How do you rank your high school?

WHEN YOU GRADUATED from high school, how did you feel? Relief, nostalgia or terror? Above, Garden Grove High students at 2018 commencement (Orange County Tribune photo).

Oh, I like rankings and ratings. So do readers and viewers … The Top 10 This and the Best of That. The authority to proclaim such winners may be a bit wobbly, but, oh, well, it’s fun and that’s the main point, right?

The Tribune has a “High Five” ranking for area high school athletic teams (football, basketball and baseball/softball, anyway) and we rate movies and plays on a four-star basis, with “four” being great, etc.

Of course, everything in the above paragraph is gone with the wind, for a while, and we don’t really know when and how it will be back.

As entertaining as they are, a lot of the ranking and rating is guesswork. Sportswriters vote on the stature of college football and basketball teams they’ve not seen play that season. Film and theater critics have been known to walk out in the middle of the second act, and how many of us stay glued to the tube when the Angels are trailing the Astros 8-0 in the fourth inning?

This week – as you may have read in The Tribune – U.S. News & World Report revealed its “Best High Schools” rankings for 17,000 public high schools across the United States.

Our local school systems – Garden Grove Unified and Huntington Beach Union High  – did pretty well. La Quinta High is 67th in all of California, and nine other schools scored impressively: Fountain Valley, Garden Grove, Pacifica, Huntington Beach, Edison, Bolsa Grande, Westminster, Marina and Santiago.

The schools were evaluated based on graduation rates, reading and math, Advanced Placement enrollment and success and how well “underserved” students performed.

I don’t question the accomplishments of those and other schools. We are proud of all of them.

But looking back on my time in high school – the late Paleozoic period – we students had a whole different set of priorities in deciding which schools were best. And here were mine…

  • Did the school have a kick-keister football program that I could brag about even though I personally never played a down?
  • How many girls – per class – did I feel I stood a chance of dating?
  • Did the teachers give homework on Friday that was due on Monday?
  • What sort of interesting tales and legends are associated with the school, such as ghosts, axe murderers and buried treasure?
  • How fast did the faculty parking lot clear out after the final dismissal bell?
  • At the end of each school year, how many people signed my yearbook and wrote nice things?
  • On graduation day, did I get a feeling of relief, nostalgia or terror as I faced my future?

I guess my Top Three Points here are that:

1) High school is a lot more than pop quizzes, memorization and showing up.

2) How you grew up – or didn’t – as a person and weathered the storms of puberty are probably going to be more memorable to you than the exports of Brazil or the square root of nine (three, right?).

3) Today’s successes are the foundation that your teachers and parents help you build, but the next floor or two is up to you.

Jim Tortolano got to marry a girl he met in high school, so he feels he did pretty well.

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