Webcast examines options for high-performing students

Monday, August 20, 2012
Exam Schools: Inside America's Most Selective Public High Schools
Exam Schools: Inside America's Most Selective Public High Schools by Hoover fellow Chester E. Finn and Jessica A. Hockett

The plight of low-performing students dominates our education news and policy discussions. Yet America’s high flyers also demand innovative, rigorous schooling, particularly if the country is to sharpen its economic and scientific edge.

On August 24 at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute in Washington, DC, Hoover Institution senior fellow Chester Finn and Jessica Hockett discussed how motivated, high-ability youngsters can be served in myriad ways by public education, including schools that specialize in them. This is the focus of their new book from Princeton University Press, Exam Schools: Inside America’s Most Selective Public High Schools. In the book, the coauthors identify 165 such high schools across the United States.

Among the questions Finn and Hockett ask are, What is the best education for exceptionally able and high-achieving youngsters? and Can the United States strengthen its future intellectual leadership, economic vitality, and scientific prowess without sacrificing equal opportunity?

In their discussion, they were joined by a pair of educators instrumental in the creation of two of the exam schools profiled in their book: Stephen Joel Trachtenberg, president emeritus of George Washington University and a key player in the establishment of DC’s selective School Without Walls, and Geoffrey Jones, founding principal of Alexandria's Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology.

Exam Schools is published under the umbrella of the Hoover Institution’s Koret Task Force on K–12 Education. Finn is chair of the task force and also president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. Click here to view the webcast.

A new report identifies 165 public high schools that admit students based on top academic records. These high schools are sometimes known as “exam schools” in reference to their selective admissions criteria, which can include entrance exams. Researchers Chester E. Finn, Jr. and Jessica Hockett explored these institutions, asking if their “whole school” focus on high achievers might play a larger role in educating top students in a national climate “consumed with gap closing.” Their analysis, “Exam Schools from the Inside,” will appear in the Fall issue of Education Next.