IN “DISCLAIMER” BOX – In order of significance (from most heavily weighted (30%) to least heavily weighted (10%)), Niche’s 2019 Best Private High Schools ranking is based upon the following: Student-reported composite SAT/ACT scores, college enrollment and matriculation, economic and racial diversity, parent-student surveys and student-teacher ratios. These statistics were obtained from the U.S. Department of Education, the Private School Universe Survey (PSS), Common Core Data (CCD), School District Finance Survey (F-33), the Civil Rights Data Collection, Niche K-12 student and parent surveys and the School Attendance Boundary Survey (SABS).
Harvard-Westlake was recently ranked second on the “Best 2019 Private High Schools in America” list by Niche.com Inc, an online rating and review site. Phillips Academy, a co–educational day and boarding high school located in Andover, Mass., was ranked first on the list. While Phillips Academy has retained first place for four years in a row, Harvard-Westlake moved up to second place this year from eighth place last year and third place in 2017.
In order to explore how Harvard-Westlake has increased its ranking, one must look towards its recent strides in diversity. Harvard-Westlake scored a “B” grade in diversity in 2017, which was a major contributing factor towards its lower rankings last year and the year before. Today, both Harvard-Westlake and Phillips Academy have “A+” grades in diversity.
By moving up to second place, Harvard-Westlake surpassed Phillips Academy Exeter (which now ranks third in the country), St. Paul’s School (now in ninth place), The Lawrenceville School (now ranks tenth), Choate Rosemary Hall (now in fifth place), Lakeside School (now ranks sixth) and Deerfield Academy (now ranks 13th). Harvard-Westlake’s increase in diversity ratings were especially important in its surpassing of Phillips Academy Exeter, whose diversity grade only improved from an “A-” to an “A” grade. Harvard-Westlake also now ranks higher in diversity than Trinity and St. Mark’s School (Lakeside School did not have a previous diversity rating and Choate Rosemary Hall currently has an unreported diversity score).
While Harvard-Westlake recently dedicated a department to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), Phillips Academy has two programs, Brace Center and CAMD (Community and Multicultural Development), wholly dedicated to diversifying their school community, from gender equity and inclusion to racial and religious diversity. The effects of these departments can be seen across the schools’ various statistics relating to diversity. For example, 46 percent of Phillips Academy’s student population are people of color, while 40 percent of Harvard-Westlake’s student body are people of color. Moreover, Phillips Academy has more than double the amount of socioeconomic diversity than Harvard-Westlake, as 48 percent of the student body receives financial aid at Phillips Academy while only 20 percent receive it at Harvard-Westlake.
Greg Gonzalez, director of financial aid at Harvard-Westlake, commented on Harvard-Westlake’s current financial aid situation.
“We are pleased with our growth over the last 10 years, but we are far from where we would like to be. Having said that, compared to peer independent schools in Los Angeles, we have more students on financial aid than the average (20% to 17.3%) and our average grant is higher ($16,000 to $29,000). It should be noted, however, that our tuition is higher than our peer schools,” said Gonzalez.
In June of this year, the Harvard-Westlake’s DEI department took its first steps in its five-year strategic plan to increase diversity at the school. Janine Jones, director of DEI at Harvard-Westlake, commented on the value of Harvard-Westlake’s DEI department in an interview conducted by email.
“The school recognized that in order to serve our students in the best way possible, having a focus on DEI was critical to our mission. The primary goal of the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion aligns with our mission statement and one of the school’s Visions for 2020. First, the first few words of HW’s mission statement are: ‘Harvard-Westlake strives to be a diverse and inclusive community united by the joyful pursuit of educational excellence…'” Jones said.
According to Jones, Harvard-Westlake’s recent strides in improving diversity have, and will, ensure its overall progress in education.
“The work that we are doing will continue to strengthen our school fundamentally and that will, in turn, improve the quality of a Harvard-Westlake education,” Jones said.