We’re happy to rank high but always aim to improve
“My objective has always been to get better, no matter where my ranking is.”
Luke Donald (English professional golfer)
Over Spring Break, we learned that Keystone was ranked number 10 among all public and private schools in Texas – the only school in San Antonio to make this list. It’s the latest in a growing list of accolades: for several years in a row, Keystone has been recognized by Niche as the top private/independent school in San Antonio. Two years ago, Time magazine named us one of the top 100 STEM schools in the country. Going back to 2006 when the College Board named Keystone the “best school in the world,” our school has a long and distinguished record of honors.
These distinctions, while flattering, do not define our community. Now don’t get me wrong, we appreciate positive recognition. It can be reaffirming and energizing. We don’t go out looking for these honors, but we don’t refuse them when they come our way either. However, we’re also aware that fame can be fickle and fleeting and, in any year, the rankings can change for reasons that have nothing to do with what’s happening at a school.
The whole issue of rankings came up in 1983, after US News and World Report first published its “Best American Colleges,”, which launched a recognition race among educational institutions. Even though the criteria for assessing place can sometimes feel inscrutable, it can be difficult to resist the competition. This became all the truer when students and parents began looking to “the list” for guidance. In more recent years, websites such as Niche create their own lists that rank public and private schools, and their results generate considerable media coverage.
Criteria for school rankings can include percentage of students taking Advanced Placement Courses or tests, colleges to which seniors are selected, number of activities offered, diversity of student body, teachers with advanced degrees, and other factors. Based on these criteria, Keystone does very well.
All students are required to take five AP courses in high school, and most students take between 8-12 in three years. Every year, Keystone seniors are accepted to the finest colleges and universities in the country and receive merit-based aid packages averaging $300,000 per student. Keystone offers a variety of activities in different fields, and it seems like every year the list grows. The student body here constitutes one of the most diverse in the state of Texas, and our faculty hold impressive degrees in their fields.
Here again, all the factors listed above are impressive and worthy of acknowledgement. However, like other schools, Keystone stands for more than a set of quantitative measurements. The courses here, whether they are Advanced Placement or not, challenge and stimulate students to continue their learning. Again and again, we hear from alumni how their classes on this campus inspired them to major in a certain field and pursue that area as their life’s work.
The list of colleges and universities to which seniors are accepted reflects the wide array of their interests, the eclectic nature of their personalities, and can impress even the most jaded cynic. Just as important is that graduates head to schools where they can be successful and happy. Meanwhile, post-secondary institutions show how much they value our students with generous scholarships.
Because Keystone students are joiners rather than spectators, we provide activities ranging from Model UN to Literary Magazine to Robotics Club to Dungeons & Dragons Club to Track and Field, and the list goes on and on. Some clubs wax and wane depending on student interest, and some remain no matter the circumstances. Students often come to administration with ideas for new clubs and activities; when possible and provided they meet the school’s mission, we attempt to implement them while not overburdening students and faculty/staff.
According to a variety of criteria, Keystone’s student diverse body reflects the interconnected and cosmopolitan world they will encounter in college and beyond. Co-existing with fellow students from a multitude of backgrounds and life experiences prepares Cobras for the world they will enter and makes them attractive to colleges, universities, and the work world where they will collaborate with people from all over the globe.
Lastly, while the pedigree of our faculty and staff may be impressive, it’s the knowledge of their field combined with a desire to work with young people that makes them stand out. Yes, they know “their stuff” and that’s important; however, equally crucial is the compassion for their students and the passion they convey daily that energizes and excites Cobras in the classroom, in the theater, on the fields and courts of play, and in extra-curricular activities. Alumni repeatedly express their gratitude regarding their teachers at Keystone for the material they learned and the sense of purpose and passion they inherited.
As I said before, high rankings are nice. Being the competitive person I am, if there are going to be hierarchies of schools, I would rather ours be at the apex. Nevertheless, at the end of the day, the ineffable qualities that distinguish Keystone transcend numbers or lists. I recently heard a parent say, “We came for the academics; we stayed because of the community.” There are certain intangible qualities that remain immeasurable but make Keystone the unique place it is.
We talk with students about maintaining a growth mindset and continually improving, and we strive to do this for ourselves as teachers, staff members and administrators. We are constantly learning and growing, and we will be an even better school in the future than we are now. Regardless of ranking, the desire to improve is woven into our DNA, and we will continue to challenge and support youngsters and adolescents to be the best students and people they can be.