Mt. Pleasant, WACO School districts are bronze medalistsU.S. News ranks the nation's best high schools
By BROOKS TAYLOR
Mt. Pleasant News
Today may be the wearing of the green, but bronze will suit Mt. Pleasant and WACO community high schools just fine.
The two school districts received national bronze-medal ratings in the latest U.S. News and World Report’s rankings of the Best High Schools in Iowa.
A total of 71 Iowa high schools received national bronze rankings and 21 were national silver medalists in the magazine’s ratings. Cedar Rapids John F. Kennedy was ranked as the state’s best high school while Decorah, Ames, Cedar Falls and Linn-Mar completed the state’s top five.
Mid-Prairie was ranked sixth, followed by ADM, West Liberty, Cedar Rapids Prairie and Ankeny.
Methodology used in compiling the rankings leaned heavily on test scores and number of students taking Advanced Placement (AP) courses.
According to the U.S. News website, a three-step process determined the best high schools. The first two steps ensured that the students serve all of their students well, using performance on state proficiency tests as the 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.
Broken down further, step one determined whether each school’s students were performing better than statistically expected for the average student in the state. To find the answer, U.S. News began by looking at reading and math results for all students on each state’s high school proficiency tests.
Then, the percentage of economically disadvantaged students (who tend to score lower) enrolled at the district was factored into the equation.
For schools making it beyond the first step, the second step determined (through math and reading test proficiency scores) whether the school’s least-advantaged students (black, Hispanic and low-income) were performing better than average for similar students in the state.
Schools clearing the first two steps became eligible to be judged nationally on the final step — college-readiness performance — using Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate (IB) test data as the benchmarks for success, depending on which program was largest at the school.
The AP or IB participation rate used was the number of 12th-grade students in the academic year who took and passed (received an AP score of 3 or higher) on at lest one of the tests before or during their senior year, divided by the number of 12th graders at that school. An individual AP or IB subject test was considered when determining if a student took or passed at least one test.
To gain a bronze medal, a school district had to pass the first two steps in the methodology. A bronze medal school either does not offer any AP or IB courses, or its college readiness index was less than the median of 14.8 needed to be ranked silver.
Mt. Pleasant and WACO both offer AP courses.
Mt. Pleasant Community School District scored a 3.5 on its college readiness index. Math proficiency was listed at 3.1 and reading proficiency 3.0.
Standardized test scores showed 82 percent of MPCHS students were proficient in reading and 81 percent in math.
Meanwhile, there was no college readiness index was available for WACO. The school district’s math and reading proficiency each were 3.1.
On standardized tests, 81 percent of WACO students showed proficiency in reading and 72 percent in math.
Neither Mt. Pleasant Superintendent Mike Wells or WACO Superintendent Darrell Smith could be reached for comment.