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I sat recently at the 47th commencement for Chopticon High School, many thoughts and emotions running through my mind. Foremost was pride in my brother taking that next step. I was surprised when it was revealed that, according to The Washington Post, Chopticon was ranked in the top 1,000 schools nationwide. Speeches continued, and I was again shocked when the number of graduates continuing their education at four-year colleges was revealed. This number seemed low for a top-1,000 high school.

I want my opinion to be well stated. This has nothing to do with the choices made by these students. This is about Chopticon’s inability to prepare students for higher education at a rate consistent with a top-1,000 high school.

Surely a high school ranked in the top 3 percent of all high schools nationwide is a top-tier educational institution, and the education received there is of the highest quality. Being a college graduate with a statistical background, I am aware that numbers can be made to tell misleading stories.

My issue is with the administration, its focus on any sort of ranking, and the disadvantage this obsession is putting on the youth. Chopticon’s ranking via The Washington Post was based upon percentage of student body who take an AP exam. Enrollment is not an indication of success. Quantity is not a sign of quality. It seems somewhere the administration has become confused. The quantity of AP exams and students has become their obsession, not the quality of the program, education or scores. As a graduate of Chopticon who went through AP classes and a graduate of a four-year college, I understand the level of education received through each.

I feel in truly evaluating a school that US News & World Report has the most extensive methodology in evaluating high schools, taking into account, among many other factors, how students are performing statistically against the past and how least-advantaged student are performing as compared to the past. For schools passing the first two steps, the third step is in evaluating college-readiness. This involves comparing the percentage of students enrolled and the percentage of students who receive passing exam scores in AP classes.

It is no secret that a higher education is becoming more valuable and necessary, especially for the youth of today who will soon be trying to enter the workforce. Everyone has the dream of being happy, healthy and financially stable. A college education goes a very long way in helping to achieve these dreams. US News and World Report recently gave a gold medal to the top 500 schools, a silver medal to schools 501 through 2,008, and then a bronze medal was awarded to an additional 2,869.

Chopticon had a 48 percent enrollment in AP classes. It was further revealed that only 22 percent of students received passing scores on the AP exams, giving them a college readiness level of 28.9, meaning that 28.9 percent of graduating seniors passed at least one AP exam during their four years. At absolute best, they were ranked 4,888, behind the 4,887 schools that received medals.

Administration should be focusing on this number, how many students they are preparing for future success and college; not how many students they can pump into an AP class to improve that misleading ranking. Overloading a class disadvantages the students. It disadvantages the teachers, having to teach to an overcrowded class, unable to cover the material in a manner equivalent to a college classroom, and leaving the students ill-prepared for when that AP test comes around.

This has nothing to do with students being able to afford college. That is for another time and place. This is about Chopticon’s failure to prepare students for higher education, yet boasting of being in the top 3 percent of schools nationwide.

The focus is misplaced. Administration’s pride shouldn’t be in graduating students from Chopticon, it should be making Chopticon the stepping stone, the launching pad to a bright future in college and society thereafter. This means not looking at the ranking received for having the most students in AP classes, using that misleading ranking into acquiring funds. Look more at the children, our future, their future and think how best can you as an educator, you as an administrator prepare this student to receive his or her diploma; their college diploma.

Garth Bowling, principal at Chopticon, stated in his advice during his speech at graduation, “If it’s broke, fix it.” Well, it’s broke.

Travis E. Vines, Mechanicsville