BERLIN — For a fifth year, Snow Hill High School (SHHS) has been received an award from the US News and World Report, most recently bringing in the silver award.
Since 2007, SHHS has been recognized by US News and World Report for academic achievement, winning a bronze classification for the 2006-2007 school year and silver every year since, except for 2008-2009 when the agency didn’t issue awards to any schools.
Recognition is based on a variety of criteria, explained SHHS Principal Tom Davis, and calculated on a slight delay.
“This year’s ranking was based on the 2010 school year,” said Davis. “That’s the way it’s always been. There’s always been a lag in the data that they use.”
Besides receiving the silver award this year, SHHS was also ranked number 53 out of 232 among Maryland high schools based on the data used by US News and World Report.
The information that is examined includes things like the student-to-teacher ratio, performance on state assessments, specific performance of students in the Free and Reduced Meal (FARMS) program and overall college readiness.
“They do have benchmarks that you have to reach,” said Davis.
For example, US News and World Report wouldn’t consider a school for recognition unless it achieved at least a 16.3 score for college readiness. SHHS achieved a 17.5. While Davis admitted that he doesn’t know how the agency reaches an exact number, he does know that students’ Advanced Placement (AP) proficiency is a big factor.
According to Davis, SHHS takes a strong approach to AP classes, conducting AP interest meetings for students considering the courses while also offering AP workshops for those already taking the classes. Those workshops give participants the chance to take mock AP exams before the genuine article to practice their strategies.
“It kind of gives the kids an opportunity to sit in a testing environment, take the test, and then score the test in the afternoon to find out where their strengths and their weaknesses lie with regard to the curriculum that’s been covered,” Davis said.
Davis was also adamant that any student who wants to take AP courses will be able to do so even if the school has to bend over backwards to make it happen. Any student that takes a course will take the exam, which offers college credit but costs students almost $90 out of pocket.
“If I have students that have financial hardships and cannot pay for the cost of the test, that’s not going to be an obstacle,” Davis said. “I will find the funds somewhere within the school to help the student cover the cost of the test.”
SHHS has also been using technology to facilitate students with an AP interest. The school currently uses the video chat program Skype to allow a student who is taking AP Calculus BC, which isn’t taught at SHHS, to listen in on the course as it is taught at Stephen Decatur High School across the county.
Beyond AP, the silver award means that SHHS is also excelling in things like normal state assessments.
“For us to get to this point, obviously we’re maintaining high standards and high expectations for students to score well on the state proficiency tests,” he said.
US News and World Report also factored in the school’s student-to-teacher ratio, which comes in at 10-to-1, below the state average, as well as looking at Algebra and English proficiency amongst students.