LAHS advances in national rankings

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Education > High school gains attention from three different organizations

By The Staff

Los Alamos High School has had quite a run lately in terms of national rankings.

LAHS received “Silver Medal” status in 2013 as one of America’s Best High Schools in an annual ranking by U.S. News & World Report. From a review of 21,035 U.S. public high schools, Los Alamos ranked 556th in the nation. The LAHS ranking was up significantly from the 2012 “Silver Medal” ranking of 638th.

Rankings of high schools are largely determined by participation in Advanced Placement courses.

This past year, 49 percent of the 1,124 Los Alamos High School students enrolled in Advanced Placement courses. Other academic indicators used in the ranking are College Readiness Index, Math Proficiency, Reading Proficiency, and Student/Teacher Ratio.

Los Alamos High School also checked in at No. 780 on the Newsweek top 1,000 school list. The list is based on six components: graduation rate (25 percent), college acceptance rate (25 percent), AP/IB/AICE tests taken per student (25 percent), average SAT/ACT scores (10 percent), average AP/IB/AICE scores (10 percent) and percent of students enrolled in at least one AP/IB/AICE course (five percent).

Los Alamos High School Principal Sandy Warnock spoke of the commitment by staff to raise the rigor and relevance of the high school curriculum. She complimented students for their interest in taking challenging courses.

“Ranking is based on the key principles that a great high school must serve all of its students well, not just those who are college-bound, and that it must be able to produce measurable academic outcomes to show the school is successfully educating its student body across a range of performance indicators,” Warnock said.

Jim Hall, LAPS School Board President, was quick to thank high school administration and staff for their hard work that led to this higher national ranking. He also shared that students will benefit from the high quality instruction offered at the high school on their pathway to become college and career ready.

“The credit should not only go to the high school but to every teacher and staff member who contributes to a student’s success in our schools,” Hall said.

Matt Williams, school board secretary commented that the news “was really fantastic.”

“The score and the jump in score for LAHS is a testament to the commitment by the entire community to the education of our youth. I am especially pleased that this ranking requires our schools to serve and advance the entire school population. I look forward to helping our school district continue its climb towards excellence,” he said.
Los Alamos High School was not done yet.

The Washington Post ranked LAHS as one of America’s Most Challenging High Schools,

The index formula, developed by the Post education columnist Jay Matthews, is a ration; the number of Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate and Advanced International Certificate of Education tests given at a school in 2012 divided by the number of graduates that year.

The 2012 results have not been released yet but Matthews assured Superintendent Gene Schmidt that LAHS was on the list.

“I apologize for not getting LAHS on our list when it first came out in May,” Matthews emailed Schmidt. “It is one of the strongest high schools in America, and has been on the list for many years. We had a glitch in our form collection system which I will make sure is not repeated. … I congratulate the students, teachers and administrators of Los Alamos for creating a school environment that is both exciting and enriching.”

Needless to say, those affiliated with LAHS were thrilled with the news.

“The Washington Post rating is acknowledgement to staff, students and the community that improving student achievement is the number one priority of Los Alamos High School,” Warnock said. “…To be recognized by the Washington Post is an honor and affirmation that the time and effort by students and staff does make a difference.”

The Washington Post made its determination with the following numbers.

258 students graduated in 2012 and LAHS administered 507 AP exams to 287 students in 19 AP areas. And there were 420 students who scored 3 or better on the AP Exams.

“I am pleased to learn that after talking with our school superintendent Gene Schmidt, the Washington Post saw fit to recognize Los Alamos as a top 1,000 high school,” Hall said. “Congratulations to all the staff throughout our school system to commit to a higher quality education for all students.

Board vice president Judy Bjarke-McKenzie added, “I am very excited and honored to learn Los Alamos High School was selected to the list of the Washington Post America’s Most Challenging High Schools. Placement on this list reminds us of the importance that we need to meet the needs of all students.”

Schmidt, meanwhile, probably summed it up best.

“Not a lot of districts make all three lists,” he said.

John Severance contributed to this report.