By Katherine Parker
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — Norman High and Norman North have once again been identified as two of the most rigorous high schools in the state and nation.
The Washington Post’s 2014 Most Challenging High Schools list, the first of annual national high school rankings, identifies the top 1,000 high schools in the country from a field of approximately 24,000 American high schools.
Norman High has been ranked No. 7 and Norman North has been ranked No. 10 in the state.
In a recent press release, Superintendent Dr. Joe Siano congratulated high school faculties for their work that has led to each school’s recognition.
“We believe every student in our district has the opportunity and support to be successful in rigorous course offerings,” Siano said.
The list includes both open enrollment high schools like Norman High and Norman North, as well as high schools whose enrollment is application or competitively based, such as Classen School of Advanced Studies (Oklahoma City), Booker T. Washington High School (Tulsa), Edison High School (Tulsa) and Harding Charter Prep (Oklahoma City).
“We take kids from all kinds of socio-economic levels,” Siano said at a Monday school board meeting. “And what a school district does with those kids is all about progression. Our elementaries, middle schools and high schools are doing their jobs. The Washington Post is a great indicator of this progression and hard work.”
The primary component of the Washington Post’s ranking formula is the number of Advanced Placement (AP) and/or International Baccalaureate exams taken divided by the number of graduating seniors.
Scott Beck, Norman High principal, said the real value in the Washington Post’s ranking is that it highlights the school’s effort to provide rigorous course work to every student.
“We have made massive efforts to make sure every student has the opportunity to take AP classes if they desire, stay in those classes, meet the challenge and go all the way to take the AP exam,” Beck said.
Every student at Norman High meets with an advisor to make sure their course work is engaging and challenging, Beck said.
“Taking on challenges is built into our culture,” he said. “If you’re not challenged, something should change.”
Norman high schools doesn’t screen AP classes and encourage any student interested in taking an AP class to enroll.
“We have outstanding teachers who buy into the philosophy that every student will succeed. They’re not going to let a student fail,” Beck said.
Norman High and Norman North both offer 20 AP courses. Additionally, both high schools will become AP Capstone schools next year.
Beck, who initiated the district’s interest in the AP Capstone program, said the district would be one of 149 schools in the U.S. to offer such a program. To receive an AP Capstone diploma, Norman students must make a 3 or better on four AP exams, as well as pass AP Seminar and AP Research courses.
In addition to rankings, Norman’s high schools are leaders in a variety of programs, such as Norman High Yearbook’s recent national championship, top robotics program and Speech & Debate Team’s state championship and Norman North DECA’s state winners and Class 6A state swimming championships.
“None of that shows up in the rankings,” Beck said. “We’re proud of our excellent teachers who reach out to students academically, as well as teach them practical skills. These accomplishments should be celebrated, too.”
The complete list of Washington Post’s Top 10 in Oklahoma is as follows:
1. Classen School of Advanced Studies
2. Harding Charter Prep
3. Booker T. Washington
4. Edmond North
6. Edmond Memorial
7. Norman High
9. Edmond Santa Fe
10. Norman North
For more information about NPS, visit norman.k12.ok.us.
For more information about the Washington Post’s 2014 Most Challenging High Schools list, visit apps.washingtonpost.com/local/highschoolchallenge.
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