Ripon High in Ripon and Central Valley High in Ceres top this area’s contenders in the U.S. News & World Report Best High Schools rankings. Enochs High, the only Modesto school to reach a national or state ranking, came in fifth among local schools.
The campuses scored based in part on the numbers of students completing Advanced Placement courses and high graduation rates. The rankings released Wednesday also take into account how well its low-income students fared compared to state averages on math and language arts scores, as well as getting credit for high scores overall.
U.S. News sums up the ranking’s key principles: “that a great high school must serve all of its students well, not just those who are college bound, and that it must be able to produce measurable academic outcomes to show it is successfully educating its student body across a range of performance indicators.”
Central Valley and Ripon stand out particularly because of high numbers of students taking and passing Advanced Placement course tests. AP tests are not school tests, but are created and scored by the College Board and can grant college credit.
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More than half of their students tested in at least one AP course by the study’s figures. Both also placed at the top in passing rates, 33 percent in Ripon and 27 percent in Ceres. For comparison, at Enochs High slightly more than one-third of students took an AP test and 24 percent passed.
Ceres Unified encourages students to take AP courses, and offers extra support like tutoring sessions and study groups, Central Valley Principal Dan Pangrazio said Wednesday. The school has prerequisite guidelines, but will bend them if an interested student has parent and teacher support.
“We don’t consider ourselves strictly a gatekeeper, judging how a student will perform in the future,” Pangrazio said. The philosophy, he added, “opens your mind to potential.”
The philosophy is not typical for a school that is 89 percent minority and 87 percent low-income, and would not be possible without a strong foundation from earlier grades, Pangrazio said.
“That’s how you build a widening set of students ready to take AP classes. That starts in kindergarten,” he said.
At Ripon High, where only 31 percent of students are low-income, challenges arise from being a campus of about 900 – on the small side for a comprehensive high school – trying to provide a wide range of AP and career courses.
“The Advanced Placement and honors course offerings at Ripon High rival schools many times their size,” said Ripon Unified Superintendent Ziggy Robeson via email Wednesday. Robeson added the school has a full complement of electives and career course offerings ranging from computer programming to diesel mechanics.
“We are pleased to be able to offer the individual and personalized attention students need to be successful,” Ripon Principal Lance Morrow said.
Coming in at a virtual tie for third are Livingston High in Livingston and Waterford High in Waterford, where nearly half of students took AP tests.
“For several years the U.S. News has recognized our high school in its ranking,” said Superintendent Don Davis via email. “Providing student access to Advanced Placement courses is viewed favorably in our community, and the U.S. News honors the commitment as well.”
Rounding out the top local performers are Bret Harte High in Angels Camp, Escalon High in Escalon, Pitman High in Turlock and Hughson High in Hughson. The Bee looked at rankings of high schools in Stanislaus, Merced, Mariposa, Tuolumne, Calavaras and south San Joaquin counties.
TOP HIGH SCHOOLS
Here are the top-ranked high schools in Stanislaus, Merced, Mariposa, Tuolumne, Calaveras and south San Joaquin counties in the U.S. News Best High Schools report, showing their state ranking, name, city, and national ranking.
240 Ripon High, Ripon, No. 1,349
286 Central Valley High, Ceres No. 1,592
401 Livingston High, Livingston No. 2,097
402 Waterford High, Waterford No. 2,107
405 Enochs High, Modesto No. 2,120
447 Bret Harte Union High, Angels Camp No. 2,339
452 Escalon High, Escalon No. 2,359
471 Pitman High, Turlock No. 2,476
485 Hughson High, Hughson No. 2,552