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About This Guide

By Danylo Berko and Hal Straus
washingtonpost.com Staff Writers
Tuesday, May 20, 2003

washingtonpost.com's School Guide is a detailed look at almost 1,300 public schools in the District of Columbia and 18 jurisdictions in Maryland and Virginia.

Each school has its own profile within the feature, and most have a detailed report on their standardized test scores. Readers using this guide can search for schools by name or retrieve lists of schools that rank high in various measures of school quality, including test scores, student diversity and curriculum difficulty.

The lists and the profiles aren't perfect. For instance, the District, Maryland and Virginia all administer a different battery of tests, making it impossible to directly compare their scores. The guide's Top Schools search feature accounts for many of these differences. For example, it allows users to retrieve schools with top test scores only for a particular state or jurisdiction, not across state lines.

Much of the data in the guide comes from the 2000-2001 Washington Post School Survey of area schools, which attempted to collect consistent information across the region's multitude of jurisdictional lines. The survey asked for information about courses and extracurricular activities, course completion and participation rates, teacher absenteeism, student transfers and teacher experience. It also asked schools to describe their goals and achievements, and present information that they thought was particularly relevant.

The City of Alexandria Public School System did not participate in the survey, and some schools in other systems did not respond or failed to answer some questions. The Frederick County, Md., Spotsylvania County, Va., and Fredericksburg City, Va., schools were not in our distribution area for the 2000-2001 survey and therefore were not asked to participate.

Other data in this guide comes from a number of sources, including the U.S., Maryland and Virginia education departments and the D.C. Public Schools.

The Maryland and Virginia departments of education and District of Columbia Public Schools provided standardized test scores by school and grade level for the 2000-2001 and 2001-2002 school years. The 2001-2002 Maryland School Performance Assessment Program results do not appear in the guide because of scoring inconsistencies.

Virginia provided high school completion numbers, student attendance and discipline numbers for the 2000-2001 school year, the most recent available. Maryland supplied statistics from the 2001-2002 school year on high school completion, student attendance and college attendance by graduates. Information on teacher counts, enrollment and student ethnicity breakdowns -- which allowed us to calculate a student diversity index -- came from the U.S. Department of Education Common Core Data set for the 2000-2001 school year.

The information in this guide will be updated as it becomes available.

© 2003 The Washington Post Company

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