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Six local high schools among America's best

December 05, 2007

Six local high schools among America's best



Early in her tenure as the superintendent of Washington County's school system, Dr. Elizabeth Morgan addressed a meeting of teachers and asked them whether they felt that, as pledged in the federal No Child Left Behind act, every student could achieve.

Many teachers said "no." Morgan's reply was that it didn't matter what anybody thought, from now on every child would be expected to achieve.

No excuses about students' backgrounds, their parents' income or dysfunctional families would relieve the school system from its responsibility to see that students learn and make what has been called "adequate yearly progress."

We thought about that this week, when it was announced that six of the county's eight high schools had been cited in U.S. News & World Report's first list of the country's top schools.

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Washington County Technical High School might have made the list, but school officials said it wasn't eligible because of the testing standards used.

It would be difficult to overstate what this means for the school system and Washington County. Putting one of the county's eight high schools on the list might be attributed to a talented principal, but placing six of eight on the list speaks to a systemwide commitment to improving educational performance.

Dr. Morgan praised the staff's commitment to making such a change possible and, indeed, teachers do deserve much of the praise.

But the School Board deserves credit as well, for following Morgan's lead in creating Student Achievement Specialists, who review student performance, coach other teachers and even tutor students one-on-one.

Before Morgan arrived, an audit of the school system found that achievement by minority students wasn't what it should have been. U.S. News found that minority students and those living in poverty are performing better here than students in other systems in the state.

The schools cited also produced the best college-level achievement for the highest percentage of their students, with results based on scores of Advance Placement tests.

This is an achievement to celebrate, perhaps with a public-recognition ceremony for all of the principals and faculty of the schools on the list.

But the U.S. News list should also be used in a marketing campaign to tell prospective industries that Washington County is producing the workers needed for the jobs of tomorrow.

In the past, the knock on the county has been its relatively low percentage of residents with college degrees. Now Washington County's economic-development professionals and their agencies' board members can begin spreading the word that this area is serious about education ? and that new businesses should get serious about looking at this area as a site for their companies.

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