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Fri, Dec. 13

Kingman Academy gets noticed in magazine's national rankings

Michael Suchowierski

Michael Suchowierski

KINGMAN - Administrators at Kingman Academy of Learning were pleasantly surprised recently to learn the high school has earned a bronze medal in a ranking by U.S. News & World Report.

"Are we pleased? Heavens, yes," said Susan Chan, district administrator for KAOL. "When you look at the number of high schools in the U.S., we're happy to get any national recognition. It's kudos for us and shows that a smaller school can do just as well as or better than a bigger school. In spite of being rural, we got a bronze medal."

The ranking, called the 2015 Best High Schools, came out May 12 and featured information on thousands of public and charter schools throughout the nation. Of the 19,753 eligible schools, only 6,517 were awarded medals, and just 2.5 percent, or 500, received gold medals.

Gold medal schools are those whose students demonstrate the highest level of college readiness. A total of 10.3 percent of the schools, or 2,027, were awarded silver medals, and 20.2 percent, or 3,990, took home bronze. A total of 67 percent of the schools received no medals.

U.S. News & World Report worked with RTI International, a North Carolina-based research firm, to evaluate high schools in three stages. The first was better-than-average performance on state-required college preparation tests.

The second stage was how effectively schools educated their least-advantaged students, such as minorities and low-income students. The third stage was how well schools prepared students for college based on participation in and performance on Advanced Placement exams.

Out of all the states, Maryland performed best overall in the 2015 Best High Schools rankings. Nearly 30 percent of its eligible high schools earned gold or silver medals. Second to Maryland was California, where slightly more than 27 percent of eligible schools were awarded gold or silver.

According to the ranking, which was based on evaluations during the 2013-2014 school year, there were 469 students at KAOL High School, with a minority enrollment of 23 percent. A total of 35 percent of the students were economically disadvantaged.

Test scores for the high school showed that 92 percent of the student body was proficient in reading and 70 percent was proficient in mathematics. A total of 74.2 percent of the school's disadvantaged students were proficient.

The high school scored a College Readiness Index of 8.7, which is based on students taking and passing Advanced Placement exams. The school's participation rate was only 17 percent, with a passing rate of 35 percent.

KAOL High School has moved away from offering AP classes and exams over the past few years, said Chan. Instead, students are offered free dual- or concurrent-enrollment college courses whose credits count when they move on. Of the 108 students graduating this year, 64 will have earned a total of 870 college credits. At least one student will receive an associate's degree.

"When you look at our college readiness score, I don't think we got as much credit as we should because we're phasing out of AP exams," said Michael Suchowierski, the high school's assistant principal. "But we're trying to get students ready for college or a career, and the way we're heading is more helpful for them."

Suchowierski said he discovered the school's ranking when he was browsing the Internet and read the magazine article about the best high schools in the nation. Suchowierski said he was pleased to see KAOL High School's scores and attributes them to the district's focus on academics.

"I'm proud of our staff and students for all the hard work they've put into preparing for the state exams," said Suchowierski. "I think this will motivate our teachers to work even harder, because they'll have tangible proof that what they're doing is making a difference."

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