LCHS Achieves Standout Ranking in State, Nation

According to U.S. News & World Report, the purpose of compiling a comprehensive ranking of America’s “Best High Schools” is to pay heed to the importance of secondary education: “Recognizing schools that are performing well and providing them as models to other schools will inspire educators and communities to do better.”
Consider La Cañada High School a role model.
LCHS maintained its status among the best in the nation in U.S. News & World Report’s latest ranking, which measures performance on state-required tests and how well schools prepare students for college. In the list released last month (using data from 2015-16) LCHS checked in No. 39 in the state and No. 249 in the nation.
“I am so totally impressed, but not surprised at all,” La Cañada Unified School District Governing Board President Kaitzer Puglia said. “Our teachers work so hard, in terms of methodology and in terms of bringing material to life in class in a way that really connects with students, which ultimately helps them do better on all the tests.”
Fellow Governing Board member Dan Jeffries said that’s all the more impressive considering LCHS differs from many of the schools listed at the very top of the charts because it doesn’t employ any type of specialized admission system.
In California, top-ranked Whitney High School in Cerritos is an academic magnet high school; No. 2 Oxford Academy requires students to pass an exam to be admitted; and No. 3 Stockton Collegiate International Secondary also requires an application to enroll.
“A lot of the top schools aren’t the traditional public schools, a lot are especially selective schools where either they have admission tests or some sort of process to get in,” Jeffries said. “For our school, a public school that takes anyone who lives in our district, it’s great to have a ranking like that.”
As for the traditional public schools with which LCHS is often compared, the Spartans hold strong.
Palos Verdes Peninsula is ranked higher, at No. 29, in California, but Mira Costa High School (No. 50), San Marino High School (No. 61) and South Pasadena High School (No. 103) all check in after LCHS.
Jeffries noticed that too.
“When you look at nearby schools that we know are also excellent academic schools and are further down the list, when you think about it, that’s pretty amazing,” he said.
In its attempt to provide a picture of how well public schools serve their students, U.S. News & World Report evaluated 20,548 schools across the country with 15 or more 12th-graders.
The publication teamed with RTI International, a nonprofit social science research firm. They used a methodology examining whether schools exceeded statistical expectations; whether they achieved proficiency rates for historically underserved groups; whether they graduated students at a rate surpassing a basic national standard; and whether they prepared students for college, as measured by student participation and performance on AP exams.
LCHS especially shone in the latter category. Seventy-six percent of its students participated in AP exams, and 90% of those students passed.
And in new state-administered Smarter Balanced testing, 83% of LCHS students proved proficient or advanced in math and 92% scored as proficient or advanced in English.
“When we were talking about changing to the new standardized testing, we weren’t sure how that was going to go,” Jeffries said. “But everyone thought, ‘Our kids are smart, our teachers are good, they’re prepared and no matter what test you give them, they’ll do well on it.’ And I think this kind of confirms that — whatever methodology you use to assess your high school, we’ll do well.”
U.S. News & World Report also made note of LCHS’ 99% graduation rate, Puglia was pleased to see.
“The fact that we have such a high college-bound rate, it’s not beyond belief, it’s very believable, but that part of it is the commitment from families to make sure their students and children understand that education is a top priority,” Puglia said. “I think all groups involved can kind of pat themselves on the back, but it’s primarily our teachers and our students who are doing an amazing job.”
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