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Lancers make the grade in national high school ranking

Date: 7/5/2011

July 4, 2011

By Mike Briotta

PRIME Editor

LONGMEADOW — When Longmeadow High School (LHS) was named among the top schools in the nation by Newsweek Magazine this summer, it came as little surprise to school administrators, who have known for years that a top-notch education involves great teachers, parents and community support.

Longmeadow High School was ranked among the top 250 high schools in America, and seventh in the state, by Newsweek in June. The ranking was based on graduation rates, college matriculation, test scores, and other criteria. LHS was the only Western Massachusetts high school on the list.

If only Newsweek Magazine handed out the grade of “A+” then surely Longmeadow High School would have been in line for that honor as well.

“I didn’t read the entire story, but obviously we’re pleased for our community and our students,” LHS Principal Lawrence Berte said. “It takes all of these factors coming together to make a great high school. Our community supports the students, and reinforces the value of education in Long-meadow.”

Longmeadow Superintendent Marie Doyle said she was not surprised that the high school fared so well in the study.

“We have outstanding teachers and students. This honor is well deserved,” Doyle said. “We also have a very supportive community that makes education a priority.”

Doyle, who became superintendent in Longmeadow about one year ago, noted that Longmeadow schools are well regarded throughout the state.

“Coming from the eastern part of the state, Longmeadow is known across the Commonwealth as a great district,” Doyle said.

Newsweek studied more than 1,000 top schools to determine the best of the best: the ones producing students who are ready for college, and prepared for life overall.

The goal, according to the report, was “to develop a yardstick that fully reflects a school’s success turning out college-ready (and life-ready) students.”

The Longmeadow principal added that a couple key factors in the success of the local high school are having excellent students coming into the school as ninth-graders and offering numerous advanced placement (AP) courses.

In a more traditional metric of academic potential, the average Scholastic Aptitude Test score from LHS was 1,640 out of a 2,400 maximum possible score. The LHS class of 2010 also had three American Math competition award winners and 45 Federal Presidential Academic Excellence Awards.

“It’s really a success of the K to 12 community effort in Longmeadow,” Berte said. “We can’t take all the credit when we have really great students to start with. We have the joy of working with these kids for four years.”

He continued, “The graduation rate is high because parents care, and students show up every day. I have to compliment our staff too. They work hard to provide strong music and arts programs, a thorough physical education program, and the strong AP program here is one of the things that Newsweek noticed.”

The magazine noted that all of the outstanding schools were deemed successful despite the constraints posed by depleted education budgets. “These are challenging times for secondary education,” the report said. “Cash-strapped school districts are cutting back.”

The principal touted the statistic that 96 percent of LHS students go on to college. It’s especially impressive given that the school is a public school, and is therefore unable to cherry-pick the best and brightest incoming students in order to boost graduation statistics.

“I won’t comment on what other schools, such as charter or magnet schools are doing. We certainly are a public school, however, we’re in a community where education is a priority,” Berte said. “Parents work with us to make the educational programs as good as they can be.”

Core components of the high school’s mission statement are that students should “demonstrate competency in oral and written communication skills, be self-directed, have a sense of social responsibility, be able to use technology effectively, and work independently and collaboratively.”

A recent study by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) this spring also noted the tradition of excellence at LHS, according to Berte. The NEASC offers regional accrediting, which establishes standards for all levels of education, from pre-kindergarten to the doctoral level.

“One of the most positive aspects is the interaction between students and teachers,” the principal said. “When Mary Conway, a superintendent from Vernon, Conn., visited here as part of the NEASC this past spring, she noted the positive interactions between teachers and students.”

Berte concluded, “People expect teachers to have high expectations of students; the students here also have high expectations of themselves.”

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