Palisade High once again ranked among nation’s best high schools

Palisade High School ranked 35th in Colorado and 1,478th nationwide in U.S. News & World Report’s 2014 ranking of the nation’s best high schools, released Tuesday.

Dallas’ School for the Talented and Gifted stood atop the annual list of 31,242 public high schools in all 50 states and Washington, D.C. Peak to Peak Charter School in Lafayette ranked highest among Colorado high schools on the list, coming in at number 66.

Palisade fell from 31st place in the Colorado list last year but moved up 90 places in the national rankings this year compared to last year.

U.S. News ranked schools based on three criteria. First, a school had to have higher-than-state-average math and reading proficiency on standardized tests (Transitional Colorado Assessment Program tests for Colorado schools). Schools that made that first cut also had to have minority and low-income students performing better than the state average on those tests.

Schools that met those first two criteria were ranked nationally based on a college readiness index calculated using Advanced Placement and/or International Baccalaureate exam participation and passage rates.

Although Palisade has an International Baccalaureate Program, U.S. News used the school’s Advanced Placement exam data to calculate its college readiness index.

The highest college readiness scores were given to schools in which a high percentage of students both participated in and passed AP or IB exams.

Thirty-eight percent of Palisade High students participated in AP testing in 2011-12 and 58 percent of those students who took AP tests earned a passing score of 3 or better out of a possible 5 points.

Palisade Principal Matt Diers said teachers and counselors who encourage students who may not otherwise think they are qualified for college-level work to take Advanced Placement courses have helped the school increase both AP participation and AP exam pass rates in recent years.

“Kids just aspire to that now,” Diers said of AP courses. “We have a good group of counselors who say, it might be hard but you can do this.”

Diers said teachers also deserve credit for spending extra time each day helping struggling students through tutoring and other means.

He added a teacher-led initiative in 2006 to start awarding students privileges for good behavior and grades also has helped improve school culture and academic performance.


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