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Turners Falls HS ranked 40th in state

TURNERS FALLS — On Tuesday, U.S. News & World Report magazine released its 2013 Best High School rankings, rating Turners Falls High School the 40th in the state, placing it in the top 12 percent of the state’s 358 public high schools and alone on that list in the county.

“We are incredibly excited,” said Principal Patricia Gardner. “In the last two years, last school year and this school year we have worked incredibly hard at lowering our drop-out rate and increasing attendance, increasing our academic achievement and maximizing our student achievement and I think this year what we’re working on is an upward trajectory.”

The national publication is well-known for its college rankings and guidebooks for prospective students.

U.S. News does not publish a print list of its high school rankings, but released an extensive list online, comparing high schools using publicly available testing and demographic data.

Turners Falls was the only county high school to make the state ranking. After the top 54, high schools are listed alphabetically with a readout of the stats on which they were judged.

The authors of the list looked at student-teacher ratio, college readiness and proficiency in English and mathematics as measured by the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System.

At the state and national level, where TFHS ranked in the top 9 percent of schools based on college readiness and performance, the authors of the report awarded TFHS a silver medal.

In Massachusetts, Boston-area schools dominated the rankings. TFHS was relatively lonely in representing the western part of the state, with Amherst Regional High School ranked 38, Hopkins Academy in Hadley and two Springfield schools near the end of the top 50.

Four Rivers Charter Public School, with data missing in the college-readiness category, and Ralph C. Mahar Regional School made the bronze category.

According to its website, U.S. News & World Report teamed with Washington, D.C.-based research organization American Institutes for Research, which analyzed 21,035 public high schools in 49 states and the District of Columbia. Nebraska was excluded due to a dearth of data.

Researchers used a three-step process, the first two based on performance data from state proficiency tests. The third step “assessed the degree to which schools prepare students for college-level work.” This step relied on Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate test data.

Turners Falls High School is within the Gill-Montage Regional School District. The state considers the district “underperforming,” but not the schools. The district was consigned to the category based on a 2007 report critical of leadership and finances in the district, at the time engaged in a perennial budget battle with the member towns. The commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education has told the district he will recommend its removal from Level 4 or Underperforming status once a permanent superintendent is in place and a plan has been developed to continue progress. The Gill-Montague Regional School Committee on Tuesday night approved a $130,000 contract, plus benefits, for Michael Sullivan. Sullivan is scheduled to begin as superintendent July 1.

Gardner said it has been a day of good news at the school, which also learned Wednesday it will be a premier site for a new documentary film, First Generation.

You can reach Chris Curtis at:
ccurtis@recorder.com
or 413-772-0261, ext. 257

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