Schools in Chatham, Moore counties ranked nationally

Apr. 25, 2013 @ 05:01 AM

Several Central Carolina high schools received national recognition in rankings released recently.

The U.S. News & World Report’s “2013 Best High Schools” list came out Tuesday, in which three area schools were listed among the best in the nation. In Chatham County, Northwood High School was ranked the 899th best school in the country — the sixth best in North Carolina — and Jordan-Matthews High School was ranked 1,298th in the country and 15th in the state. Moore County’s Union Pines High School was ranked 1,713th in the country and 26th in the state.

The company compiled data from 21,035 schools across the country and gave out 4,805 gold, silver or bronze medals. It also ranked the top 2,290 schools, which were all the schools to receive a gold or silver medal.

Northwood, Jordan-Matthews and Union Pines all received silver medals. No other schools in Lee, Chatham, Harnett or Moore counties made the ranked list, although Lee County High School and North Moore High School both received bronze medals.

Andy Bryan, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction for Lee County Schools, who has been picked to become superintendent starting this summer, said he was glad to hear that Lee County High School had been honored. However, he said, the lists aren’t something he pays very close attention to, and he hadn’t personally seen the rankings yet. The N.C. Department of Public Instruction also does not officially recognize the lists or take any action based on them.

Robert Logan, superintendent of Chatham County Schools, said that his office does follow the rankings because it gives at least one view of how the county’s schools are doing. He said he’s proud that two of the county’s three traditional high schools are considered top 15 in the state.

“This is indicative, I think, of the rigorous curriculum our students are provided,” he said. “And, we also have outstanding teachers.”

He also attributed some of the success to a 1:1 laptops program that gives every high school student a laptop. Lee County Schools has a similar program.

“The integration of that technology with our instruction really goes a long way,” Logan said.

The U.S. News & World Report ranks schools based first on how well its students do on state standardized tests, then more specifically on how well its black, Hispanic and low-income students do on those tests. Finally, it analyzes college readiness, a combined measure of what percent of students took, and what percentage passed, Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate tests. Gold medals were awarded to the top 500 schools in the country, and silver medals were given to the rest of the top schools that also had college-readiness scores above the national median. Bronze medals were given to schools with good state test scores but college-readiness scores below the national median.

In Lee County specifically, according to the data, 6 percent of students at Southern Lee High School took AP tests, and 1 percent of the student body passed a test. At Lee County High School, 18 percent of students took an AP class, and 9 percent of the student body passed a test. Fifteen schools nationwide — ranging in size from 103 to 2,210 students — had 100 percent of students take and pass AP or IB tests.

Last week, the Washington Post released its 2013 list of “America’s Most Challenging High Schools,” in which Woods Charter School in Chatham County was ranked No. 191 in the country and fifth in the state. In Moore County, Pinecrest High School ranked 26th in the state and 932nd in the country. Chatham County’s Northwood, the only area school to make both lists, was ranked 53rd in the state and 1,760th in the nation.

The Washington Post list ranks schools based on the ratio of how many Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate and Advanced International Certificate of Education tests were given, compared to the number of students who graduated that year. No other schools in Chatham, Moore, Lee or Harnett counties made the cutoff for the list, which was a ratio of 1.0 — meaning that a school had to administer at least as many tests, in all grades combined, as it had students graduating. The top school in the country had a ratio of more than 23 tests per graduate; the top North Carolina school had a ratio of nearly 7.