Beginner’s Guide to High School Rankings

High School Rankings information can help parents and students make informed choices about which High School will best suit their child or them.

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All about the High School ranking guide

The High School rankings guide provides an understanding of how different schools perform in relation to each other.

These rankings provide an indication of students’ success rate of achieving Band 6 at a school.

You can find high school ranking data from 2010 onwards in this guide.

How are the High School rankings determined?

The High School rankings have been compiled using data published by NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA) each year.

The rankings are calculated using the ratio of the number of Band 6 results to the number of exams sat by the school.

To calculate this ratio (referred to Success Rate) for each school, NESA uses the following information:

    • Total HSC Exams Sat: The total number of HSC courses sat from the school
    • High Scores: The total number of Band 6 results from the school

Here’s an explanation of the terms used in the High School ranking tables.

Total HSC Exam Sat

This is the total number of HSC courses sat that receive an HSC mark at a school. This does not refer to the number of students, but quite literally refers to the number of individual courses and exams sat by the Year 12 cohort of the school. As an example, let’s look at some data from the 2017 High School Rankings:

Data from the 2017 High School Rankings
School 2017 Ranking 2016 Ranking 2015 Ranking 2017 Success Rate High Scores 2017 Total HSC Exam Sat
James Ruse Agricultural High School (Carlingford) 1 1 1 77.42% 785 1014
Baulkham Hills High School 2 2 6 61.55% 778 1264

In this example, James Ruse Agricultural High School had 1014 HSC exams sat and Baulkham Hills had 1264 HSC Exams sat.

High Scores

High Scores – formerly called “Total Credits” – refers to the number of Band 6 results that students from that school achieved. Let’s see what this means for the results by looking again at the 2017 High School Rankings:

Data from the 2017 High School Rankings
School 2017 Ranking 2016 Ranking 2015 Ranking 2017 Success Rate High Scores 2017 Total HSC Exam Sat
James Ruse Agricultural High School (Carlingford) 1 1 1 77.42% 785 1014
Baulkham Hills High School 2 2 6 61.55% 778 1264

In the table above, James Ruse Agricultural High School had 785 Band 6 results out of the 1014 HSC exams sat and Baulkham Hills had 778 Band 6 results out of the 1264 HSC Exams sat. This information is then used to calculate the Success Rate of the School.

Success Rate

Success Rate is a percentage calculated from a ratio of the number of Band 6 results a school achieved to the total number of HSC exams the school sat.

Here are the 2017 results to figure this out:

Data from the 2017 High School Rankings
School 2017 Ranking 2016 Ranking 2015 Ranking 2017 Success Rate High Scores 2017 Total HSC Exam Sat
James Ruse Agricultural High School (Carlingford) 1 1 1 77.42% 785 1014
Baulkham Hills High School 2 2 6 61.55% 778 1264

If we take the number of Band 6 High Scores from the school and then divide this by the number of total exams sat we can get a strike rate for the school. This can be used to learn the percentage of Band 6 results in each cohort.

Looking at James Ruse Agricultural High School, for example,

\( 785 \ (\text {High Scores})  \div 1014 \ (\text {Total Exam Sat}) = .7741 =77.42\%\)

This means that James Ruse Agricultural High School had a success rate of 77.42%.

In contrast, Baulkham Hills had a success rate of 61.5% even though it had almost the same number of Band 6 results (7 less than James Ruse Agricultural High School). This is because Baulkham Hills had more number of total exams sat and therefore lowered their success rate.

Previous Rankings

The final category is the Previous Ranking. This allows you to see how much a school’s position has changed in relation to others, if it has changed at all.

Let’s take another look at the table:

Data from the 2017 High School Rankings
School 2017 Ranking 2016 Ranking 2015 Ranking 2017 Success Rate High Scores 2017 Total HSC Exam Sat
James Ruse Agricultural High School (Carlingford) 1 1 1 77.42% 785 1014
Baulkham Hills High School 2 2 6 61.55% 778 1264

Here, we can see that James Ruse Agricultural High School has been the number 1 ranked school for three years. However, Baulkham Hills has been ranked 2nd for two years and was previously ranked 6th. Looking at this, we can see that this school has been improving over time.

Why do people care about High Schools Rankings?

High School Rankings can be used to predict the likely performance of a school in the following year, based upon its historical performance. Theoretically, you can predict a student’s potential results based upon their relative performance at a school that has consistent results.

If a school consistently performs in the top 20 and has a success rate of 50%, parents can assume that if their child is in the top 40% of the cohort they will have a statistical probability of scoring Band 6 results.

Obviously, this is not guaranteed and relies on the student’s performance throughout the year and the rest of their cohort’s performance.

Generally, high performing schools on this guide are selective schools which attract more academically driven students. Many parents use these rankings to select their preferences in their child’s Selective School applications. Admission to selective schools is predominantly based on the selective schools admissions test sat by Primary School students in Year 6 for Year 7 entry.

However, the competitive nature of some schools may not be for all students. For example, a student who struggles at a competitive selective school could flourish and achieve consistent Band 6 results at a non-selective school.

It’s important to be aware that there are other factors other than academic results when making decisions on selecting a high school.

How can I use this information?

You should use this High School Ranking information to make an informed judgement about schools. You can compare schools’ results to decide where to send your child, or to inform a decision to change schools during High School.

There are two important things to bear in mind when looking through the High School rankings.

1. Use historical data to predict a school’s future performance

The High School Rankings are not real-time information. As this information is collected at the end of the year, it does not take into account changes at a school that may have a significant impact on its results.

Just because a school has performed highly one year does not guarantee it will the following year. However, historical data can allow you to predict the future performance of the school.

For example, if we look at the 2017 results we can see that some schools have had significant fluctuations in the past while others have had consistent results:

Data from the 2017 High School Rankings
School 2017 Ranking 2016 Ranking 2015 Ranking 2017 Success Rate High Scores 2017 Total HSC Exam Sat
James Ruse Agricultural High School (Carlingford) 1 1 1 77.42% 785 1014
Baulkham Hills High School 2 2 6 61.55% 778 1264
North Sydney Boys High School (Crows Nest) 3 3 4 59.14% 579 979
Sydney Girls High School (Surry Hills) 4 13 3 56.77% 570 1004
Tangara School for Girls (Cherrybrook) 26 76 85 34.36% 67 195
Penrith High School 27 32 29 34.24% 329 691

In 2017, Penrith High School was ranked 27th. In 2016, it was ranked 32nd, and in 2015 it was ranked 29th. Penrith has had consistent rankings and because they have a Success Rate of 34.24% students in the top 30% of their cohort will have a statistical likelihood of achieving Band 6 results.

However, parents who had considered and rejected the Tangara school for girls because it had previous results in the 70s and 80s in previous would have been surprised to see that they’d jumped 50 spots in the rankings in twelve months.

Similarly, Sydney Girls High School was ranked 4th in 2017, but in 2016 it was ranked 13th. That’s a significant change that could have been caused by a number of reasons such as faculty changes, changes in staff, or poor cohort performance. Students leaving in the wake of the poor performance would be disappointed to see that it had a similarly drastic improvement in marks and they left for no reason.

To illustrate how significant the changes can be, consider this graph of the 2017 movers and shakers:

2017-high-school-rankings-most-improved

Graph: Most improved High Schools in 2017

Given that the vast majority of students remain at the same school for their whole school life, past performance can give parents assurances about their child’s potential performance in the future.

But parents should also remember that schools can jump hundreds of places in the High School Rankings in a single year. Your local school could be 1 cohort away from the top 20 or even top 10 schools.

2. Use the High School rankings to see performance relative to other schools

High School Rankings provide relative information and caution should be exercised considering a school’s success without it being in relation to other schools.

In addition, Success Rate alone is an inaccurate measure of a school’s successes and failures.

To illustrate this, let’s look at the 2017 table again:

Data from the 2017 High School Rankings
School 2017 Ranking 2016 Ranking 2015 Ranking 2017 Success Rate High Scores 2017 Total HSC Exam Sat
James Ruse Agricultural High School (Carlingford) 1 1 1 77.42% 785 1014
Baulkham Hills High School 2 2 6 61.55% 778 1264
Conservatorium High School (Sydney) 11 10 25 47.74 95 199

The Conservatorium High School has 95 Band 6 results, which doesn’t seem great. But when you take into account that there were only 199 HSC exams sat by students from the school (potentially only 20 students), that result seems far better!

 

Should you choose a school based on the High School Rankings?

Choosing a school is a complex and challenging process with lots of variables.

Decisions should be based on the data from several years alongside other criteria.

Here are some other criteria to consider when choosing a high school:

  • Your child’s strengths, weaknesses and interests
  • School location, travel time
  • Other offerings in terms of extra-curricular activities and sports
  • School facilities
  • Future plans for development

A rounded education includes more than a school’s Success Rate or rank.

For example, sending your child to James Ruse Agricultural High School because it is number one when you live in Randwick will leave your child exhausted from travel and could be counter-productive for their HSC success.

Similarly, if your child has sporting abilities or aspirations, sending them to a selective school that doesn’t cater strongly to sports is not going to be in their interests.

When choosing a High School you should have an in-depth conversation with your child and research prospective schools in detail. You may want to tour the school and meet some of the staff before making a decision.

 

What next?

Build a solid foundation for high school success

Matrix Year 7 courses start in October of each year to help your child stay one step ahead of your peers. Learn more about Matrix Year 7 English and Mathematics courses.

 

© Matrix Education and www.matrix.edu.au, 2018. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Matrix Education and www.matrix.edu.au with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

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