Arkport, Avoca, Prattsburgh and Whitesville make list of top public schools in U.S.
Three Steuben County schools, and one in Allegany County, have been named among the nation's top of the class.
U.S. News & World Report, in collaboration with School Evaluation Services, analyzed academic and enrollment data from 18,790 public high schools in the country. Three Steuben County schools - Arkport, Avoca and Prattsburgh - and one Allegany County School - Whitesville - were among those to receive bronze medals.
“I was shocked,” said Arkport Superintendent William Locke. “(It was) a very unexpected gift to be recognized for something, for doing a good job.”
Locke said when he found out the school had been honored, he immediately contacted the faculty to notify them of the accomplishment. He said he is extremely proud of the staff and the students.
Locke said he thinks Arkport was chosen as one of the best schools because disadvantaged students excel in their work.
“We do well by our special needs and low-income students,” he said.
Locke said another benefit of a small school is that students can participate in multiple activities and become more well-rounded.
“That's part of our charm,” he added.
The awards were based on three main criteria, including if students perform better than expected for those in the state, if the least advantaged students perform better than expected, and the number of students involved in Alternative Placement classes.
“It's all readily available data on the web,” Locke said.
Arkport enrolls 613 students, 7 percent of those students are minorities, and 30 percent are considered disadvantaged.
Locke said Arkport was automatically not considered for a gold or silver medal because the school does not offer Advanced Placement classes. Arkport does, however, offer college level classes. Locke said he feels college classes are more beneficial than Advanced Placement courses.
“There's not that unknown, ‘If I take this class will it count or won't it,'” he said.
Locke said the school is heavily involved with Corning Community College and Alfred State College. He said there are currently 54 seniors attending Arkport, and 29 of them are enrolled in at least one college level class. He said graduating from high school with college credits makes it easier for students to graduate from college early or major in two subjects.
Locke said he is thankful to U.S. News and World Report for recognizing the three schools in Steuben County and one in Allegany County.
Avoca Central School Superintendent Chris Roser said he was “surprised but not surprised” to see the school honored.
“We were extremely pleasantly surprised,” he said. “We've worked hard to do well.”
Roser said Avoca is one of the poorest communities in the Southern Tier school districts because of a lack of business, but the children are still able to do well on state assessments.
“I think we do a heck of a job,” he said. “I think that's one of the areas we really exceed in.”
Roser said the community is made up of great families who want to see their children excel, and the teachers work hard to prevent students from falling through the cracks.
“I think that's where small school districts do a great job, where large school districts have difficulty,” he said.
Roser said small schools allow more communication between teachers and students.
“They really have a huge vested interest to see them succeed throughout school,” he said.
Roser said small schools such as Avoca also allow for a strong, positive connection between the school and the community.
“It's a great place to work, it's a great place to go to school, it's a great place to live,” he added.
Avoca enrolls 607 students, 2.4 percent of those are minority students and 39.9 percent are considered disadvantaged students.
Prattsburgh Central School enrolls 514 students, 3.1 percent of those are minority students and 46.4 percent are disadvantaged students.
Whitesville Central School enrolls 312 students, .6 percent of those are minority students, and 47.8 percent are disadvantaged students.
Of the 18,790 schools analyzed in 40 states, only 1,086 - or about 6 percent - received bronze medals. Only 100 schools received gold medals, and 405 schools received silver medals.