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WHS academics nationally recognized for academics

By ANDREA FURLONG            

Williamsburg High School is one of the top 600 high schools in the nation, according to the 2010 U.S. News and World Report America’s Best High Schools list.

The report, released earlier this month, combed through 21,786 public high schools in 48 states and the District of Columbia (D.C.) to determine the top 100 high schools, while recognizing 1,650 other top performing ones, based on student test scores and college-readiness. Schools that made the list received a gold, silver or bronze rating based on their ability to meet the report’s criteria. The top 100 high schools received gold medals, while 461 schools were awarded silver medals and 1,189 received bronze medals.

Of the 47 Iowa high schools to make the list, two were from Iowa County — Williamsburg High School and H-L-V High School. H-L-V received a bronze rating, while Williamsburg was among the three Iowa high schools to receive a silver rating.

To achieve a gold or silver medal, high schools had to show above-average scholarly performance on a state level. As one of the top 561 schools to receive a gold or silver ranking, Williamsburg High School students scored above the state average on the reading and math portions of the Iowa Test of Educational Development (ITED), for the 2007-2008 school year. Plus, minority and low income students had to score above the state average expected of disadvantaged students in the math and reading portions on the ITED. This data was not available for WHS to be scored in. Schools that showed above average student performance on state standardized tests received a bronze medal. To go beyond the bronze, schools had to score well in “college readiness” —  a measurement of the percent of seniors enrolled in Advanced Placement (AP) courses, as well as their performance in AP courses. Schools with a college readiness index above 20 were awarded a gold or silver medal. Those with the highest college readiness index made the top 100 list.

Williamsburg High School earned a college readiness index of 20.8. According to the report, 26.7 percent of WHS seniors who graduated in 2008 enrolled in AP (college level) courses. Of that number, 70 percent passed their AP courses. WHS Principal Lynell O’Connor said Williamsburg has made great efforts over the years in preparing students for college through a number of available AP courses and a challenging curriculum.

“When the state passed legislation in 2005 for specific core graduation requirements, Williamsburg was already offering the state proposed graduation requirements. I truly believe Williamsburg offers a rigorous college ready curriculum available to all students. Not only does Williamsburg offer rigorous college preparatory classes but we are also starting to offer dual credit (or concurrent) classes in partnership with Kirkwood Community College. Students have the opportunity to receive college credit in our high school classrooms. Research does show the more college course experience you can expose your students to, the higher probability the student will have post-secondary success,” O’Connor said.

Currently, WHS offers college level courses in world history, statistics, calculus, chemistry, biology, economics, psychology, English and physics. It also offers Project Lead the Way courses—classes that take unique approaches in teaching science, engineering, technology and math skills.

O’Connor said she believes the effects of programs like these, in addition to an exceptional learning environment, helped WHS attain a spot on w.S. News and World Report America’s Best High Schools list.

“This ranking shows our students are trying on our standardized tests and our teachers are doing a great job preparing students for these tests. I think our learning environment is beginning to make everyone accountable and take ownership for every student’s learning. I also believe we have some programs in place to help all students achieve,” she said.

WHS students’ successes can also be attributed to their own motivation and their families’ interest in their education, said Williamsburg Superintendent Dr. Carol Montz.

“The Williamsburg students are motivated to consistently perform at high levels in both academics and extracurricular activities. Our students’ families provide great support for their child which, in turn, is great support for the school,” Montz said.

In the future, Williamsburg High School will continue to set the bar high for students by adding more Quadrant D lessons to the school’s curriculum (lessons that exercise higher order thinking skills, while tying the curriculum to the outside world), aligning its curriculum with the Iowa Core Curriculum, increasing the number and variety of dual enrollment courses it offers and increasing the use of technology in the classroom, Montz and O’Connor said.

UPDATED December 23, 2009 11:07 AM

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