Klickitat County has two of America's better public high schools, according to survey results that appeared last month in a national news magazine.
Columbia High School in White Salmon and Lyle High School received Bronze Medal ratings in the review conducted by U.S. News & World Report, which published its first "America's Best High Schools" rankings in its Dec. 10, 2007, issue. (The complete list of medal-winning schools, with profiles, can be viewed on-line at: www.usnews.com/highschools.)
All told, 1,591 high schools -- of the more than 18,000 evaluated -- in 40 states received recognition from U.S. News & World Report
, which opined, "A good high school can open worlds of opportunity for its students." (Schools in 10 states and the District of Columbia were excluded from the analysis because they did not submit enough information.)
Noted the magazine in its cover story: "The 100 schools that did the best in this analysis earned Gold medals. The next 405 schools were awarded Silver medals, and an additional 1,086 schools earned Bronze."
In Washington, 43 high schools, located in 23 of the state's 39 counties, garnered awards: three Gold, eight Silver and 32 Bronze. Among Oregon high schools, Dufur received a Bronze Medal rating.
U.S. News used a three-step analysis -- developed in collaboration with School Evaluation Services, a K-12 data research and analysis business run by Standard & Poor's -- to see how high schools in 40 states stacked up.
"First, we measured how each school's students performed on state tests, adjusting for student circumstances. We next evaluated how well each school's disadvantaged students did. Finally, we looked at whether the school was successful in providing college-level course work," the magazine explained.
Columbia and Lyle high schools met the magazine's standards, much to the delight of school district officials.
"This (ranking) validates what we believe we've been doing all along at Columbia," said Dale Palmer, superintendent of the White Salmon Valley School District. "We're providing a good, well-rounded education to our entire student body, not just for those kids who are going on to college."
According to Lyle Principal Phil Williams, whose school was notified by U.S. News about its listing, the magazine's methodology was "based on the key principles that a great high school must serve all its students well, not just those who are bound for college, and that it must be able to produce measurable academic outcomes that show the school is successfully educating its student body across a range of performance indicators."
In the past three years, Williams noted, Lyle High students have improved their Washington Assessment of Student Learning scores in reading and writing. The school also switched from a block schedule to a seven-period day "to increase instructional time," he said.
The change, Williams explained, led to more elective opportunities and vocational programs for students, and a focus "on each student as an individual."
"Research conducted by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation shows that smaller, more personal schools, where connections can be established between a caring adult and a student, are the most successful at educating students," Williams said. "Lyle offers our students just that: a small learning community with a low teacher to student ratio that allows our teachers to really understand and adjust to each student's individual needs."
Palmer said the attention Columbia High has gotten is a reflection of how well the school district's Whitson Elementary and Henkle Middle schools are doing.
"It tells me we're on the right track with what we're doing throughout the district," he noted, "that all the hard work our teachers and staff have been putting in to ensure we are providing a quality education for all of our students is paying off."