DANIEL CLIFTON • PICAYUNE EDITOR
LLANO — Bronze isn’t such a bad color when it means you’re among the top 15 percent high schools in the country.
That’s just what Marble Falls High School and Llano High School learned April 22 when the U.S. News and World Report released its 2014 Best High Schools rankings. The magazine awarded both schools bronze medals as “high-performing schools based on state exam performance.” The top two awards were gold and silver.
“I’m very proud of this ranking,” said Llano High School Principal James Scott. “Obviously, we’d love to be a silver or gold, but with 32,000 high schools evaluated across the country and the District of Columbia, this puts us in the top 15 percent.”
U.S. News and World Reports teamed up with the Washington, D.C.-based American Institutes for Research to evaluate the public high schools. They started analyzing more than 31,000 public schools before narrowing it down to 19,411 campuses with sufficient data from the 2011-2012 school years to study.
Even at the 19,411 body of schools, Llano and Marble Falls still rate among only 27 percent of high schools earning a medal.
And for Llano, Scott said the 2011-2012 academic year wasn’t near as strong as the following two.
“These type of things take care of themselves if you’re doing things right in the classroom,” Scott said regarding the ranking.
Marble Falls Principal Manny Lunoff agreed.
“This really goes back to all the hard work the students and staff have been putting in at the classroom level,” he said. “We definitely enjoy any recognition we get, but we still have a lot of work to do.”
Marble Falls High School earned state recognition in 2013 when the Texas Education Agency tapped it for a video series on best educational practices. This was about two years removed from the campus earning an “unacceptable” under the TEA rating system. Since that time, the school has implemented many strategies to ensure each student is prepared for a successful life after high school.
It’s something Lunoff continues to focus on, even in the shadow of the U.S. News and World Reports honor.
“Until I get a ranking that tells me that all of our kids are going to be successful, I won’t be satisfied,” he said.
Scott shared a similar philosophy. The honors are great, but it’s student success and achievement that really matter, he pointed out.
Still, earning national accolades can’t be overlooked. Scott noted the 500 or so schools that earned the gold medal are, for the most part, those schools that accept students through an application process. He doesn’t offer that observation as an excuse, but just for what it is. He added, for a small, rural school to place among the top-ranked schools in the nation is quite an accomplishment.
But it’s only a sign of what’s possible in the future.
“I think this will only serve as motivation to keep working hard,” Scott said. “I’m very proud of our kids. I’m very proud of my staff.”