Lawrence school officials probably will offer some extenuating circumstances, but it’s disappointing that neither Lawrence High School nor Free State High School were listed among the top 10 Kansas high schools in the recent U.S. News & World Report rankings of more than 18,000 high schools throughout the country.
Sumner Academy of Arts and Sciences in Kansas City, Kan., was ranked No. 1, followed by Blue Valley North High School and Blue Valley High School, Olathe Northwest High School, Northeast Magnet High School in Wichita, Gardner Edgerton High School, Liberal Senior High School, Fort Scott Senior High School, Maize Senior High School and Louisburg High School.
Factors considered in the ranking included student-teacher ratios, “college readiness” as measured by advanced placement tests, math proficiency and reading proficiency. The rankings also looked at whether low-income, black and Hispanic students in the schools were performing better than average compared to similar students across the state.
Of the more than 18,000 schools that were included in the survey, about 25 percent were awarded gold, silver or bronze designations, but only those schools that offered externally graded advanced placement tests and had the highest percentage of students taking and passing these exams could receive a gold or silver award. Sumner and Blue Valley North received gold awards and the other schools in the state’s top 10 received silver awards.
Over the years, Lawrence residents have had reason to be extremely proud of the excellence of their public school system. In past years, school principals and superintendents worked tirelessly to extol the excellence of their teachers and students and made sure the general public was well-informed and enthused about their school system.
City taxpayers have been generous in their support of the school system, but among many older Lawrence residents, there is a nagging question or concern over whether the overall excellence of the Lawrence system is as good as it used to be or as good as some say it is today.
Times change, and Lawrence has changed over the years. What hasn’t changed is the desire of local residents to have Lawrence schools looked upon — and deserve — the recognition of being one of the best, if not THE best, in the state. Education is a huge business in Lawrence and the surrounding area, with Kansas University, Haskell Indian Nations University and Baker University. With this focus on education, it would seem local schools would be superior.
As noted above, school officials are sure to offer reasons why Lawrence and Free State high schools were not listed among the state’s top 10. Maybe these extenuating circumstances are legitimate. But even so, shouldn’t the local system always rank among the state’s best, no matter how some may try to fault or belittle the magazine’s ranking system?