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Area high schools get ranked among state's top 100

Staff writer

A research site specializing in ranking schools based on parent and student reviews, grades, and test scores gave high marks to three area high schools.

Niche.com, Inc., founded in 2002 by Carnegie Mellon University students as collegeprowler.com, ranked Marion High School as the 16th best high school in Kansas. It also ranked Hillsboro High School as the 48th best and Centre High School as the 98th best in the state.

“When you are ranked in top 50 or 100, there’s probably not much difference,” said Marion Principal Tod Gordon. “I think all those are excellent schools.”

The Niche rankings, released this month, come on the heels of Newsweek Magazine ranking Marion High School as one of the top high schools in America this fall.

Niche used nine factors to grade the high schools, including state assessment proficiency, AP enrollment, student-teacher ratio, standardized test scores, graduation rate and testimonials. Marion High School received an overall grade of A-; Hillsboro B+; and Centre B.

Although Niche gave Marion a B grade for facilities, Gordon credited Superintendent Lee Leiker for working to upgrade the roof and entrance of the old Hill Building, as well as other facility improvements.

Marion’s good marks for academics “didn’t come as a surprise,” Gordon said, adding, “The last few years, we’ve had great student scores.”

Steve Noble, superintendent of USD 410, estimated that there are about a thousand high schools in the state.

Reacting to Hillsboro High ranked in the top 50, Noble said, “That’s incredible.”

However, for Noble, the Niche rankings relied too much on testimonials and not enough on quantitative data.

“In my opinion, there’s no evidence this is a scientific survey that’s been vetted in a process that would show any validity,” Noble said.

Noble believes the Niche rankings relied heavily on testimonials to grade many aspects of the high school. Such qualitative data needs a larger sample size to reveal trends, Noble said.

“We would not make educational decisions based on this data,” Noble said.

According to state standards, Marion High School has a 90 percent graduation rate, well above the nation average of 81 percent. In addition, 95 percent of Marion students are considered proficient at math and reading.

Hillsboro High School has a 90 percent graduation rate, and 90 percent of students are proficient in reading and math.

According to state standards, 82 percent of students at Centre School are proficient in math and 92 in reading.

“We believe the quality of a school or district should be measured, at least in part, by the parents and students who actually go to the school,” said Erin Kelly, director of marketing for Niche. “They should also be measured by hard data and across a number of key factors so that no one factor dominates or sways a ranking.”

Niche.com features 27 million reviews and opinions from 300,000 students and parents, according to the website.

Marion High School received one review: “I went on to attend a four-year college in the same state. The classes prepared me for the college curriculum, but I don’t feel that my High school gave me enough real life experience, such as educating the students on finances and loans.”

Hillsboro High School received ten reviews that included: “It was good. Teachers are helpful and some of them have incredible senses of honor. Definitely had more than one favorite! The school is small but has a lot of energy and heart.”

Centre School received six reviews, including “Supportive teachers who gave me confidence.”

Out 22,985 high schools in the country, 15,265 received a grade of D- or better, meaning 7,720 schools failed. Schools receiving a numerical ranking totaled 10,907.

Centre School received a B+ for academics; teachers received a C; and student culture and diversity received a B-.

Hillsboro received a B+ for academics; an A- for health and safety; C+ for student culture and diversity; B for teachers; B+ for resources and facilities; A- for extracurricular and activities; and A- for sports and fitness.

Marion received an A for academics; B+ for health and safety; C+ for student culture and diversity; A- for teachers; B- for resources and facilities; C for extra circulars and activities; and C for sports and fitness.

Last modified Nov. 20, 2014

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