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North High, Boonsboro make top 1,500 list

June 10, 2009|By MARLO BARNHART

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- For the third consecutive year, North Hagerstown and Boonsboro high schools have made Newsweek magazine's list of the top 1,500 schools in the nation, based on the number of assessment tests students take.

North was 571st on the list and Boonsboro was 1,334th.

The 2009 list is based on 2008 data on the number of Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate or Cambridge tests taken.

"We're thrilled," said Elizabeth Morgan, superintendent of Washington County Public Schools.

Morgan said the Newsweek list is all about performance.

"There is a lot more rigor in our curriculum, but the students are rising to the bar," she said.

Morgan said she is happy to see the hard work of staff and students is being recognized.

"It's all based on the aggressive upgrading of our middle and high schools that was started about seven years ago," she said.

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North High and Boonsboro's placing on the Newsweek magazine list is the latest honor for Washington County Public Schools. The school system also had its highest graduation rate ever and lowest dropout rate ever, both achieved in 2008, Morgan said.

Boonsboro High School Principal Martin Green said he was pleased the school he has led for five years has again made it onto the list, but he was more proud of the school's ranking in the new equity and excellence component.

"It means that 31 percent of Boonsboro's seniors have scored a 3 or higher on the 1-to-5 scale of scores in at least one Advanced Placement course," Green said.

Never before has the ranking had that measurement component of academic achievement, and that's what really counts, Green said.

North High Principal Valerie Novak said her school is the magnet school in Washington County for the International Baccalaureate program, from which test scores are included in the formula to measure high schools' success.

The top schools were chosen based on a ratio created by Washington Post columnist Jay Mathews. The formula is based on the number of Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate and/or Cambridge tests taken by all students at a school in 2008 divided by the number of graduating seniors.

All of the schools on the list have an index of at least 1.000. In 2007, North Hagerstown High's index was 1.56.

"That index at North has improved to 2.025 for 2008," Novak said. The number of students taking those accelerated, college-level classes also has increased.

North High's ranking includes both Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate tests. This is the second year the school system's International Baccalaureate program has graduated students. Boonsboro's ranking is based on Advanced Placement testing.

In 2007, North High was ranked 810th and Boonsboro was 1,038th on the Newsweek list.

Seven Frederick County, Md., schools also were included on the list. There were no schools from Berkeley, Jefferson or Morgan counties in West Virginia, or from Franklin or Fulton counties in Pennsylvania on the list.

Staff writer Andrew Schotz contributed to this story.

Newsweek ranks schools



For the complete Newsweek list of the country's top 1,500 high schools, go to www.newsweek.com/id/201160

The rankings are based on the number of Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate or Cambridge tests taken. A school's "challenge index" is determined by dividing the number of tests taken in May by the number of graduating seniors. All of the schools on the list have an index of at least 1.000, meaning they had at least as many tests taken as graduating seniors.

Washington Post columnist Jay Mathews, who created the rating system, said in a Frequently Asked Questions section posted online that he didn't measure passing rates on tests "because I found that most American high schools kept those rates artificially high by allowing only top students to take the courses. In other instances, they opened the tests to all but encouraged only the best students to take the tests."

The following are the 2009 rankings of area high schools included on Newsweek magazine's list of the top 1,500 schools in the nation.

Washington County

o North Hagerstown -- 571

o Boonsboro -- 1,334

Frederick County

o Middletown -- 523

o Linganore -- 671

o Walkersville -- 790

o Frederick -- 989

o Catoctin -- 1,063

o Brunswick -- 1,140

o Gov. Thomas Johnson -- 1,275

There were no schools from West Virginia's Eastern Panhandle or Franklin or Fulton counties in Pennsylvania on the list.

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