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Newsweek Education Issue at a Newsstand Near You

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It's big week for education in Newsweek magazine.

In case you hadn't noticed, after ceasing the printed magazine at the end of 2012 under helm of Tina Brown and the Daily Beast, Newsweek returned to print in March under its latest owner, the digital company IBT Media. Since then, there have been a few education stories here and there (and the magazine continues its vibrant Website). But I was waiting for something bigger on schools to write something here, and this week's issue certainly fits the bill.

The magazine has a cover story on binge drinking in college (particularly about drinking games at Dartmouth College); a package on "America's Top High Schools 2014;" and three other education pieces.

The top high school rankings have appeared in Newsweek for several years. (For a long time, when the magazine was owned by the Washington Post Co., they were based on Post education columnist Jay Mathews' ratio of the number of Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, and similar tests given divided by the number of seniors who graduated.)

U.S. News & World Report also ranks U.S. high schools annually (separately from its bread-and-butter college rankings). Though its hard to believe now, but back in 1999, it was somewhat controversial when U.S. News did a cover package merely identifying nearly 100 top high schools without even ranking them.

Newsweek has a new methodology this year for its list, which focuses on achievement and college-readiness factors. (Newsweek worked with the consulting firm Westat Inc.) At the top of Newsweek's main list this year is Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, in Alexandria, Va. 

"With its focus on student-driven research, specialized college-level course work in subjects like computer science and bio-nanotechnology and a high proportion of faculty holding Ph.Ds, Thomas Jefferson hardly resembles a conventional high school," the magazine says.

But Newsweek acknowledges that its main list is dominated by schools in areas with high average income and low racial diversity. "So we produced a second list that takes into consideration how well schools serve students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds," it says.

Topping that "Beating the Odds" list is Emma Lazarus High School in New York City, which has a student poverty rate of 93.33, percent but high college enrollment and on-time graduation rates. (The school on the Lower East Side of Manhattan ranks 21st on the main list.)

Rankings like this may be controversial, but Newsweek doesn't shy away from the idea that schools making the list might want to tell the world about it. It directs schools to IBT Media's reprint site, where schools can request a price quote on banners, plaques, crystals, and other gewgaws with the "America's Top High Schools" logo.

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Meanwhile, the other education pieces in this issue of Newsweek are worth a read.

The cover story, "Big Drunk on Campus: American's Top Colleges Have a Serious Drinking Problem," will give parents pause, especially if their children are looking at Dartmouth. (The story is written by two Dartmouth grads.)

The other pieces are about coming changes in K-12 school design inspired by the Google campus; how well minority students can relate to the typical school curriculum; and the Maker Movement, in which students are "making, doing, building, shaping, and inventing stuff," as one educator puts it.

Newsweek is still reminding its readers that it is "back in print," with ads on its Website and the same slogan on the subscription card that fell out of the $7.99 print edition I bought. (When you think about it, if you're holding the magazine, do you really need to be reminded that it is back in print?)

Still, it's nice to go to a newsstand and see the venerable title there. 

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