In Lawrence as in Lake Wobegon, the children are above average.
Their ACT scores say so.
According to figures released Wednesday, Lawrence and Free State high school students - last year's juniors and seniors, mostly - topped both the state and national averages.
"This means a variety of things," said deputy Supt. Bruce Passman. "It's a credit to our students who study hard and perform well, and it's a credit to our teachers and to our curriculum; we think our curriculum is rigorous; our teachers are high-quality."
ACT tests measure abilities in English, math, reading and science.
In Kansas, the average score was 21.8 out of a possible 36. The national average was 21.1.
At LHS, the average score was 22.9; at Free State, 23.0.
The Free State average marked a decline from the previous two years; the LHS figure was an increase over the previous year.
John Poggio, an education professor at Kansas University, said Free State's three-year decline was not cause for alarm.
"It's what we call a typical variation," Poggio said. "If you took 30 pennies and threw them up in the air, you would expect 13 or 14 to come up 'heads' and 17 or 16 to be 'tails.' That's what this appears to be. I don't see a trend."
It's significant, he said, that both high schools' scores topped the state and national averages by 1 and almost 2 points, respectively.
"Those are good, rock-solid numbers," Poggio said.
Still, he cautioned against reading too much into the number, noting that not all in the junior and senior classes took the test. If they had, he said, the results might be different.
At FSHS, 279 students took the test; at LHS, 217.
"We had 241 take it the year before," LHS Principal Steve Nilhas said. "We had some students take it more than once, and we had some take the SAT or the ASVAB (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery) - and doesn't include the state assessment tests and the new ones we have coming up this year."
Nilhas, too, said the numbers should be kept in perspective.
"We've had some up years, and we've had some down years," he said. "This is an up year; you always like that better.
"But the kids who took the ACT are the college-bound kids. We want them to do well, but the bottom line is we want all our kids to do well."
The two high schools' average scores by subject:
¢ English: LHS, 22.7; FSHS, 22.9.
¢ Math: LHS, 22.8; FSHS, 22.3.
¢ Reading: LHS, 23.7; FSHS, 24.0.
¢ Science: LHS, 22.0: FSHS, 22.4.
Only LHS' science score was less than a full point above the state averages, but all the others were at least a full point above.
"There's not a lot of difference between the two schools' scores," Passman said. "They're both virtually the same, they're both performing really well."