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High schools earn national honor
Wednesday, April 23, 2014
By PAUL COLLINS - Bulletin Staff Writer
Both Henry County high schools received silver medals in U.S. News & World Report’s 2014 Best High School Rankings.
Bassett High School was ranked 1,703rd nationally and 39th in Virginia, and Magna Vista was ranked 1,706th nationally and 40th in Virginia.
Martinsville High School, like about three-fourths of the public high schools that were eligible to be evaluated, did not receive a medal. Patrick County High School received a bronze medal.
U.S. News, working with American Institutes for Research, a Washington, D.C.-based organization, began by analyzing more than 31,000 public high schools in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, according to the U.S. News website. Only 19,411 of those schools had high enough 12th-grade enrollment and sufficient data from the 2011-2012 school year to be eligible for the rankings, it added.
Of those 19,411 schools, 2.6 percent (500 schools) were awarded gold medals, 7.8 percent (1,519 schools) were awarded silver medals, and 13.8 percent (2,688 schools) were awarded bronze medals. In all, 24.2 percent of the 19,411 eligible schools were awarded gold, silver or bronze medals.
Schools awarded national gold or silver medals were numerically ranked in their states based on their positions in the national rankings. Forty-eight schools in Virginia received gold or silver medals and were numerically ranked in the state out of a total of 322 high schools in Virginia.
“I am proud that both of our high schools have been recognized with a ‘silver’ designation this year,” said Jared Cotton, superintendent of Henry County Public Schools.
“For the last several years, we have been working to improve student proficiency in reading and mathematics at all levels. In addition, school staff at both high schools have been working diligently to ensure that all students are college and career ready. We have increased Advanced Placement (AP) course offerings for students and have worked to identify additional students who should be encouraged to take on the challenge of advanced coursework. We have also encouraged students to participate in the AP exams and have been able to offer grant funding to assist families with the cost,” he said.
In addition, the school division has worked with Patrick Henry Community College and New College Institute to offer dual enrollment courses for HCPS students, Cotton said. “This provides an opportunity for our students to participate in college coursework and even earn an associate’s degree from PHCC,” he said.
The U.S. News “recognition validates the fact that we are moving in the right direction with our high school programming,” Cotton said. “I am proud of our staff and students for earning this recognition.”
According to the U.S. News website, the first step of the three-step process to select the Best High Schools involved determining “whether each school’s students were performing better than statistically expected for the average student in the state. We started by looking at reading and math results for all students on each state’s high school proficiency tests. We then factored in the percentage of economically disadvantaged students — who tend to score lower — enrolled at the school to identify the schools that were performing better than statistical expectations.”
Step two, for schools that made it past the first step, “determined whether the school’s least-advantaged students — black, Hispanic and low-income — were performing better than average for similar students in the state,” the U.S. News website says. “We compared each school’s math and reading proficiency rates for disadvantaged students with the statewide results for these student groups and then selected schools that were performing better than this average.”
The first two steps ensured the schools serve all their students well, according to the website.
Schools that made it through the first two steps to get to step three then were judged on college-readiness performance of their students. “This was done by computing a College Readiness Index based on the school’s AP (Advanced Placement) or IB (International Baccalaureate) participation rate — the number of 12th-grade students in the 2011-2012 academic year who took at least one AP or IB test before or during their senior year, divided by the number of 12th-graders — and how well the students did on those tests,” according to the U.S. News website.
Only schools that had a College Readiness Index (CRI) value of at least 18.17 (the median) met the criteria for gold and silver medal selection.
Bassett High School had total enrollment of 1,229 students, with 28 percent total minority enrollment and 56 percent total economically disadvantaged, according to U.S. News. Bassett student performance on state and AP exams showed 95 percent were proficient in reading, 74 percent were proficient in math, and the school had a CRI value of 22.4.
Magna Vista had total enrollment of 920 students, with 43 percent total minority enrollment and 51 percent economically disadvantaged, according to U.S. News. Magna Vista student performance on state and AP exams showed 96 percent were proficient in reading, 61 percent were proficient in math, and the school had a CRI value of 22.3.
MHS had a total enrollment of 666 students, with 67 percent total minority enrollment and total economically disadvantaged of 66 percent, according to the U.S. News website. MHS student performance on state and AP exams showed 90 percent were proficient in reading, 43 percent were proficient in math, and the school had a CRI value of 29.3.
Patrick County High School had a total enrollment of 1,014 students, with 11 percent total minority enrollment and 51 percent total economically disadvantaged, according to the U.S. News website. Student performance on state and AP exams showed 96 percent were proficient in reading, 82 percent were proficient in math, and the school had a CRI value of 10.7.
Bassett High School also received a silver medal in U.S. News & World Report’s 2013 best public high school rankings. It was ranked the 45th best public high school in Virginia and 1,877th best nationally.