I receive inquiries from parents about why Ward Melville High School doesn’t participate in national rankings of high schools. We don’t provide the information to the creators of these rankings because we believe they do not capture the complete picture of a school.

The rankings are based primarily on a simplistic formula: the number of Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate and Cambridge tests taken by students.

Clearly, challenging students to take a rigorous schedule is one important defining criterion; making it the sole criterion is simply foolish. Further, Ward Melville does not require students taking an AP course to actually sit for the exam.

In addition to offering many AP courses, our school also offers many college-level courses through such institutions as Stony Brook and Syracuse universities. Hundreds of students take college credit-bearing courses each year, but the rankings don’t take these into consideration. Moreover, our school offers a plethora of extracurricular and sport activities. Our students are heavily involved in music, theater and the fine arts.

Are these factors considered by the rankings? No. Nor do they consider special education and gifted programs. Rankings also don’t consider graduation rates.

If rankings were able to capture the spirit of a rich and vibrant education, then perhaps we would submit data.

Alan L. Baum, East Setauket

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Editor’s note: The writer is principal at Ward Melville High School in the Three Village Central School District.