|Here's one reason for the gap.|
To determine the Best High Schools national rankings, schools were first analyzed at the state level in terms of how well students in each school performed on state assessments. -- U.S. NewsI find it implausible that The School for the Talented and Gifted in Dallas should be named the "top public high school in the country." While I'm sure it's a perfectly good school for those students it selects, I find the name to be presumptuous. After all, aren't all of our children talented and gifted in different way? Of course by talented and gifted, they mean, high-scoring on standardized tests. OK then why not just face up to the fact that you are only teaching kids who score high and then reaping awards from some business mag for having students with high test scores.
Among U.S. News' top 20 high schools are four charter schools, "which usually accept a limited number of students through an application process and are also exempt from some of the government regulations of other public schools." Charters have also become infamous for screening out English Language Learners and kids with disabilities. Two others on the U.S. News list are magnet schools, "which use an application process that typically involves test scores and grade point averages to attract the most talented students in a region."
This ranking system is little more than a marketing system. One that matches perfectly with Arne Duncan's Race To the Top approach to school funding and improvement. It can only lead to the reproduction of all the basic inequities our society faces with the end result being a two-tier system of schooling -- one tier for the elite and another, with few resources and little chance for success.