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Village Schools

YSHS ranked 13th in Ohio

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Just in time for graduation, Yellow Springs High School recently found out it’s at the top of its class.

The US News and World Report named YSHS the best high school in the Miami Valley, the 13th best high school in Ohio, and the 391st best high school in the country as part of the magazine’s annual assessment of high schools nationwide.

The ranking puts Yellow Springs High School in the top two percent in country, according to the report.

According to a press release issued by the school district, YSHS earned its place on the list because of the school’s “commitment to whole-child education and supporting students in the development of critical thinking and problem-solving skills.”

Yellow Springs School District Superintendent Mario Basora attributes the success of the school to the collective efforts of the “hard-working students, teachers and administrators,” he said recently, stating that students are in a wonderful learning environment starting in elementary school.

“I’ve never been around teachers who work so hard, in and out of school,” Basora said. “The teachers get deep satisfaction and joy from seeing our students succeed.”

The rankings measure the “college readiness” of a school’s students by analyzing factors such as performance on standardized tests, proficiency in reading and math (as determined by these tests), and advanced placement test data. According to the results, YSHS performed higher than the Ohio average in these areas, with 91 percent of its students proficient in math and 93 percent in reading. A school also has to graduate more than 68 percent of its students to be considered for the ranking.

The student-teacher ratio is also a factor in the ranking. At 16 students for every one teacher, YSHS has a lower-than-average ratio of students to teachers. The ranking also takes into consideration the number of minority and economically disadvantaged students enrolled in the school, and how well these students do in the areas mentioned above.

Overall, the US News and World Report says the rankings are based on the principles that a “great high school must serve all of its students well, not just those who are college bound, and that it must be able to produce measurable academic outcomes to show it is successfully educating its student body across a range of performance indicators.”

The US News and World Report, a media group and magazine publisher, is also known for its annual rankings of colleges and hospitals.

Thirteenth place is the highest the school has been ranked in the three years it has been on the list, according to Basora. It is the first time the school has received a “gold” status, meaning it is one of the top 500 in the nation and one with an especially high level of college readiness. The only other two area districts to make Ohio’s top 50 were Oakwood, near Dayton, and Mason, near Cincinnati. These schools ranked 14th and 32nd, respectively.

The school district did not submit any data to the publication to be considered for the ranking. The US News and World Report develops the list based on publically available data about the district, taken from the 2013–2014 school year.

To Basora, the ranking, while predicated on a test-oriented approach to teaching that the local district doesn’t necessarily share, is nonetheless an affirmation of the work the district is doing. Basora said the high ranking reflects not just the quality of the teachers and staff but the soundness of the district’s deep-learning philosophy. The ranking is a clear statement that project-based learning (PBL) does not reduce test scores but may in fact improve them, he said.

To prepare for these tests [and in turn secure a high ranking], most other districts restrict field trips, test prep rallies, test vocabulary drills or restrict recess for intervention lessons, Basora said, but Yellow Springs schools have been moving in the opposite direction.

“It’s ironic — as we have deemphasized testing, our student scores are the highest they’ve ever been relative to our peer districts,” Basora said. “It’s a data point that suggests our focus is on our kids.”

In fact, Basora said, comparing the district with other schools on the list shows it is “doing more with less.” According to figures furnished by the district, while many of the top-ranked schools in the state and country are in some of the wealthiest areas of each state, Yellow Springs school district has the third-lowest median income and third-lowest average income of the top 25 schools in Ohio. The district received nearly $1,000 less per pupil in state funding and has the sixth-lowest per-pupil spending in the state, according to their information.

The success of its kids demonstrates the district is on to something, Basora said. Beyond the district’s high test scores and prominent ranking, he is certain Yellow Springs students will go on to do great things, an optimism reflected by the stated goal of the district.

“We want our kids to be ‘global change leaders of the future,’” he said, “and the evidence is there that we’re definitely preparing our kids for success.”

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YSHS ranked 13th in Ohio

by Dylan Taylor-Lehman