It was a pleasant surprise yesterday for Ottawa Hills High School Principal Katharine Hurst when she learned that the school had been named one of 100 gold medal schools in the country by U.S. News and World Report.
"I don't think many people know yet," Mrs. Hurst said less than an hour after learning of the recognition. "I just think it's a real honor and a result of a lot of hard work."
The high school of about 474 students was ranked 95th on the national list, which is based on the magazine's college readiness index.
The index measures the degree to which students master some college-level material as determined by their performance on advanced placement exams.
Ottawa Hills was one of four high schools in the state to make the list. The other three were Walnut Hills High School in Cincinnati, which was 36th; Wyoming High School in a northern suburb of Cincinnati, which was ranked 50th, and Chagrin Falls High School in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, near Cleveland, which was 98.
The International Academy in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., which was sixth, was the only Michigan school on the list.
According to information provided by the College Board, the organization that administers advance placement testing, 68.9 percent of last year's 12th graders at Ottawa Hills took at least one AP test during their high school career. Of that, 88.2 percent of those students received a passing score on at least one of those tests.
Mrs. Hurst said the success can largely be attributed to the culture at the school - that it is OK to excel academically.
"Our students come to school ready to learn," she said. "It's not nerdy to be a good student - I don't even know if they still use that word."
And it's not like Ottawa Hills students are just taking one AP exam and calling it a wrap.
For last year's graduating class each student who took an AP exam took an average of 3.7 tests.
The national recognition for the high school adds to the celebration of academic achievement in the district this year.
Earlier this school year, the Ottawa Hills school district was named the top district in the state based on results of the performance index score in tests from the state department of education.
In that ranking, the district was ahead of Solon City Schools near Cleveland and Wyoming City Schools, which ranked second and third.
"We just had a really successful school year. It feels good," Mrs. Hurst said.
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