Clark Magnet dominates its area’s STEM school rankings

Katherine Shovlin, Staff Writer

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Clark Magnet High School prides itself on its STEM-oriented curriculum, where a majority of its students showcase their prowess in a particular field. These students’ high grades and noteworthy accomplishments in STEM-related subjects are proof of this. 

However, for the minority of Clark students not interested in STEM, they can’t comprehend how incredible these feats are. For these students, hearing how Clark is a “California Distinguished School” or anything similar doesn’t pique their interest.

Livia Simonian, a junior at Clark, is one of these disinterested students. She prefers the arts, and when asked about Clark’s accomplishments, she said, “[STEM achievements] don’t matter to me. None of it matters to me because when I came to Clark, the STEM accomplishments didn’t interest me because I’m interested in design.”

While there are different classes for Simonian and other similarly disinterested students, the diligent STEM students don’t go unnoticed. On Nov. 8, they were recognized for their efforts in the one achievement everyone can understand: a list, specifically, a recent online ranking of the nation’s STEM schools in which Clark placed #707. 

The placement was determined in Newsweek and STEM.org’s joint list, “The Top Stem High Schools 2020,” which was released Nov. 8 – otherwise known as National STEM/STEAM Day. Its guidelines for all STEM high schools included that recognized schools “offer skilled teachers who keep up with the developments in [the science, technology, engineering, mathematics] fields” and “create dynamic learning environments to engage their students.” 

While no actual criteria for Newsweek’s list’s rankings have been published online, schools have been repeating the public information.TAPinto.net, a website that reports on news happening in its East Hanover/Florham Park, NJ area, reported on Newsweek’s list in its article “Hanover Park and Whippany Park Make Best STEM High School List.” The article indicated that “the top 5,000 schools were curated from STEM.org Educational Research™ (SER) using a proprietary scoring logic that took into consideration a broad set of quantitative and qualitative data inputs collected from Q2 2015–Q3 2019.”

The purpose was to determine which primary/secondary institutions in America best offer students experiences in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) — as defined by the Congressional Research Service — while preparing them for post-secondary outcomes,” the article stated.

The TAPinto staff also disclosed “additional factors, including affluence and median household income were taken into consideration in compiling the rankings.” 

Having placed 707 out of 5,000 on Newseek’s list and scoring 86.07 (out of 100), according to Newsweek list, many Clark staff members and students have expressed their pride in this achievement.

One such teacher, Hrant Yahiayan, a Clark Chemistry and AP Biology teacher, said he was pleased with the recognition. “We’re definitely proud that we’re 707 out of 5000 schools,” he said. “I think it’s all because of the classes we offer, which include engineering, robotics, the pathways, and the CTE pathways that guide students toward the fields of science and engineering.”

Clark teachers like Yahiayan are proud of the school’s results, which they credit to Clark’s classes and to other teachers. The same could be said by the very students who contributed to Clark’s 707 ranking.

With his AP-packed schedule and high grades in those classes, junior Sevak Pogosyan is the epitome of Clark’s success. “A rank of 707 out of 5000 [schools] is truly amazing,” he said about Clark’s placement. “However, I think we can score higher.” 

as a Clark AP student, Pogosyan expected a higher ranking from Clark. He suggested that more students take challenging classes, for example. “I see people fearing and doubting about taking AP classes or complaining about the classes they are taking,” he said. “Fear, laziness and hate are the impediments we need to overcome.” Students, he said, should set aside their fears and go for AP classes because this “show[s] colleges that you challenge yourself by taking them.”

Following Pogosyan’s advice will, in his words, “certainly help [our] school climb to a higher rank if we work together and not against each other.”

So in Pogosyan and other people’s eyes, 707 is a mediocre score. However, compared to the rankings of Clark’s neighboring schools, including Crescenta Valley High, Glendale High and Hoover High, Clark dominated the Glendale Unified School District. Crescenta Valley is on Clark’s tail with a score of 919, Hoover takes the 3,086 spot, and Glendale sits at the 4,040 spot.

Despite other  GUSD high schools not being STEM-oriented like Clark, they still have STEM-related programs. These schools’ programs garnered scores of 82.95, 49.84, and 35 respectively.

After hearing this information, Simonian said, “I’m surprised really.” She further explained how because Clark’s STEM accomplishments have never impressed her, she didn’t think Clark would be ranked so high on Newsweek’s list. 

Hearing how esteemed Clark’s STEM program is, Yahiayan clarified Clark’s other subjects also deserve to be praised. Yahiayan defended the non-STEM  programs, saying, “We also have to thank our English teachers at the same time. Art is big, too. So I’m surprised art isn’t mentioned.” 

Art and engineering may be two different subjects, but Yahiayan sees the two being interconnected. “We have CTE pathways in art here at Clark that are amazing,” he said. “So I think that they played a big part in that whole design process. It ties in really well with engineering.” Yahiayan, among others, believes Clark’s art program should also be applauded since it influences the school’s STEM programs.

If Clark wishes for its STEAM programs to be nationally recognized, then following Pogosyan’s suggestions like “study[ing] with your friends,” “reread[ing] the book, do[ing] some research, [and] ask[ing] for help” could potentially guide Clark in this direction.