CENTER TOWNSHIP — An Indiana County school district has earned national honors for preparing its students to go on to college.
Newsweek magazine and The Daily Beast website included Homer-Center High School on the 2013 list of “America’s Best High Schools.”
The list goes just 2,000 deep and ranks Homer-Center at No. 1,789 in the nation.
With an estimated 37,000 high schools in the U.S., that puts Homer-Center in the top 5 percent, said district Superintendent Charles Koren.
“They determined what I would consider more of a college- and career-readiness evaluation of outgoing students,” Koren said. “It’s completely different from the Keystones and PSSAs.”
Relying on public sources of information, the researchers factored in six areas of academic performance, using averages and percentages to allow schools with small enrollments, like Homer-Center, to compare evenly with large schools.
Although not a factor in scoring, the list also identifies the schools by the kind of enrollment. For example, the top-ranked schools in Pennsylvania — the Julia R. Masterman Laboratory and Demonstration School, in Philadelphia (No. 56) and the Northwest Pennsylvania Collegiate Academy, in Erie (No. 123) — are both identified as magnet and selective-admission schools.
Many traditionally high-achieving schools are among the 77 Pennsylvania schools on the “America’s Best High Schools” list. Upper St. Clair, Mt. Lebanon, Hampton, Pine-Richland and Fox Chapel — yeah, they’re up there.
But in a relative sorting of the list, Homer-Center ranks 15th among the fully open-enrollment public high schools in southwestern Pennsylvania.
The list was published May 6, but Koren said he only recently discovered Homer-Center’s ranking by chance.
Newsweek didn’t ask schools to send their data or apply for consideration, and didn’t contact school officials to tell them they made the list.
“I saw an email referring to the Top 2000 of 2013, and I thought, ‘Oh, I wonder who in Pennsylvania received that?’” Koren said. “I checked it myself, and that’s how I learned of it. It was a pleasant surprise.”
The Newsweek/Daily Beast survey found 92 percent of Homer-Center ninth-graders in 2008 graduated from high school by 2012 and 73 percent of the Class of 2011 graduates were accepted to a college program.
Each of those factors carried one-fourth of the weight of the total calculation.
The graduates’ average SAT score was 1415 and the average ACT score was 21.8 (together, 10 percent of the total).
Advanced-placement testing carried 40 percent of the weight of each school’s score, showing the degree to which the schools challenge their students with college-level testing, including average number of AP tests given per student, average AP test score, and percentage of students enrolled on AP-type courses.
The No. 1 school in the nation, the Carol Martin Gatton Academy of Mathematics and Science in (Bowling Green) Kentucky, scored 4.84 on Newsweek’s scale. Homer-Center scored 2.58.
“This tells me that our graduates, according to that data, do appear to be very college- and career-ready when they leave,” Koren said. “It shows two things. A, it reinforces what we think we’re doing, but, B, it also shows that there are different ways to measure educational success.
“And you need to know that. Education is not like manufacturing widgets. It is working with kids. And that’s what I infer most from that information.”