In June 2011, Newsweek published their list of the top ten miracle schools
http://www.newsweek.com/2011/06/21/ten-miracle-high-schools.all.html
This is their explanation for how they got this list:

"Low-income students, paltry funding, dated facilities – that didn’t stop some schools from doing more with less – and becoming the best in America, according to Newsweek’s annual ranking.
It’s one thing to crack Newsweek’s annual list of the top American High Schools with top facilities and handpicked students. But what about standout performance despite limited resources and a student body chosen by lottery?
Our top Transformative schools achieve results with this added challenge: taking students at all skill levels, from all strata, and turning out uniformly qualified graduates. To compile the list, we took each school’s Newsweek score on the list of the top 500 American high schools and multiplied it by the percentage of students that qualified for free- or reduced-price lunch—the most reliable and consistent metric of socio-economic status in American high schools. Schools with selective, merit based admissions were ineligible. Lessons abound."

So for them, the miracle schools are simply the ten schools on their top 500 list that have higher percentages of students in poverty.

The first thing I'd like to note is the question "But what about standout performance despite limited resources and a student body chosen by lottery?" The problem here is that 'by lottery' is not the same as a random sampling of students, like you'd get from a neighborhood school that does not have a lottery at all. The lottery can only be won by people who know about it and have the diligence to follow through with getting into the lottery and, in many places, showing up for the lottery drawing. This disqualifies a certain percentage of families, generally the ones with the students who are lowest academically.

The next thing to notice is "Schools with selective, merit based admissions were ineligible." You will see if you follow the links below that several (fill in exact number later) of the schools do have a selective process where students with low test scores do not qualify to apply for their lotteries.

Finally, you will see that some of the schools don't have a high percent of low-income students, are not in dated facilities, and, well, it's hard to know about paltry funding since most get additional funding from corporations.

So their definition of 'miracle school' is a lot different from ours, which we've put on the home page, but here it is again:

What is our definition of a miracle school?
It hasn't been officially defined, but we think that a true miracle school would have the following characteristics:
1) A low attrition rate
2) High test scores
3) High graduation rate (for high schools)
4) High college acceptance rate (for high schools)
5) Fair representation of ELL and Special Education students
6) A high percent of students who qualify for free or reduced meal prices
7) Funding equivalent to the nearby 'failing' school
8) No evidence that the school discriminates against low performing students

In our opinion, if a school fails to meet ANY of these criteria, it is not a miracle school since only a school that does all these things would prove that hard-working adults are the sole difference between a successful school and the failing school around the corner.

Now you might be thinking that it is not fair that they have to meet all the criteria. Why not just one or two of them? Well, it's like if we were checking to see if a magician who claims he can levitate is lying or not. First we check to see if there are any wires holding him up. We don't find them. Is that enough to declare him a true miracle worker? No. Then we get to check if there's some kind of air pump underneath him. We find one! That's it. It's over. Same with miracle schools. We test for all the 'gimmicks' we know of.

Here is the list of the ten schools, with some of our ongoing research about each of them:



Click on the link below to see the percent and number of students qualifying for free or reduced meal prices, and note the ratios between the two. In many of the urban districts, the ratios range from 10 to 25... meaning that for every single student (in a 10 ratio) receiving reduced meal prices, there are two receiving free meal prices. This gives an indication of the median income... remembering that free qualifications are from 0 to 135% of the poverty line, and reduced ranges from 135% to 185% of the poverty line. It just happens that Summit actually has more reduced-price-qualifying that those qualifying for free lunch qualifying.... something you will very, very rarely see in a truly low-income community.