked the area’s 11 public high schools. The numbers after the school are how they ranked among 378 high schools in Massachusetts and how they ranked nationally:

  • Mansfield — 51st, 1,306
  • Foxboro — 82nd, 2,043
  • King Philip — 86th, 2,116
  • Foxboro Charter — 89th, 2,209
  • Seekonk — 100th, 2,478
  • Norton — 105th, 2,572
  • North Attleboro — 120th, 3,024
  • Attleboro — 166th, 4,626
  • Dighton-Rehoboth — 179th, 5,035
  • Southeastern Vocational — 245th, 8,105
  • Tri-County Vocational — 251st, 8,314

Massachusetts came out on top among states in the rankings by U.S. News. Bay State students lead the country in Advanced Placement exam scores, and the state has the largest proportion of schools in the top 25% of the rankings.

Given that perspective, local schools can take pride in being among the best in the nation, part of Massachusetts’ excellent education tradition. I’m sure they are quite happy in Mansfield, which not only came out on top but improved its state ranking by 30 spots from two years ago.

I came to three conclusions from these rankings.

First, money isn’t the only factor in these rankings, but it sure makes a big difference. Statewide, the top 25 includes such wealthy towns as Dover, Weston, Hopkinton, Westwood and Belmont. Locally, the highest-ranked schools were also from the most affluent towns.

Second, these rankings need to be taken with a grain of a salt. For instance, the rankings’ leading factor is College Readiness, which is “based on the proportion of 12th grade students who took and earned a qualifying score on at least one Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate exam.”

But that’s inherently unfair to vocational schools. Many students choose voke schools because they don’t want to go to college, preferring to learn trades and get into the workforce early.

Third, you’ll note that all of the area’s non-voke schools were inside the top 30% in the nation. That’s pretty good.

We may complain about our schools, but our kids’ education stacks up well compared to the rest of America.

MIKE KIRBY, a Sun Chronicle columnist, can be reached at mkirbygolf18@gmail.com.