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5 area schools named among state's top 10

Updated 11:20 am, Tuesday, May 8, 2012
  • Principal Jeffrey Jaslow at Ridgefield High School Monday, Dec. 19, 2011. Photo: Michael Duffy / The News-Times

    Principal Jeffrey Jaslow at Ridgefield High School Monday, Dec. 19, 2011.

    Photo: Michael Duffy

 

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Five Fairfield County high schools were named among the state's top 10 in a report released by U.S. News & World Report Tuesday.

Ridgefield, Weston and Westport's Staples High made their way into the top five high schools in the state at 3, 4 and 5, respectively, while Darien and Wilton high schools came in at Nos. 7 and 8.

The Connecticut list was released on the same day as the magazine's national list, which ranked the nation's 4,813 highest-scoring schools. Two Connecticut schools cracked the top 200; the state's "top two" schools, East Hartford's Connecticut International Baccalaureate Academy and West Hartford's Conard High School, were ranked No. 14 and No. 200, respectively.

Researchers used a three-step process to rank the top schools out of a collection of 22,000. Researchers first determined whether each school's students performed better than statistically expected in their state, before factoring in whether the school's black, Hispanic and low-income students were performing better than average compared to similar peers in their states from the 2009-2010 school year, according to Robert Morse, director of data and research for U.S. News & World Report. In the third step, the rankings examined college readiness performance, using Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate test data.

In the case of the Fairfield County schools, student performance on AP tests was a boon to the schools that made their way into the top 10. For example, No. 3 Ridgefield was identified as Connecticut's high school with the highest percentage of students earning passing scores -- a three or greater -- on advanced placement tests in 2010. Darien had the second highest percentage of students passing; in 2010, 259 students took 516 AP tests and 91.1 percent of those students made the grade.

"We have a high percentage of students taking AP tests, and a high percentage doing well on those tests," Darien High School Principal Dan Haron said.

"Last year for example, in calculus, I think pretty much everyone got a five with maybe one or two exceptions," said Haron, who is a former math teacher at the high school. "It was the same with chemistry and U.S. history -- mostly fives. In fact, the mode, the most common score our students get on the key AP exams is a five."

There's a similar story in Westport, where 446 Staples High School students took 913 AP tests in 2010, for a pass rate of 88.6 percent, according to Staples Principal John Dodig.

"We have 19 AP courses, and I can tell you that for the last six years, the number of AP tests given and the number of students passing has risen, and it defies logic. These are college courses as you know, and it seems reasonable that the more kids who take them, the lower the scores should be. Yet just the opposite ahs occurred," Dodig said Monday.

Nationwide, 500 schools received gold medals, according to Morse.

"Gold schools are a top 500 school nationwide, while silver schools were anything from 501 through 2008, with a college readiness at or above the median," Morse said. Schools ranked between No. 2,009 and No. 4,813 received bronze medals, he said.

While perennial top performers Greenwich and New Canaan were absent from the top 10, the two high schools did make an appearance at the top of the silver list. New Canaan High School was ranked No. 15 in the state and No. 526 nationally, while Greenwich High School was ranked No. 17 in the state and No. 572 nationally. None of Stamford's three high schools were cited.

Haron and Dodig said it's nice to be named to a Top 10 list in a state with more than 140 public high schools, but the principals said they rarely place much value on the assorted lists published every year.

"In the aggregate, I think each one of these lists recognize what I know, and that is that the kids who come to Staples are receiving an education that every school in America should aspire to," Dodig said.

maggie.gordon@scni.com; 203-964-2229; http://twitter.com/MagEGordon