Top Ranked Montana Schools
Perhaps you’ve seen, or heard, Gardiner MT is a top rated school in the state of Montana. For the last several years Gardiner has been ranked #1 by U.S. News and World Report. While this is certainly something to be proud of, what does it mean? Where does it come from? How is it determined? And will it continue?
US News and World Report starts with six ranking indicators, the first of which is College Readiness and it accounts for the largest single portion (30%) of the ranking. In their own words:
“The College Readiness Index, or CRI, is measured by the proportion of a school's 12th graders that took and passed AP/IB exams.”
Lone Peak is an IB or International Baccalaureate school, one of only four in the state of MT to offer a diploma program. Also, they are the smallest school to offer the program thus skewing the percentage of students completing the program when compared to a school such as Kalispell or Hellgate High in Missoula. Much like our size, and the fact that we offer 3 in house Advanced Placement courses, which is unlike most other class C schools, skews our percentage of students taking AP exams. This is important as it is the indicator given the single most weight in this ranking. It also helps that our teachers teaching our AP courses do an extraordinary job preparing our students to pass the AP exams at a rate (79%), well above the national average.
Next is College Curriculum Breadth (10%), which measures the percentage of seniors who took and passed multiple AP exams. Our first AP course is offered to sophomores. When 33% or so of our students take an AP exam every year, it is likely that they are also taking multiple AP exams in their career. Furthermore, state assessments, graduation rate and the performance of underserved students (minorities, low income, etc.) round out the other 60%.
In other words, our students, given the opportunity to take AP exams at a Class “C” school unlike many of their counterparts, do very well thanks to their individual hard work, excellent teachers, and supportive parents. They also perform well as a whole group on state assessments, and they graduate. All very much to be proud of.
Once again, due to our declining enrollment, change is coming. To even be considered for ranking a school must have a senior class of 15 students or more.
“U.S. News ranked 17,245 public high schools out of more than 23,000 reviewed. This is the count of public high schools that had a 12th grade enrollment of 15 or greater, ...Schools without a grade 12 or with very small enrollment are simply displayed as Unranked.”
This year’s graduating class, the class of 2020 is one of 3 classes in the school meeting the 15 member threshold. Gardiner Schools, unless things change, will be an unranked school more often than not as we move forward into the future.
As we would all rather be ranked high in whatever we do, somethings are out of our control. Being proud of this ranking is one thing, keeping it in perspective, realizing its true meaning, and how unrelated it is to any changes in our school is another. As change has been constant, and more is inevitable, we all have a choice to make; put all of our stock into this one ranking as it leaves us, or define our success differently.