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CBHS earns gold medal rating from U.S. News and World Report

Superior assessment scores and AP participation responsible

[  by Olivia Lueckemeyer   ]

High proficiency in math and reading and a prominent ranking on the college readiness index has earned the Crested Butte High School a gold medal on the U.S. News and World Report’s Best High Schools List, scoring 12th place in Colorado and 473rd place nationally.

Secondary school principal Stephanie Niemi attributed the honor to a multitude of factors, including the 2014 passing of the mill levy override to fund education, a highly educated staff, and dedicated parents and students.

“All of the cards are in our favor—from students, to parents, to teachers and the community—to make it happen,” Niemi said.

To compile the list, U.S. News and World Report reviewed 28,561 high schools across the country. Of that number, 123 Colorado high schools made the cut, with only 14 earning a gold medal distinction. Nine out of the top 10 scoring schools are located on the Front Range, with the Peak to Peak Charter School in Lafayette earning first place. The Telluride High School landed in ninth place, the only Western Slope school to make the top 10.

Interestingly, CBHS earned the same scores in reading and math proficiency as the first-place school; however, the disparity in ranking probably has to do with the Peak to Peak Charter School scoring significantly higher on the college readiness index. Niemi pointed out that the list’s inclusion of charter and magnet schools skews the results slightly, and considering public schools alone, CBHS actually scored fifth place statewide.

“I think it’s important to point out that the list includes charter and magnet schools, and people have to apply to get into those,” Niemi said. “We take whoever walks through our door.”

In all three categories—reading and math proficiency and college readiness—CBHS scored above the state average. Rankings are based on student performance on state exit exams and internationally available exams on college-level coursework, derived from advanced placement (AP) classes.

Niemi said exceptional AP exam scores and PARCC assessment results are responsible for the impressive score of 56.7 out of 100 on the college readiness index, as well as high rankings in reading and math proficiency.

“Last year we had 55 students take AP exams, and 52 of those students scored a three, four or five out of five,” Niemi explained. “We are doing AP exams right now and these kids are showing up [to study] on Sundays and at night. It’s incredible.”

The importance of the mill levy override cannot be understated, Niemi explained. This allowed the school to purchase instructional materials and invest in professional development and high quality curriculum, and Niemi says credit is owed to a supportive community, which many districts are not fortunate enough to have.

“You have to give the community credit for passing the mill levy to be able to purchase things necessary for our teachers to teach and our students to learn,” Niemi said.

This isn’t the first time CBHS has been recognized by U.S. News, which ranks educational institutions annually. Two years ago CBHS earned a gold medal, and last year it earned a bronze. Year after year, Niemi is stunned by the high school’s ability to earn such notable accolades, which she attributes to a constant shaping of quality curriculum.

“I think it’s incredible,” Niemi said. “If you look at that list, there are some heavy hitters. We are definitely on the map as a quality place to receive an education, and I’m thrilled. It’s very nice to get these kudos.”

Superintendent Doug Tredway also commended CBHS for its dedication to providing exceptional curriculum, specifically in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) content areas.

“I am pleased that the Crested Butte High School was recognized as an excellent school; the staff and the students work very hard,” Tredway said. “It’s impressive that the faculty continues to look for ways to improve.”

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