Traverse City Record-Eagle

Region

May 16, 2012

Local high schools near top of state rankings

TRAVERSE CITY — Four local high schools are among the best in the state, according to rankings by U.S. News and World Report.

Traverse City West Senior and Traverse City Central high schools ranked 14th and 17th respectively out of 598 high schools in Michigan in the 2012 report. Leland Public School ranked 30th, and Benzie Central Senior High School ranked 51st.

Traverse City Area Public Schools Superintendent Steve Cousins said the rankings are a validation of efforts by teachers and others at all grade levels.

"Our high school teachers, administrators and support staff are all focused on the issue of increasing the performance of kids, but you can't get there without the whole system aligning toward those outcomes," Cousins said.

U.S. News partnered with the Washington, D.C.-based American Institutes for Research to determine the rankings. Researchers examined how high schools meet the needs of the student population based on teacher-student ratios and graduation rates. They also looked at student performance on assessments like the Michigan Merit Exam and ACT, and performance in Advanced Placement classes.

Only 55 schools, including the four in the Grand Traverse region, were eligible to be ranked nationally based on how well they prepared students for college-level work through AP or International Baccalaureate programs. Out of nearly 22,000 public high schools nationwide, West and Central ranked 718th and 759th respectively, and Leland at 1,168th. Benzie Central Sr. High School was ranked 1,897th.

Jason Stowe, superintendent of Leland Public School, said the Leelanau County district is encouraging more students to take college-level courses. U.S. News reported that 36 percent of high schoolers in the district take an AP class, and 73 percent of those students pass the tests.

Leland also has a very low teacher-student ratio of 13:1.

"In a small district like ours, it takes (a) lot of people to make that happen," Stowe said. "We have a very active community. We've been able to pass sinking funds for buildings, and pass bond issues to fund technology ... we're very fortunate to live in a community that supports quality education."

In Traverse City, 45 percent and 49 percent of students take AP classes at West and Central respectively, with corresponding passing rates of 79 and 69 percent. Cousins said those rates are in the top 3 percent nationwide, and they continue to climb.

"The participation rates of students and the percentage of those who pass the AP exams have been on an upward slope for five or six years in a row," he said. "Teachers at both high schools have a way of convincing kids to participate in AP ... and help them get through it successfully."

For the complete U.S. News and World Report rankings, visit www.usnews.com/education/best-high-schools.

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