By Candace Birkelbach

Killeen Daily Herald

The Killeen Independent School District has its "shared idea for the need of change," and the district's top official expressed some skepticism about the rankings of local high schools by Newsweek Magazine.

The rankings of KISD high schools in Newsweek's list of top high schools in the nation underwent some changes this year.

Shoemaker High School rose in the rankings from 1,159 in 2006 to 997 in 2007. Killeen High School plummeted from 669 in 2006 to 1,024 in 2007.

Harker Heights and Ellison High schools did not make the list of the 1,351 top schools for 2007, but did in previous years.

Ellison High School ranked 687 in 2005 and fell to 940 in 2006.

Harker Heights High School stood at 727 in 2005 and fell in 2006 to 808.

In 2005, only 1,043 schools were ranked by Newsweek. The number of schools ranked in the listing for 2006 was 1,236, while more schools were ranked in 2007 for a total of 1,351.

Each year, Newsweek ranks schools based on advanced placement and inter-baccalaureate testing numbers. A ratio is created by dividing the number of AP and IB tests taken at a school by the number of graduating seniors.

Using those ratios, Newsweek recognizes schools that do the best job of preparing average students for college, according to Newsweeks Web site.

"We can measure how committed the school is to helping kids take college-level courses," wrote Barbara Kantrowitz and Pat Wingert on the Newsweek Web site. "We think kids at those schools have an edge, no matter their economic background."

Kantrowitz and Wingert give several goals that high schools should be working to accomplish: create good citizens, celebrate liberal arts, prepare for work, emphasize science and technology and reach out to everyone.

Superintendent Jim Hawkins said KISD simply abides by the state requirements for high school graduation.

Hawkins said rankings such as Newsweek's are sometimes confusing to the public because different entities use different criteria for ranking schools. Hawkins said Killeen schools are sometimes high on one list and low on another.

"These rankings are made up by journalists who use their own systems which sometimes are not valid," Hawkins said. "The state system may have a lot of flaws, but there is a lot of research to back it up."

He said he thinks KISD has a high participation rate for advanced placement testing and that AP represents very rigorous criteria.

"AP courses are very good indicators for success and just taking the course indicates students will be successful," Hawkins said. "I'm glad Newsweek has chosen AP as their indicator, but I still approach any of these rankings with skepticism."

Contact Candace Birkelbach at or (254) 501-7553

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