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Local high schools listed among best in nation

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Mona Shield Payne / Special to the Home News

Hundreds of Coronado High School students pack the lunchroom during their 35-minute lunch period Oct. 21.

Updated Friday, Dec. 5, 2008 | 5:15 p.m.

Seven Clark County high schools were recognized among the nation's best by U.S. News & World Report in its Best High Schools rankings.

Coronado High School in Henderson and magnet schools Las Vegas Academy and Advanced Technologies Academy received silver medals among the 21,069 public high schools the magazine analyzed for quality.

Boulder City High School was given a bronze medal, as were all three campuses of the College of Southern Nevada High Schools, including the ones in Henderson and near Summerlin.

In all, 12 Nevada high schools were honored.

Coronado High School Principal Lee Koelliker said he was out of town when he heard the news.

"What a great achievement. I'm speechless," he said. "It's a great morale builder to our staff. I haven't even been able to tell the students yet."

It's the staff, as well as the students and community, that should get the credit, Koelliker said.

The magazine chose 100 high schools for gold medals, 504 for silvers and 1,321 for bronzes based on proficiency test scores and participation and success in Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate coursework, which prepare students for college.

Schools were graded on how well students performed on the state proficiency exams in 2006-07 compared with state averages, taking into account the percentage of economically disadvantaged students in the school. They also were graded on how well the schools' minority and low-income students did on proficiency exams compared with similar students statewide.

In addition, schools were judged on the percentages of students who took and passed college-level courses in the Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate programs. Those schools received a College Readiness Index and, if that index was high enough, they received either gold or silver medals.

The idea, according to the magazine, was to judge schools "based on the key principles that a great high school must serve all its students well, not just those bound for college and that it must be able to produce measurable academic outcomes to show that the school is successfully educating its student body across a range of performance indicators."

Coronado ranked in the second tier of performance with its silver medal.

The school had a 76.2 percent proficiency rate among disadvantaged students, compared with 90.5 percent of students who passed the proficiency exams.

It also had a participation rate of 38.2 percent for the AP exams, with 67 percent of students passing.

"Our AP program is stellar," Koelliker said, noting 20 AP courses are offered at Coronado.

Boulder City High had proficiency among its disadvantaged students of 78 percent, compared with 91 percent proficiency in the overall student body. Boulder City High was not graded on its college readiness, which kept it from a silver.

Principal Ann Nelson said she was not sure why the school did not receive a score on college readiness. It offers eight Advanced Placement courses, including English language, English literature, calculus, chemistry, world history, Spanish, music theory and studio art, and 24 percent of the school's seniors take the college-level classes.

School officials are putting a stronger emphasis on having students who enroll in AP courses take the exam that qualifies them for college credit, Nelson said.

"We let the kids know that they're expected to take the test," she said.

The College Board offers financial help to those who have trouble with the $85 fee, and the school has helped students who cannot afford it.

"We don't want to see finances deter anyone," she said.

Jean Reid Norman can be reached at 990-2658 or [email protected].

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