Homer Alaska - News

Story last updated at 5:26 PM on Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Homer High ranks No. 2 in state

By McKibben Jackinsky
Staff writer

Just how good a school is Homer High School? According to the U.S.News & World Report's 2012 ranking of 21,776 schools in the nation and 277 in the state, Homer High sits at No. 2 in the state and No. 1, 044 in the United States.

"Great kids, high quality teachers," was Principal Allan Gee's explanation of the school's high score, which was based on students' college readiness and proficiency in math and reading.

"Our goal is create a baseline of knowledge for our kids to be either college- or career-ready," said Gee.

When Gee arrived at Homer High three years ago, he challenged the teachers to focus on the three R's: academic rigor, relevance and relationships.

"We look at the curriculum to make sure it's challenging, make sure it's relevant to our students, and we focus on building positive relationships with our students," said Gee, who also keeps students informed of test data when it is available. "As soon as we receive our standardized assessment, I celebrate with them, I share the information so they are well aware of how they perform, both as a school and individually."

For students needing to focus on specific areas, the school offers a "focus on learning" three times a week "so they have an opportunity to improve academically if they're struggling," said Gee.

Published online May 8, this is the fourth year U.S.News & World Report's has created a list of high-ranking high schools. The goal is to provide a "clear, unbiased picture of how well public schools serve all of their students — from the highest achieving to the lowest achieving — in preparing them to demonstrate proficiency in basic skills as well as readiness for college-level work."

Sources used in the evaluation included the Common Core of Data found on the U.S. Department of Education's website; the College Board as a source of Advanced Placement test data; the International Baccalaureate as a source of international baccalaureate test data; and each school's statewide accountability "proficiency" test results. A "best high school" is one that succeeds at:

• Attaining performance levels exceeding statistical expectations;

• Achieving proficiency rates on state tests for the least advantaged student groups that exceed state averages; and

• Preparing students for college, as measured by student participation and performance in Advanced Placement exams or International Baccalaureate exams.

The top 500 nationally ranked schools were considered gold medal schools, schools ranking 501-2,088 were designated silver medal schools and an additional 2,869 recognized as bronze medal schools. Schools do not receive monetary awards, but their ranking, designation and data are published at usnews.com.

"When considering your child's education, it may be hard not to focus on the potential loans needed to pay for college or the outlook of the post-graduation job market. Sending your child to a top high school can ease that transition into the adult world," reads the U.S.News & World Report's website. "Often, students who graduate from a great high school do so with college credits, scholarship money and marketable skills."

According to the ranking, Homer High, with a reported student-teacher ratio of 17:1, scored 31.0 percent above Alaska's average for college readiness, 2.9 percent above the state average for math proficiency and 3.3 percent above the state average for reading proficiency. The state's top-ranked high school, South Anchorage High School, with a student-teacher ratio of 22:1, scored 39.6 percent above the state average for college readiness, 3.1 percent above the state average for math proficiency and 3.4 percent above the state average for reading proficiency. Nikiski Middle-Senior High School, also in the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District, was ranked No. 5 in the state and No. 1,388 nationally. It has a reported student-teacher ratio of 14:1, and scored 25.0 percent above Alaska's average for college readiness, 2.4 percent above the state average for math proficiency and 3.1 percent above the state average in reading proficiency.

Gee anticipates Homer High's scores may decline next year due to an increased emphasis on student enrollment in Advanced Placement courses. The school offers AP literature and composition, biology, calculus, U.S. history, chemistry and government, using syllabus approved by the College Board, a national not-for-profit organization that encourages higher education and is credited with developing the college entrance exam known as the SAT. Most colleges offer academic credit for students scoring a 3 or higher on AP tests, with 5 being the highest score, according to Gee.

"I want them to be introduced to the curriculum and challenge themselves," said Gee. "Perhaps they may not score as well on AP tests, but the exposure to the curriculum should help them as they enter college."

Dr. Steve Atwater, superintendent of the Kenai Peninsula School District, had praise for high schools throughout the district.

"Our kids consistently do well on state exams and AP exams," said Atwater.

For more information on the "Best High Schools" list, visit www.usnews.com/educationbest-high-school.

McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at mckibben.jackinsky@homernews.com.


Out of 21,776 public high schools in the nation, 33 Alaska schools made the U.S.News & World Reports list of "Best High Schools. They included:

No. 1: South Anchorage High School, Anchorage;

No. 2: Homer High School, Homer;

No. 3: Chugiak High School, Chugiak;

No. 4: West Valley High School, Fairbanks;

No. 5: Nikiski Middle-Senior High School, Nikiski;

No. 6: Colony High School, Palmer;

No. 7: Palmer High School, Palmer;

No. 8: Ben Eielson Junior-Senior High School, Eielson Air Force Base;

No. 9: Sitka High School, Sitka.

Other notable Alaska School: Cordova Junior-Senior High School