The list was based on analysis of 21,786 high schools in 48 states and the District of Columbia. Of those schools, the top 100 were awarded the gold medal, 461 won silver and 1,189 earned bronze.
The data collected looked at performance on state tests, college readiness based on Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) exams and whether or not economically disadvantaged students performed better than statistical expectations, according to the study.
Because S-THS is such a small school, it does not offer the IB exams and is not eligible for the gold medal. However, Principal Patty Holubec believes the silver medal is attainable.
Holubec said one of the school’s goals is to increase the success rate on AP exams. Additionally, the current junior class will be the first at S-THS able to graduate on the Distinguished plan, as Spanish III is a new class at the school.
S-THS earned the bronze medal because of its high TAKS scores and performance of the disadvantaged population.
Holubec said the school sets high percentage goals for all students because, she put it, “90 percent is great, but if you reverse that, what about the other 10 percent?”
“All our seniors this year passed their exit (TAKS) tests,” Holubec said. “That’s history making for us.”
Students had their own opinions on why the school continues to be ranked so highly.
“I think our school is so much more involved and community oriented because it’s so small,” said senior Alexis Lopez.
“We need a lot of you to do a lot of things,” Holubec added.
The principal explained that for being a 2A school, S-THS has a lot of different programs. Many student athletes are part of the criminal justice or nursing programs, in addition to playing four or five sports.
“Most of us are in extracurricular activities, so we know we have to keep our grades up to do them,” said junior Samantha Minter. “We have to push ourselves to be good.”
Most students agreed that the teachers care about the students and work hard to encourage them. “Failure is not an option” has become the school’s motto.
“The education is so good here because the teachers take time and effort to prepare us for other stuff after high school. I went to another school, and it wasn’t like that,” said junior Jeremy Byrd. “If we’re failing, they don’t play around.”
“Even when we think we can’t do it, they don’t give up on us,” added fellow junior Erica Abrigo.
Holubec said the faculty works hard to help students realize their potential.
“Our job is not to be popular; it’s to help them graduate,” she said.
Several students mentioned the smaller class sizes S-THS strives to maintain.
“Smaller classes means better teaching and one-on-one help,” said senior Philip Hughes.
Most teachers agreed that the students are a group of highly motivated teens, with some encouragement.
“We have a very diverse population,” said Toni Tungate, world history and economics teacher. “We’re not a wealthy district which gets the pick of who comes here. That says a lot for the parents who expect so much.”
In fact, all transfer students must go through an interview process to ensure that they maintain the high standards of excellence.
Holubec expressed gratitude for the elementary and junior high schools which laid the foundation for her students.
“It starts early on,” she said, giving the example that if the students couldn’t read well when they entered high school, they wouldn’t perform so highly.
The principal summed up her campus’ approach to guiding students by saying, “we have no excuse for kids not making it.”