Editorial: Stowe ranked No. 1, but where is Addison County?

If you missed the recent release of U.S. News and World Report’s rankings of the top high schools across the nation, you missed that Stowe High School was rankedNo. 1 in Vermont and No. 296 in the nation.
You also missed that the rankings considered standardized test scores, college readiness and teacher-student ratios as the criteria for the magazine’s selection. Fifteen high schools in Vermont were ranked as Silver Medal schools. Stowe, with 399 students, was the only Vermont school to receive a Gold-Medal ranking.
Following Stowe, below, are the top 15 schools earning the Silver Medal distinction, in order of ranking:
2. South Burlington High School, 869 students
3. Milton High School, 518 students
4. Bellows Free Academy of St. Albans, 1,047 students
5. Oxbow Union High School in Bradford, 417 students
6. Bellows Falls Union High School, 347 students
7. Northfield Middle/High School, 329 students
8. Arlington Memorial School, 200 students (Arlington)
9. Cabot School, 185 students
10. Concord Schools, 208 students
11. Craftsbury Schools, 160 students
12. Fair Haven Union High School, 360 students
13. Lake Region High School, 360 students (Orleans)
14. Mt. Anthony Senior Union High School, 1,002 students (Bennington)
15. Rivendell Academy, 217 students, (Orford)
16. Twinfield Union School (middle and high), 420 students, (Plainfield)
For Addison County readers, the natural reaction is: Where are our schools? Why aren’t they among the mix of the state’s best?
Good question, and there are good answers. This is a very selective test with criteria that gauges a small slice of the school’s population and is not truly representative of the school’s academic performance. What the test does is gauge the number of high school seniors who took the College Readiness AP® exams. Stowe High School ranked high because 71 percent of the school’s seniors took the exam and 58 percent passed.
The schools, however, were also scored on the state tested Math and Reading proficiencies, which tests 11th graders. Stowe High School scored 59 percent proficiency in math, and 92 percent proficient in reading; the state’s best. It’s no coincidence that the two rankings coincide.
In terms of who took the College Readiness exams, Stowe High School was clearly ahead of the pack. Next was South Burlington at 52 percent tested with 38 percent passing; then Milton HS with 51 tested and 29 percent passing; Bellows Free Academy in St. Albans tested 38 percent with 23 percent passing. And from there the gaps and smaller and smaller, with many schools only a fraction apart from one another.
Addison County schools ranked in the middle.
Middlebury Union High School with 598 students, tested just 25 percent of its seniors, but 21 percent passed. Meanwhile, the school’s math proficiency was 47 percent, while 73 percent were proficient in reading. 
Mount Abe Union High School and Middle School, 757 students, tested 28 percent with 20 percent passing; with 37 proficient in math and 64 percent proficient in reading; Otter Valley Union High School/Middle School, 572 students, tested 39 percent with 24 passing. Meanwhile, just 20 percent were proficient in math and 61 percent were proficient in reading; Vergennes Union High School was not listed; just to the north of Addison County, Champlain Valley Union/Middle School (Hinesburg), 1,284 students, tested 45 percent of its seniors with 38 percent passing, while 51 percent were proficient in math and 83 percent were proficient in reading.
Parents and community members shouldn’t draw too much from such scant information, but neither should these rankings be discounted. If the state goal is to encourage high school students to go onto higher education, perhaps the culture in our schools needs to shift, and the percentage of those taking college readiness tests increased.
Angelo S. Lynn

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