VHS earns Gold Medal in national high school ranking, VHS also earns Newsweek ranking

By CASSIE MCKEE, Four Points News

For the second year in a row, Vandegrift High School has earned a Gold Medal distinction from U.S. News and World Report, placing it among the top public high schools in the state.

“To even be considered for the list, VHS had to distinguish itself from the rest of the schools based on a rigorous standard,” said VHS Principal Charlie Little.VHS rankings chart US News & World

U.S. News and World Report ranks the best high schools in the nation each year using a three-step process. The first two steps evaluate students’ performance on the math and reading portions of the State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness test. The third step measures college readiness by determining the number of 12th grade students who passed at least one AP or IB test before or during their senior year. The college readiness index determines whether a top-performing school receives a gold, silver or bronze medal.

“We are proud of all of our achievements, but being recognized for producing students who are prepared for college-level work is especially rewarding to our staff and meaningful to our community,” Little said.

VHS was ranked the 52nd best high school in the state of Texas and 437th nationally. Students had an 88 percent proficiency in English, a 70 percent proficiency in math and a college-readiness index of 54.6.  The school had a 68 percent participation rate in AP.

VHS did have a slight drop in ranking from last year. In 2014, the school was ranked the 41st best high school in the state and 347th best in the nation. Little said the drop was not statistically significant and that student performance actually improved in all areas including AP scores and participation rates.

“All this means is that additional Texas schools were ranked nationally,” Little said. “Regardless of our performance or progress, a school that enters in the national rankings is also ranked in the state rankings.”

Little noted that while VHS is open to any student in its attendance zone, its comparison group for national and state rankings often consists of campuses which are elite gifted and magnet charter schools who practice selective enrollment. The School for the Talented and Gifted, a Dallas magnet school, was ranked the top high school in the nation.

“It is very rewarding to compete on a national scale with all schools as we remain a truly accessible and inclusive campus that embraces all of our community,” Little said.

The 2015 ranking uses data from the 2012-2013 school year when the school’s enrollment was 1,692 students, according to Little. The school now has an enrollment of approximately 2,252 students.

Thanks to grants from Hill Country Education Foundation and Leander Educational Excellence Foundation, Little said VHS has implemented programs such as the PSAT Boot Camp, College Coaches and Naviance during students’ Personalized Instruction Time that have significantly improved the school’s college readiness indicators over 2012.

“Also, this year, we have implemented a program that provides all of our juniors access to a SAT preparation curriculum during the school day,” Little said. “This program is sure to have a dramatic impact on our college readiness indicators. The bottom line is look for VHS to continue to rise in every ranking that comes our way.”

Other Central Texas high schools to earn a Gold Medal distinction include Liberal Arts and Science Academy, Richards School for Young Women Leaders, Westwood High School, Westlake High School, Harmony Science Pflugerville and NYOS Charter School.

In Leander ISD, each of the four other high schools received Silver Medal distinctions. In the state rankings, Cedar Park High School was ranked 68th, Vista Ridge High School was ranked 96th, Leander High School was ranked 136th, and Rouse High School was ranked 167th.

Newsweek ranking

In addition to the U.S. News and World Report ranking, VHS was recently listed at No. 256 on Newsweek’s Best High Schools in America for 2015. The Newsweek High School Rankings recognize the achievements of the best public high schools in the United States for college readiness. Little said VHS was also recognized for receiving Newsweek’s “Equity measure” by helping low-income students score at or above average on state assessments.