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MHS again rises to the challenge

School among nation’s best for sixth straight year

By The Mercury

Congratulations are in order — again — to Manhattan High School for having been named to the Washington Post’s annual list of America’s most challenging high schools. That this is the sixth consecutive year MHS has made the list reflects the school’s consistent excellence, something that itself is worth celebrating.

Of the 22,000 high schools ranked by the newspaper, particularly by Jay Mathews, a journalist who has long specialized in education issues, just 2,029 schools — 9 percent —  made the list. As a story in Tuesday’s Mercury notes, Manhattan High ranked 1,760th, and was ninth of the 10 high schools from Kansas that made the last.

As Mr. Mathews acknowledges, his method, which ranks schools on the number of Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate or Cambridge tests students take divided by the number of graduates, is just one of several ways to rank highs schools. His system gives less weight to test scores than to the number of tests taken because in his view, test scores say more about family income than about a school’s academic quality.

Greg Hoyt, who’s in his first year as principal at MHS, is understandably “incredibly proud of our students and staff” for the school’s recognition. He was right to recognize the willingness of students to accept the challenge of rigorous courses, faculty members who engage and support students and, of course, parents, whose guidance and support are crucial to their children’s academic success.

In Kansas, MHS was the only school in any of the Board of Regents university towns to make the list and was also the only school outside of the greater Kansas City area to make the list.

In the order they were ranked, the Kansas high schools on the Most Challenging Schools List were the Sumner Academy of Arts and Sciences, Blue Valley North, Blue Valley, Blue Valley Northwest, Shawnee Mission East, Blue Valley West, Blue Valley Southwest, Shawnee Mission South, Manhattan and Shawnee Mission Northwest.

Apart from the Sumner Academy, a magnet school with a predominantly minority enrollment, MHS had the highest percentage among the Kansas schools of students from families that qualify for lunch subsidies.

As Mr. Hoyt correctly pointed out Tuesday in an email to MHS faculty, “This is only one measure, but it’s nice to have the recognition.”

Yes, there’s room for improvement at Manhattan High School. There almost always is. But as snapshots of academic quality go, this one’s a keeper.

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