“We’re very excited, and it was something we’ve been working towards,” said Glenn Lipman, ACHS principal. “Our focus is very laserlike on the highest student achievement possible.”
ACHS ranked number 463 on the list of 500. Newsweek has ranked public high schools in the U.S. for a decade but expanded its criteria this year. The schools are judged in six categories: graduation rate (25 percent), college matriculation rate (25 percent), AP tests taken per graduate (25 percent), average SAT/ ACT scores (10 percent), average AP/ IB scores (10 percent) and AP courses offered (5 percent).
Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) are honors programs that offer high school students a chance to earn college credits after completing a class and corresponding test.
“This is a testament to the dedication of our students, staff and parents,” said Socorro Lopez Hanson, district board president. “Thanks to Principal Lipman’s leadership, we have a worldclass institution right in our own backyard.”
ACHS was one of only two schools in Ventura County to make Newsweek’s list. Westlake High School was ranked 104.
The judging criteria were developed by education specialists Wendy Kopp, founder and CEO of Teach for America; Tom Vander Ark, CEO of Open Education Solutions and former executive director of education at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; and Linda Darling- Hammond, Stanford professor of education and founder of the School Redesign Network.
Lipman said the success of ACHS is due to the teamwork of parents, students and staff.
“We’ve got three big factors all in sync,” Lipman said. “Parents are dedicated to the success of the students; students are dedicated to high achievement, and our staff is very committed to student achievement.”
That sense of commitment can be seen on a daily basis at the campus, he said. Teachers often tutor students before school, during lunch and after school to ensure students understand the material.
Students are allowed to retake tests until they perform well, he said. There are no prerequisites for taking an Advanced Placement course, he said, because if students want a challenging course they should be able to take it.
Lipman said he hopes to continue to raise the achievement level of the lowest common denominator of students. ACHS staff uses the results of the exit exam and the STAR test to pinpoint where students are struggling. Lipman’s end goal is to have all students test at proficient or advanced levels.
“ We look at the data and determine how to make changes and how to improve to meet the needs of all our students,” he said. “The data drives our decision-making.”
Lopez Hanson said ACHS has been fortunate because the severe budget cuts haven’t impacted the school as harshly as other areas. It’s a luxury that won’t last long, she said.
“ We’ve been pretty lucky and we’ve planned well, and we’ve been able to keep the cuts far away from the classroom,” Lopez Hanson said. “But we’re not going to be able to do that for very much longer—we can only stretch so far.”
Although budget cuts will soon decide the future resources for local schools, she said, it’s important to remember that excellent educators are always the most valuable asset.