BHS Dips on Newsweek's Top Schools List

Lower college matriculation and AP test-taking rates lower Brookfield's ranking.

For the second consecutive year, (BHS) has made Newsweek magazine’s list of the top high schools in the nation. However the school’s ranking fell from to No. 936 out of 1,000 schools in 2012.

Newsweek surveyed 2,300 schools nationwide, gathering data on graduation rates (weighted 25 percent), college matriculation rates (25 percent), AP tests taken per student (25 percent), average SAT/ACT scores (10 percent), average AP/IB/AICE scores (10 percent) and AP courses offered (5 percent). This year, the news magazine doubled the number of schools to make the list, however the methodology remains the same as last year. (Find an in-depth breakdown of the methodology here.)

Overall, BHS received a score of 0.16, with a graduation rate of 98 percent, an AP test enrollment average of 0.3 per student, 82 percent rate of graduates pursuing higher degrees and an average SAT score of 1,595 (out of 2,100). Brookfield scored 0.405 in 2011 with the same graduation rate but matriculation of 94 percent, an average SAT score of 1,615 and an average of 0.7 AP tests taken per student. 

The No. 1 school in the nation, The Gatton Academy of Mathematics and Science in Kentucky, obtained a score of 4.51, with 100 percent graduation and matriculation rates and an average SAT score of 2,010.


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Of Connecticut high schools to make the list, Brookfield came in last at No. 25. Connecticut IB Academy in East Hartford ranked first among Connecticut schools to make the list, coming in at 130th overall, with Weston High School second (163 overall) and Staples High School in Westport at third (234 overall).

Newsweek’s ranking comes on the heels of BHS , with a ranking of 21st in Connecticut and 817th nationwide.

Steven DeVaux May 29, 2012 at 11:47 AM
Silver is for finishing 21st? In the Boston Marathon, with tens of thousands of runners, there's only one gold, one silver and one bronze.
The Watcher May 29, 2012 at 03:15 PM
see what happens when you fire Doc.....
Longtime Brookfield resident May 29, 2012 at 03:22 PM
I think the BOE needs to make sure this is reflected in Mr. Bivona's annual review - To drop from 273 to 936 is an outrage- Period - Simply put we went backwards - At this rate next year we will drop off charts - This is unacceptable - I think the whole organization as a whole should be reviewed as I strongly feel that this administration has kept us in the dark as a whole and have hidden so much from the general public
John Hawley May 29, 2012 at 04:15 PM
Since they doubled the number of schools in the base, I think to get apples to apples you need to know where Brookfield would have been last year in that base to get a valid relative comparison. Love the comment about Doc!
Brenda Wilkes May 29, 2012 at 04:21 PM
Its very sad, the BOE keeps increasing their requirements and the Townn keeps raising our Taxes, and the school drops in the rankings. Maybe we need more teachers and less administrators - I think an answer, and not more money, should be provided to the tax payers.
FairQuestions May 29, 2012 at 05:13 PM
If I am reading & understanding this properly. BHS went from 273 out of 500 to 546 out of 1000. We should definately get an answer for why this happened. I think Joe Palumbo is a terrific addition to BHS. However, Bivona received raises & bonuses in 2010. THIS year is the year we should see the results of it & we are "dipping"? Heres direct quote from Brookfield Patch regarding 2010 increase: "The BOE agreed to raise Bivona's salary this year from $167,375 to $172,313, a 2.95 percent increase. His salary also includes a $15,000 contribution to an annuity and the potential for an $8,000 bonus pending his next year-end review. All totaled, this brings his annual gross to $195,313, or a 16.96 percent increase over last year." Spt Bivona needs to give us some answers to this. Here is the full article: http://brookfield.patch.com/articles/superintendents-17-percent-raise-questioned
Longtime Brookfield resident May 29, 2012 at 05:53 PM
I agree 100% with both FairQuestions and Brenda on this - Bivona NEEDS to answer this and be accountable - The BOE should also answer for this - We spend more time on Metrics and seem to waste time and effort on legal issues like DOC for no Reason and I am sure there are more currently happening that the BOE is not fully aware of
Bob McGarrah May 29, 2012 at 06:07 PM
Maybe we link pay to the performance of the school system? Gee- what a concept! Wish I had thought of it, just like in business.
Rob Gianazza May 29, 2012 at 06:10 PM
John, if Brookfield was 273 out of 500 last year, we would have been 273 out of the total as well, so you can assume 273 out of 1000 for last year. There is a top ten, top one-hundred, top two-hundred-fifty, etc. It is also possible that other schools dramatically improved their positions. Statistics can be used in many ways. Ranking is just one use. I'd be curious to see what the standard deviation of scores is compared to last year. That may be much more telling of how well or poorly we scored this year.
John Hawley May 29, 2012 at 06:51 PM
Rob, I agree about standard deviation. I am not sure we can assume that Brookfield would rank at 273 although it might be somewhere around there. It would be a good thing to see the numbers and other statistical information for apples to apples...just sayin'
Longtime Brookfield resident May 29, 2012 at 06:58 PM
Rob , But if other schools dramtically improved over the year wouldnt that show that Brookfield really didnt improve as much as advertised by BOE and Bivona last year - we pay high admin costs for middle of the road results - 976 out of 2300 - can we look at Superintendent pay vs school perfomance - I wouyld be willing to wager that our superintendents pay in not 976 out of 2300 but much higher in that scale
Rob Gianazza May 30, 2012 at 12:36 AM
I am no longer a member of the BOE, so any and all comments are solely my own. I supported the increase for Mr. Bivona. The reasons include what he brought to the District, establishing a strong administrative team. While I didn't always agree with Mr. Bivona, I firmly believe his leadership has contributed to the betterment of the Brookfield School District. I have stated many times that I believe that administrative costs could be reduced and sited specific examples of how to accomplish that goal. The point in question however is high school rankings, and with the limited data provided, it's easy to assume that the level of education has fallen. That may not be true. Often rankings are separated by very narrow margins. Without seeing the deviation in scores, it is difficult to determine if the ranking is reflective of declining education, or just a victim of statistics. It is my hope that the BOE will address this concern with facts and specifics.
Steven DeVaux May 30, 2012 at 03:57 AM
Bob, Maybe if they spent the money on instruction and not lawyers and media perhaps that redirection woul help. They didn't. 'nuf said. It's the Board of Education's fault period since they are to be held accountable next election.
Longtime Brookfield resident May 30, 2012 at 12:27 PM
Steven - Your are 100% correct - NO ONE keeps track of what BIVONA spends on legal fees as I am sure not even the BOE approves this spending or is even aware of it as he seems to be able to hide these costs without anyone approving them - Seems like he as a slush fund that NO ONE can hold him accountable for. I find it very strange we have never gotten the true costs of what it cost us to get rid of Doc - Legal fees , Admin time lost ( Wasted ) countless e-mails and time wasted - I am also sure this was not an isolated incident and that there is more of this going on - on a daliy basis - I am sure the Town's attorney is making a ton of money and Bivona is just handing it to him- maybe there should be an investigation on what are our current legal issues and do the occurances really warrant Bivona WASTING our hard earned tax dollars
Brian Boodry May 30, 2012 at 12:41 PM
Everyone please lighten up ! Normally I love to pile on Bivona, but it is not warranted in this case. Just a couple of weeks ago everyone one the Patch was praising our school system because of the high ranking received in the US News survey. Now, Newsweek comes out with a different one and you're ready to clean house. Reality check---all of these suverys are flawed in one way or another. Find something else to gripe about.
Rob Gianazza May 30, 2012 at 01:59 PM
LBR, this is totally untrue. In addition to the regular accounting by Mr. Colley's Office, which has been certified by auditors, there is also the Business and Facilities sub-committee, which reviews expenses in excess of one thousand dollars each month. The superintendent has a budget line item for legal expenses. This is available to the public as part of the complete BOE budget. You also mention the Town's attorney. The Town's attorney is totally separate from the BOE. They are not affiliated whatsoever. The BOE's attorney, also represents the Town for union bargaining only. The Town and the BOE are two separate clients to this attorney. Opinions about Dr. Wollkind are many and is unrelated to the topic at hand. Please feel free to follow up with Mr. Colley about any of the accounting details of the BOE budget.
Longtime Brookfield resident May 30, 2012 at 02:30 PM
Rob- I agree I got off track- (Thanks for your comments as well but will agree to disagree on the legal fees but thanks for getting me back on track) but am still disappointed by the drop in school ranking - In todays society one gets bonuses based on MERIT so if we preach about the GOOD and use statistics like we were 276 out of 500 as a good point to warrant increase / bonus award then we need to use the same mechanism to do the same even if its not GOOD - Mr Boodry - Yes I also agree with your statement about all surveys having flaws but todays society is METRICS driven as a true measuring stick - These METRICS are used for MERIT pay - So how can we justify Mr. Bivonas bonus without some sort of METRICS - So what do we use - One suvey says were great the othr syas not so great - So where do our SCHOOLS really stand - Can anyone really measure our schools performance accurately and independent of Mr Bivona's statements he feels he is doing great job
Brian May 30, 2012 at 02:34 PM
Thanks Brian for a voice of reason here. If anyone took a minute to really look at the details they might have noticed that of the statistics used for the rankings, the biggest one which impacted Brookfield was our % College Bound rate. This was recorded as only 82%. I'm not sure how this is reported but there is a good chance that those who enrolled in the Armed Services out of HS lowered this % which one could argue is unfair as they chose this route first before going to college. With such a low college bound %, other figures like the SAT scores would have to come in extremely high to get a better ranking. I think a better measure YTY is looking at the SAT and ACT scores year over year as well as how student performed on the AP Exams. The article doesn't have enough detail to compare YTY performance. I know, I know... the bashers don't want to take the time to look into the reports and check the figures...just want to quickly comment about the axe they have to grind. But there are a few who do take the time to think and post some useful, thought provoking comments here. After a while you know which posters you just tend to ignore as they never add anything to the conversation.
Brian May 30, 2012 at 02:48 PM
Rob, While you are correct that the 500 vs 1000 was just the rankings which they reported, what is still unclear is if their total sample size increase in this year's report. Clearly there were some major changes in how they calculated the rankings or in thier sample size from last year to this year. Take into consideration: Last year Brookfield High School (BHS) ranked fourth among schools in Connecticut, coming in behind Wilton (141), Lyme-Old Lyme (202) and Daniel Hand (231). Where are Wilton, Lyme-Old Lime and Daniel Hand in the rankings this year? Wilton is not ranked in the top 1000 Lyme - Old Lyme ranked 658 Daniel Hand ranked 523 While all 4 of the CT schools which appeared in the ranking dropped significantly, there are some CT schools which join the rankings this year even in the top 500 range. Bottom line is that this study really cannot be used to compare last year's results to this year's results. It is a point in time ranking with likely a different sample size and different ranking criteria.
Laura Orban May 30, 2012 at 03:05 PM
Brookfield has a 5 year strategic plan for our schools. If you look here http://www.brookfield.k12.ct.us/subsite/dist/page/district-information-1230 you will see links in the left navigation to both the strategic plan and the annual review which reports on how we are doing against that plan. I agree with those who are asking questions about the data. Without a better understanding of the previous survey and the current one, it's difficult to say if the quality of the education we provide has really dropped. For those actually interested in the quality of our education, our own plan and metrics might be useful.
Longtime Brookfield resident May 30, 2012 at 03:42 PM
Brian - you bring up good points andobviously see my post as irrellevent but please note I am also open minded -- So looking at your comments - 1- if Armed Forces did effect our scores why didnt it effect other towns as well ? 2- As for AP results yes we were honored but if you read our % pass has gone down from 88% in 2009 to 86% in 2011 3- SAT scores have ALL gone DOWN in 2011 according to BOE website- So Brian please show me your RESEARCH because I must be looking in the wrong place
Steven DeVaux May 30, 2012 at 04:15 PM
Either the kids in Brookfield have wised up and are no longer college bound due to the realization of the lifetime debt load their parents are going to have them take on just to walk around boasting that Peggy Sue is going to Dartmouth OR Brookfield's Board of Education has failed in it's mission to provide the highest quality in terms of education so Johnny doesn't have to attend Naugatuck CC at night.
Brian May 30, 2012 at 05:26 PM
LBR, I purposly did not include names of the posters with just axes to grind. While your initial post really was just a shot at Bivona, you do follow up with some additiaonl information which is useful to the discussion here and within some other threads on the Patch. I still probably disagree with you on a majority of topics, but I'll give you credit for raising some topics or ideas in some posts. As for the research on this post, it was looking at the actual data contained within the Newsweek article. If you look at that site and sort on some of the scores you can see the biggest impact for Brookfield was the % College Bound. Going back to the patch article itself you see this % dropped from 94% last year to 82% this year. It's tough to imagine a drop of 12% in one year is accurate. If you look at my other post you can see I also check the other 3 CT schools which appeared in the top 500 last year and everyone had a significant drop with Wilton being the top CT HSlast year at 141 to not even being ranked within top 1000 this year. Clearly something is wrong. http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2012/05/20/america-s-best-high-schools.html
Brian May 30, 2012 at 05:35 PM
LBR, These surveys are not the measuring sticks we should tie anyone's salary or bonus to. Actual performance on test scores like SATs, CMTs, etc maybe...but these "independant studies" can always be twisted one way or another. As far as tying salary or bonuses to test performance...I'd be careful here as this is similar to the No Child Left Behind mandate which can force schools into higher spending to comply with mandates and these types of activities which tie things to test scores inevitably lead to teaching to a test vs. teaching learning skills and how students should be applying theories and lessons they have learned. In my opinion, far to much of the academic calendar is currently spent focused on teaching to the CMTs.
Longtime Brookfield resident May 30, 2012 at 08:48 PM
Brian - I must say you raise ALL valid points - and you are correct my initial post was probably just a shot as I just get frustrated sometimes- As for measuring sticks we must find something to measure our admin against as we measure our children by test scores etc.. -We get figures thrown at us all the time from all sorts of sources - yes numbers can always be tainted and slighted to show ones opinion or favor - how can we show real numbers that have real meaning - You can dig up facts that support your views and I could easily do the same - I agree no child left behind has changed our teaching approach which I for one feel it has hurt our children more than help as you alos seem to state - I think we can all agree what we want is the best education possible for our children but we also accountabilty at fair cost of Mr. Bivona as well


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