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U.S. News ranks Whitefish High School No. 2 in Montana

by WHITNEY ENGLAND
Daily Inter Lake | May 7, 2021 12:00 AM

In the latest U.S. News Best High Schools rankings, Whitefish High School was ranked in the top 10% of all high schools in the country and No. 2 in the state of Montana.

The U.S. News rankings come out every year in April and according to WHS Principal Kerry Drown, the annual report is something he keeps his eye on.

“It's something that we watch annually to get a sense of how we’re measuring up and we’ve been creeping up the list over the last several years,” he said. “To move into that second slot in the state was really a heartwarming reality of the work that our folks are doing and it just affirms a lot of the things that we are doing — they’re working.”

Drown said Whitefish High has been in the top 10 high schools in the state over the last few years, but its ranking has ranged from five to seven in the state; No. 2 is the highest the school has ever achieved on this list.

The U.S. News rankings include data on nearly 24,000 public high schools and around 18,000 schools were ranked in the report. Whitefish High School came in at number 1,835 in the country.

In the report, schools are ranked on their performance on state-required tests, graduation and how well they prepare students for college. U.S. News states it does this annual ranking to give an unbiased picture of how well schools are serving their students and to help families make informed decisions about education.

Whitefish High earned a score of 89.72 out of 100 points. The top-ranked school in Montana this year was Bozeman High School, which had an annual enrollment of 2,204 students, according to the rankings. Whitefish’s enrollment was 524 students.

Whitefish’s graduation rate, according to the rankings, is 94% and the school ranked high in the state in math and reading proficiency and performance standards.

The U.S. News ranking is most heavily based on the high school’s college readiness index ranking that is mainly measured by the proportion of a school's seniors who took and earned a qualifying score on advanced placement (AP) exams.

Drown said Whitefish focuses on preparing students for life after high school in several ways. One of those is utilizing the block schedule, which alternates class periods between days of the week, making for longer periods in each subject.

In addition, Whitefish brought on a college and career readiness counselor this year who meets with students and parents and organizes ACT workshops, among other tools to help students prepare for college.

“We keep adding to that repertoire of strategies to shrink that gap from when a kid leaves us at the end of high school and steps into their next whatever it may be,” Drown explained. “That community college feel, that’s what we’re trying to emulate more than anything.”

Eight-five Montana high schools made the Best High Schools rankings. Glacier High came in second in the Flathead Valley with a No. 12 ranking in Montana; Flathead was No. 16 in the state and Columbia Falls was No. 37 in the state, while Bigfork was No. 54.