By Dawn Hatfield
DARKE COUNTY — U.S. News recently confirmed what so many local students already knew — Darke County is a great place to go to school.
Last month, U.S. News launched its first-ever K-8 rankings just as it has ranked high schools and post-secondary programs in the past. Historically, the top 30 percent receive the distinction of being named one of the “Best Schools” in the country.
According to the Oct. 12 report on USnews.com, “Today, for the first time, U.S. News published rankings of public elementary and middle schools. Like our annual Best High Schools rankings, we hope these statistical assessments are a useful resource for parents in conjunction with the accompanying data we publish on school characteristics. All public schools were ranked for which source data and history allowed. In other words, whether a school was ranked or unranked was independent of academic quality. About 81 percent of public schools with elementary and middle school grades received a ranking.”
“Unlike the high school rankings, there are no national rankings of elementary and middle schools. There are overall state rankings and state rankings broken out by school district,” detailed the report.
The report also explained the criteria for K-8 rankings, “Scoring was almost entirely rooted in students’ performance on mathematics and reading/language arts state assessments. Each state administers these assessments to determine whether learning in core subjects is achieved and to review how well schools are educating their students — including but not limited to children from low-income households and children from historically underserved ethnicities.”
High schools, like their K-8 counterparts, were ranked by performance on state-required tests but also on graduation rates and by how well they prepare students for college.
U.S. News noted its rationale, stating, “By focusing on academics, we hope these rankings provide parents insight into a key element of school quality. They can use the rankings, our data and word-of-mouth research to learn about different schools’ environments, administration and student services to best find schools that may be a good fit for their children.”
For its latest report, U.S. News analyzed 102,610 pre-K, elementary, middle, and high schools across the nation. Within the state of Ohio, there were 1,637 traditional elementary, 994 traditional middle, and 683 traditional public high schools analyzed. Six of the eight public school districts in Darke County had at least one school ranked as a “Best School.” See “Best School Rankings” chart for detailed information on all Darke County public school districts.
Within the county, Versailles High School, Arcanum High School, and Greenville High School ranked first, second, and third, respectively, in the Greenville Metro Area. It should be noted that some local high schools were unranked and, therefore, not included in these results.
“Our students, staff, and community should be very proud of this recognition. First and foremost, it starts at home. Kudos to the families where they create an environment to set their children up for success. Collectively, each of these groups within the community play an integral part in the success of our students both academically and socially. From a school standpoint, I feel the secret ingredient to these accolades is simply a byproduct of the everyday, unseen efforts put forth behind the scenes by our staff and other invested stakeholders. By having high, obtainable expectations for everyone and a safe, supportive school environment, our students are able to seize the opportunity to learn and grow each day,” said Principal Jon Hemmelgarn of Versailles Middle School.
Principal Jason Stephan of Arcanum High School added, “The continued improved success of our high school is in direct reflection of the effort and care that our teachers and students put forth each day in the classroom. Each year we strive to get better as a high school to ensure that each of our students has the tools necessary to be successful after high school. It is great to be in a school where students and teachers work to be the best that they can be. I am very proud to be the principal of such a great school.”
“We have an incredible group of teachers here at Ansonia,” remarked Principal Jim Robson of Ansonia Junior/Senior High. “The majority of the junior high staff have been together for many years and work together incredibly well. They work together and figure out the best way to reach all the students. Communication and collaboration are what make this staff stand out. Other pieces that make everything work are the great students, parents, and the entire community that we have at Ansonia. When they all work together with the staff, the whole group is hard to beat.”
PJ Burgett, Principal of Franklin Monroe Middle School concluded, “It is fantastic news to learn of the recognition our Middle School has received in the recent U.S. News Analysis. At Franklin Monroe we are in continual pursuit of excellence. We strive to deliver the best education to the families we serve. We work with great students and families in our school community. We have the best teachers that are always working to engage and deliver instruction to our students. All districts have faced many difficult challenges and overwhelming expectations in the past few years. I am very proud of the fortitude of our students and staff’s ability to overcome adversity and push for excellence.”
The U.S. Department of Education-sourced data was from the 2018-2019 academic year and preceded the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact.
Visit www.usnews.com/education/k12/search?state=OH to search districts in Ohio.
School officials with questions about the Best Schools rankings, data, or methodology may email [email protected]
Dawn Hatfield covers education stories for The Daily Advocate. Have a school-related event to share? Reach out by email at [email protected] or by phone at 937-569-0066.