Bringing home bronze

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By Bryan Marshall

It may not be the Olympics, but Williamstown Senior High recently was awarded a bronze medal in the 2009 U.S. News and World Report “America’s Best High Schools.”

“We were very excited to receive the information,” said Williamstown Senior High Principal Misty Buchanan. “It’s a prestigious honor.”

“This year our motto has been 212 degrees,” she said. “At 211 degrees, water is hot, but at 212 it boils. That one degree is what makes all the difference. It’s adding that extra degree to everything we do, our attendance, our athletics, our academics.”

A banner announcing the recognition recently was placed outside of the school.

To recognize schools, the magazine used a methodology developed by School Evaluation Services, a K-12 education data research business.

Academic and enrollment data from the 2006-07 school year was analyzed from 21,069 public high schools in 48 states.

Williamstown Senior High was one of only 33 Kentucky high schools awarded medals.

While no high school in the state received a gold medal, seven were honored with the silver or bronze medals.

“We were pleased for the announcement, “Williamstown Independent Schools Superintendent Charles Ed Wilson said. “Any positive recognition for our students and our school is welcome.”

A three-step process determined the best high schools with the first step evaluating whether each school’s students were performing better than statistically expected for the average student in the state.

Reading and math test results were analyzed and the percentage of economically disadvantaged students enrolled at the school were factored in.

The second 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.

Schools that made it through the first two steps became eligible to be judged nationally on the final step, college-readiness performance, using Advanced Placement and/or International Baccalaureate test data as the benchmarks for success.

“This really is a college readiness index,” Wilson said.

The top 100 high schools nationwide with the highest college readiness index scores were ranked numerically and awarded gold medals.

The next 504 top-performing high schools nationwide based on their college readiness index scores earned silver medals.

An additional 1,321 high schools in 48 states that passed the first two steps, including Williamstown, were awarded bronze medals.

“We’ve got a great school,” she said. “All we have to do is move it one little notch better and we’ll be the best.”