Not so fast.
First of all, out of about 1650 schools that were eligible for awards, 413 got one. So that's a pretty big percentage who are "winners" in one way or another. It's hardly some small, select group.
Second, the award was in the category of "High Progress." According to the state's Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction website, this means: High Progress - Schools qualify for recognition if they are in the top 10% of schools making the most progress in the performance of the all students groups over three years. That sounds like undeniably good news, and it is. But it also means that in previous years our local high school students were so far down below their peers that they left plenty of room for improvement.
But what does that improvement mean at the end of the day? Does it mean we're graduating well educated young adults, ready to face the 21st century? Not exactly.
Looking at the OSPI website again, at the most recent numbers available for Port Angeles High School, you get a very different - and less hopeful - picture of the ultimate outcomes there. (See more for yourself at eds.ospi.k12.wa.us/WAI/IndexReport/ - then hit the dropdown for Port Angeles High School on the right.)
First, you'll see that they tested 311 local students, of whom 119 were low income. That's a huge percentage of low income students in PAHS. Of those students, 26 were classified as having a disability, while none - zero - were classified as gifted.
The OSPI rates school on a scale from 1 (Struggling) to 7 (Exemplary). For the 2011-2012 school year, PAHS rates an overall 4.60 (Good) - right in the middle. Here's how that rating breaks down, though:
Grad Rate: 2.75
Yes, PAHS students may be charting a middle course, even an improving middle course, academically, but a huge, huge proportion of them don't make it to the finish line of graduation. Looking back a few years, in 2009-2010, that rate was at 4.25, and in 2010-2011 it dropped to 4.00. Now the even steeper drop to 2.75. That's scary, people. This is the 21st century, the Information Age, and people who don't even graduate from high school are at a severe disadvantage by just about every measure.
Does this bode well for Port Angeles in your opinion? Should we be content to see our students doing better in school before they drop out and call it good? I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on this - especially if you have kids in one of our local schools.
Hey, Rough Riders - Your future beckons...