Two Iowa City high schools rank in state's top five

BY CHRIS REID | JUNE 04, 2012 6:30 AM

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Iowa City School District officials say there is still room for improvement despite being two high schools having been ranked among the top-five schools in the state.

According to Newsweek's America's Best High Schools 2012, West High and City High School rank as Nos. 1 and 5 in the state respectively.

School Superintendent Steve Murley, said he attributes many of the strengths of Iowa City schools to the local community.

"There are always opportunities for us to do better, but our students get wonderful support from the community and their parents," he said. "We have an incredible focus on education. We have so many people here in Iowa City whose focus is on education, or they work in an educational environment. They bring a high degree of support and emphasis to education."

Officials at both City High and West High said they are proud of the rankings, but they continue to make improvements to better prepare students for college. These changes include upgrading technology and adding Advancement Placement courses.

City High Principal John Bacon said the school added Advanced Placement world language courses this year, and it will add an Advanced Placement course in computer science next year.

"We should see our rank improve," he said. "Newsweek does a very good job of using numerous data points in its selection criteria … We are delighted, and we feel it as positive reflection about our high school."

City High ranked No. 880 this year at the national level.

"To have two of the state's schools top-five public high schools located in our community is a testament to the School District and the students and faculty at City and West," Mayor Matt Hayek said. "This recognition is a badge of distinction for both of our high schools."

Newsweek selects the best high schools in the country each year based on how a school challenges students and prepares them for college. More than 2,300 schools were assessed to produce the final list of the top 1,000 schools. Schools were ranked on six data points, including graduation rates, average ACT or SAT scores, and how many Advanced Placement classes were offered per student.

School officials must submit their information in order to be considered for Newsweek assessment. Bacon said this was the first time City High officials had submitted the school's information.

West High Principal Jerry Arganbright said the school will try to improve by expanding facilities and technology to keep up with the growing number of students.

"I like the Newsweek article because it gives more than just curricular offerings, and it shows how students perform," he said.

Arganbright said the school will add LCD projectors, two or three more smart boards, and another two computer labs this summer.

"We are not on the front end of technology by any stretch of our imagination," he said.

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