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RCHS on list of the best schools in U.S.
In Dec. 11 Issue
By Derek Aaron
Times Journal Reporter

Late last week, U.S. News & World Report announced Russell County High School among 33 public  Kentucky high schools on their list of 2009's best high schools in the United States, according to RCHS Principal Darren Gossage.

Gossage said that the high school was given the bronze medal because they did not offer advanced placement courses but successfully met the other two key performance indicator criteria. This shortfall is due only to the working relationship that the high school has with Somerset Community College and the availability to offer dual credit courses for college credit at the high school.

"We just think it is a better opportunity for our kids to take dual credit than AP," he said.

Of the 33 state high schools recognized, only seven reached silver status while none reached gold status in Kentucky.

"I think this is a great acknowledgment of the hard work that our faculty and students have put in here," Gossage said. "It is something we've striven to do every year since I've been here and I think the faculty have really given it their all to make this a great school."

Gossage said the 2009 U.S. News & World Report analyzed more than 21,000 public high schools in 48 states using data from the 2006-2007 school year. This is the total number of public high schools in each state that had grade-12 enrollment and sufficient data to analyze primarily for the 2006-2007 school year, according to the release.

He noted how there is only 223 public high schools in the state and how elite the list of schools are to make the list.

"Our CATS data showed that we were the 35th best scoring high school in Kentucky," he said. Gossage noted how the high school may be overlooked at times concerning the quality of learning and academic opportunities and achievements the high school receives.

Gossage noted a list of 30 high schools, including RCHS, that are in our general region and that the school competes against athletically that the school judges itself against using the state's test curriculum. Russell County is currently fifth on the 30-school list just behind Bowling Green, Greenwood, Glasgow and Southwestern Pulaski with an overall index score of 84.2.

"It all goes back to the faculty and the hours and hours that they put in that they didn't have to just to make us better," Gossage said. "I think we have enough variety in our electives here that when students get out into the real world they know what they want to do."

Gossage also noted how the school's dropout rate had decreased the past few years, down to 1.60 percent this year. Just four years ago, the dropout rate was 6.5 percent. The school currently has more than 850 students registered this school year to go along with the 50 or so faculty members.

The idea of the U.S. News & World Report study was based on the key principles that a great high school must serve all its students well, not just those who are bound for college and that it must be able to produce measurable academic outcomes to show that the school is successfully educating its student body across a range of performance indicators, according to their Web site.

A three-step process determined the best high schools, according to the release. The first two steps ensured that the schools serve all their students well, using state proficiency standards as the measuring benchmarks. For those schools that made it past the first two steps, a third step assessed the degree to which schools prepare students for college-level work.

The first step determined whether each school's students were performing better than statistically expected for the average student in the state, according to the release.

For those schools that made it past this first step, the second step determined whether the school's least-advantaged students were performing better than average for similar students in the state. The study compared each school's math and reading proficiency rates for disadvantaged students with the statewide results for these disadvantaged student groups and then selected schools that were performing better than this state average, according to the release.

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 International Baccalaureate test data as the benchmarks for success, Gossage noted.

This third step measured which schools produced the best college-level achievement for the highest percentages of their students.

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 were awarded bronze medals, including Russell County. Seventeen more high schools in nine states received an honorable mention medal.

Analysts from School Evaluation Services developed the methodology and compiled the analysis, according to the release.

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