Five Arizona Schools Rank Among Nation’s Top 25

– By Tynin Fries

In the U.S. News annual ranking of the nation’s best high schools, five Arizona schools ranked in the top 25 of the national list released on April 21.

More than 28,000 high schools were placed in the running for gold, silver or bronze medals that rank them based on state assessment performance, graduation rates and college preparedness.

BASIS charter schools, who has location across the Valley, earned top 10 placement for three locations in Scottsdale, Tucson North and Oro Valley. The Scottsdale location earned the highest marks and was given second place, followed by Tucson North in third and Oro Valley in sixth.

Arizona College Prep’s Erie Campus was ranked 13 on the list and University High School in Tucson ranked 24. Every Arizona school in the top 25 received a gold medal from U.S. News.

Katie Perry, public relations representative at BASIS, is confident that three BASIS locations were ranked in the top 10 because of their unique learning culture.

“From the earliest grades our learning culture teaches and requires our students to be participants,” Perry said. “We teach students to be responsible for their own education by immersing them in the educational process.”

Only 2.5 percent of the more than 28,000 schools received a gold medal, which included the top 500 based on college readiness. U.S. News reports that 10.9 percent received silver medal and 17.8 were awarded with a bronze. The remaining 68.8 percent of high schools did not receive a medal.

Robert Morse of U.S. News wrote that they were ultimately measured on how well a school successfully educates all students, not just those who will attend college. Among the 28,561 schools reviewed nationally, 150 Arizona schools made the list.

Elizabeth McConaghy, head of the BASIS Scottsdale school, said that their high standards challenge students to reach their benchmarks.

“I think what is really most important is that we set really high expectations and we match that with high levels of student support,” McConaghy said. “We set benchmarks for ourselves that compare our students to students around the world to constantly monitor the caliber of learning for our students.”

Perry said that this year the BASIS locations are expecting a 100 percent graduation rate and an equivalent college attendance rate.

“Colleges love our graduates because our students graduate with a clear mastery of traditional content and skills,” Perry said. “The AP [Advanced Placement] courses are an external, globally recognized assessment of such academic mastery. But our diploma does not end with AP courses.”

University High School Principal Amy Cislak attributes the school’s ranking to hard working teachers and students. This year University High School will also be graduating 100 percent of its senior class.

“Our teachers use specific teaching strategies that challenge students and prepare them for completing college-level course work,” Cislak said.

Cislak also said that the school is proud of specific programs and techniques that help prepare students for critical thinking in complex classes.

“In our science programs we offer internships and research positions for students,” Cislak said. “Our humanities teachers also team teach, which doubles the size of the classroom but also allows the teacher that feels the strongest in a specific area to write that curriculum while the other teacher assists.”

A common thread between these schools is how well they prepare students for college coursework. McConaghy said that the goal is give the students enough support to succeed once they leave high school.

“We challenge them to take these [Advanced Placement] classes early so they can take even more classes later on in high school,” McConaghy said. “We want them to have a full foundation before they leave to start college.”

Tynin Fries is as student at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.


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