Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

Area News

June 23, 2014

CCHS, SMHS awarded bronze ranking

CROSSVILLE — The numbers have been crunched from more than 19,000 high schools across the country, with both Cumberland County High School and Stone Memorial High School being awarded a bronze ranking by U.S. News and World Report in the publication's "Best High Schools" rankings.

It's the second year SMHS has earned the honor and a first-time posting for CCHS.

"We're very proud of this," said SMHS Principal Scott Maddox.

Interim CCHS Principal Jon Hall said, "We're making progress. We're very happy with how our kids and staff have stepped up and they performed very well."

The report analyzed 31,242 public high schools in all 50 states and the District of Columbia and then narrowed the field to 19,411 schools.

U.S. News and World Report then determined if each school's students were performing better than expected for the average student in the state, looking at reading and math. The study also factored in the percentage of economically disadvantaged students to identify schools performing better than statistical expectations.

Then, the report compared math and reading proficiency rates for disadvantaged students with statewide results. Those schools showing performance above state averages were eligible for the national ranking to be judged on college readiness. This was measured using advanced placement or International Baccalaureate test data.

Both high schools offer advanced placement courses to students, which allow students to earn college credit while in high school. Courses are available in U.S. history, English, chemistry, biology, calculus, Spanish, art and psychology.

SMHS scored 15.4 on the college readiness index and CCHS 5.7.

But both schools offer additional avenues for students to earn post-secondary credit and certifications that qualify them to go right to work in the community with dual credit and dual enrollment courses and certification programs.

"We have had several students who have gone on to college and they're classified as sophomores," said Hall. "And, it's a great value for our kids because they can use the Hope Scholarship and they can take those classes for free."

Maddox, as part of his doctoral research, looked at college retention rates of students participating in dual enrollment and dual credit classes, both as general education students and honor students. He found that there was an increase in college retention if students had completed those college-level courses.

"We try to offer as much dual credit as possible," Maddox said. "The students who take dual credit opportunities, it is instilling grit."

Dual credit offerings include English, advanced algebra and trigonometry, pre-calculus, statistics, criminal justice, health sciences, accounting and more.

A partnership with the Tennessee College of Applied Technology also allows students to earn additional credits toward post-secondary education and certifications.

"We have students leaving here who are ready to go to work," Hall said. "Many are going on to college in health sciences and able to work as CNAs while they do that. The EMS and CNA classes, we have more of those classes requested than we have teachers to teach them. If kids are able to leave here with that big a jump on their future, that's a huge advantage for them."

Both principals credited their faculty, staff and students for the academic successes the schools have enjoyed.

"They pulled together and get the job done," Maddox said of the staff and faculty. "They put the students first and build relationships with the students. When we talk about rigor, relevance and relationships, relationships are the most important thing and we work from day one to build that because, without it, we can't do anything.

"The students are unbelievable. They want to be successful and we want to celebrate their successes."

Hall said CCHS faculty began the year with the knowledge there was a need to improve academically, and he praised the faculty, staff and students for rising to the challenge. Not all data is available yet from this years' end-of-course testing, and the school recorded 20 percent gains in proficient and advanced scores in algebra II.

Those gains were made through regular collaboration between teachers, sharing strengths and strategies. Benchmarks were tested and analyzed.

"We're making progress. We're not where we want to be yet, but we are making progress. Staff and students really raised the bar last year and challenged themselves to do better. It was nice to get that letter from U.S. News and World Report that says, 'you're on the right track,'" Hall said.

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