If you were closely following Boston Magazine's 2014 Best High Schools coverage—and who among us wasn't?—you could see this one coming from a Smoot away: The magazine is copping to major errors in its reporting and data gathering in compiling both the public and private school listings.
Today's editor's note begins by stating that the errors were all made by the magazine's staff, and were not attempts by schools to inflate or overstate statistics.
First up, the errors in the public school listings.
Two of the errors occurred in our ranking of Greater Boston's public schools, and were simple errors of omission: We accidentally left out Burlington High School and Chelmsford High School. We've now added both back—Chelmsford is number 44, and Burlington is number 67. The remainder of the public school rankings have been adjusted accordingly.
And then, oh but then came the confession of the problems with the private school data. Readers had taken to the comments section to call out three schools in particular: Austin Prep, ranked at #3, Roxbury Latin, ranked at #1, and BB&N, ranked at #9. Welp! It turns out that they were right to holler, because wowee Mistakes Were Made:
The remaining two errors, in our ranking of Greater Boston's private schools, were more significant, and deserve a longer explanation. After the publication of the list, we discovered that in two cases—the Roxbury Latin School, ranked number one, and Austin Preparatory School, ranked number three—we had ranked schools based on what we believed, inaccurately, to be average SAT scores. In fact, at the time neither school disclosed its students' average SAT score. Instead, Roxbury Latin reported a "median" SAT score—which was higher than its average. And Austin Prep reported a number that it says is the average SAT score of the top 10 percent of its students—a number that is certainly higher than the average for the entire student body.
Austin Prep reported its data to us accurately—that is, it provided us SAT scores with the caveat that the number was drawn from the top 10 percent of its students. However, in the final accounting we failed to catch the caveat. In the case of Roxbury Latin, we used a number clearly identified on the school's website as a median score rather than an average score—but we failed to note the difference. In both cases, the errors should have been caught during our editing process, and were not. The fault clearly lies with the magazine, and not with the schools.
After we realized the errors, we reached out to both schools and asked for their average SAT scores. Austin Prep declined, but Roxbury Latin agreed to disclose its scores. We then re-crunched our numbers with the same algorithm we used to determine the rankings. As a result, our revised top-15 list of private schools looks very different. Roxbury Latin fell from first to second, and Austin Prep's ranking fell from three to 48. And those weren't the only changes: some schools moved up the list, while others moved down.
The result of all of this is that Roxbury Latin fell to the #2 spot, BB&N got bumped to lucky number 13 (fitting, says this alumna) and Austin Prep was knocked from the #3 position allllll the way down to number 48. Of a list that only included the top 15 private schools. OUCH.