In its latest report of America’s Best High Schools, U.S. News and World Report honored just 28 Kentucky schools, including Eminence High School.
In the report, 1,800 schools, of the nearly 19,000 in 40 states considered for the report, are ranked in three tiers — gold, silver and bronze — based on certain criteria. No Kentucky school received a gold medal, and just six received silver.
Eminence High School Principal Steve Frommeyer said the honor is a reflection of how hard the school’s teachers and students work. “You know, we’ve got great teachers and great kids, so you’re going to have a great school when you’ve got that,” he said. “Our staff works extremely hard. I think, as part of the high school recognition, I think the high school would be the first ones to say the efforts that occur in kindergarten through eighth grade in preparing them for high school go a long way to allowing them to be successful in high school.”
Frommeyer added that the district’s academic standards, “that have been high for a long time, have really paid dividends.” He pointed specifically to the no D, and soon to be no C, policy.
Eminence Superintendent Donald Aldridge said that for Eminence to be included in the report speaks volumes about the school and how it services socio-economically disadvantaged students, whose performance is a critical factor in the rankings. Eminence High School, according to the report, has a minority enrollment rate of 21.3 percent, and a “disadvantaged student enrollment” rate of 69.1 percent.
“Statistically, that’s where a lot of schools don’t perform well,” he said. “You have to teach differently to those students.”
Aldridge added that the ranking is yet another reflection of the teaching staff.
“They’re dedicated and they are continually improving themselves,” he said, adding that the staff focuses on the relationship with students.
“Before a teacher can be effective with low socio-economic students, you have to build great relationships. That’s the part that a lot of school systems fail at.”
The first step of the process took a look at whether each school’s students performed better than average for their respective states, particularly in reading and math. Then, the percentage of “economically disadvantaged students (who tend to score lower),” enrolled in each school to determine which schools were performing better than expected.
The second step focused on those disadvantaged students and whether or not they were performing better than average for similar students in their state, again focusing on math and reading.
Those schools who cleared the first two hurdles went to the third stage — an evaluation of college-readiness performance, using Advanced Placement data. According to the report, the formula for the college readiness index was based on “the weighted average of the AP participation rate (the number of 12th-grade students who took at least one AP test before or during their senior year, divided by the number of 12th graders) along with how well the students did on those AP tests or quality-adjusted AP participation.”
At Eminence High School, the poverty adjusted performance score was 2.38, with a disadvantaged student gap of just 12 points. For Eminence, the college readiness index was not applicable, and the school received a bronze rating.
Aldridge said another factor in the rankings was that the ACT was not a required test.
He also said the school’s lower student to teacher ration, 15:1, can’t hurt, though the elementary and middle schools have higher ratios and also perform well.
“I think it’s probably the smallness of the school,” he said. “The teachers, they get to teach those students in more than just one class.”
Where a large school might have one or two teachers dedicated to a particular subject within a discipline, math teachers specializing in algebra I, for example, Eminence High School has just two math teachers.
“Those teachers have to prepare two or three classes because they have to teach an algebra class, a geometry class ee that allows them another way to build relationships with those students.”
Aldridge added that Eminence is, quite simply “a great place to be.”
Ultimately, he said, a student’s lower socio-economic status is never an excuse for performance.
“We do all have high expectations,” he said. “Just because a student is not in the upper socio-economic stratus, that is no reason to expect low performance of them.”
Education, he said, is a way out for many students in disadvantaged homes. Aldridge holds himself up as an example.
“I was not supposed to become a superintendent if you base it on where I came from,” he said. “I was one of those that qualified for free lunch.
“The key to getting them out (of poverty) is to get them educated.”
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