Marion High School seems to be training a tribe of college-bound academic warriors.
At 249th out of 500, Marion ascended 90 places on Newsweek magazine’s 2015 overall list of top high schools in America. MHS was 339th in 2014.
They also rose 33 places on Newsweek’s “beating the odds” list for schools that have a high percentage of lower-income students who outperformed their peers.
Principal Tod Gordon was excited, but he said the news didn’t surprise him.
“They used data from the class of 2014 for this year, which was an extremely strong class,” he said. “Their class had a lot of valedictorians and some of the strongest ACT and state assessment scores in the state.”
The survey created “a weighted College Readiness Index” based on multiple indicators.
College enrollment rate and graduation rate were the two largest components of ranking, followed by SAT and ACT composite scores. Other components were combined with these to compute the final score.
On the state level, Blue Valley North, Blue Valley West, and Blue Valley Northwest, larger high schools in Johnson County, were the only other Kansas schools to make Newsweek’s overall list this year.
Marion out-ranked each Blue Valley high school by substantial margins.
“Anytime you see a Blue Valley school they’re pretty solid,” Gordon said, “but we’ve had some really strong classes go through in the last several years.”
Marion also trumped each of the four other Kansas schools on the “beating the odds” list.
Gordon said Marion’s academic recognition was a system-wide achievement that he attributed to “years and years of positive contact between staff and students.”
In addition to teachers and councilors, bus drivers, custodians, secretaries, and cooks should all feel proud of the constructive influence they had on students, he said.
Math and science teacher Gary Stuchlik also is involved with curriculum planning. He said constant improvement in students’ academic performance is a district goal, but noted that a small school environment and school pride also play important roles.
“Students feel comfortable here,” he said. “Many of them have a lot of school pride. It carries over from the field into the classroom. They take pride in their grades.”
USD 408 Superintendent Lee Leiker said he was delighted that the high school was in a higher position on the list this year.
“It’s just awesome. I’m really proud of our students and staff for maintaining the standard of excellence that has been established,” Leiker said. “For me, being on the list for a second year is an excellent indicator that we are maintaining that standard.”