By Curt Yeomans
Morrow High School is one of 51 Georgia schools that made Newsweek magazine's 2009 list of the United States' top 1,500 high schools. It stands alone as the only school from Clayton County to earn such a ranking.
Morrow is ranked No. 1,388 on this year's list, which was released last week on Newsweek's web site. The rankings are based on Advanced Placement (AP), International Baccalaureate and Cambridge exam participation, according to the Newsweek web site.
This is the second time Morrow has made the magazine's list of top schools. It was ranked No. 1,054 in 2007.
Morrow's enrollment is approximately 1,600 students, according to school Principal Patricia Hill.
"We're ecstatic about it," Hill said. "We really push rigor and preparation at this school, and this is indicative [of] what our students are doing in response to that emphasis."
Newsweek's annual rankings are based on a formula that uses the number of students taking an AP, International Baccalaureate, or Cambridge exam during the 2007-08 school, divided by the number of seniors who graduated that year. This provides a ratio index in which schools with higher numbers are ranked higher on the list.
A school must have a ratio index of at least 1.000 to make the list, and Morrow's index is 1.097, according to Newsweek's web site.
Approximately 5 percent of the nation's 27,000 public high schools met Newsweek's standards for earning a spot on the list this year, according to magazine's web site.
The rankings also reveal some improvement at Morrow since its 2007 ranking. In addition to including the ratio index used to rank schools, the rankings also list the percentage of graduating seniors who pass at least one AP exam.
Eight percent of graduating seniors at Morrow passed an AP exam during the 2007-2008 school year, which marks an increase of 0.7 percentage points from two years earlier.
"I am excited by this recognition for Morrow High School," Clayton County Interim Schools Superintendent Valya Lee said in a written statement. "The school's staff members have worked hard to elevate academic rigor and to establish high expectations for student performance. As evidenced by Morrow's placement as one of the nation's top 1,500 high schools, their students have responded positively."
Hill said the school's counselors work to identify students who would be the right fit for AP classes when they are in the eighth-grade, so those students can begin taking advanced classes in the ninth-grade. Derrick Manning, assistant superintendent of high schools, said Hill also has the school's 12 AP teachers serve as mentors to new teachers in an effort to get the newer educators certified to teach AP courses.
In addition to the school's national ranking, the work resulted in 12 students from across all grade levels reaching "AP Scholar" status, which means they got a passing grade of 3 or higher on at least three AP exams during the 2007-08 school year, Hill said. She added that one student at the school also obtained "Distinguished AP Scholar" status, which means the pupil earned a passing score on at least five AP exams.
"This has been a big push for us," Hill said. "We've been encouraging more of our students to take AP courses."
Morrow also holds the distinction of being the only Clayton County high school to earn "Distinguished School" honors from the Georgia Department of Education for making Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) for at least three consecutive years, Manning said.
Morrow made AYP from 2003-2005, and looks to do so again this year based on the district's preliminary data from the Georgia High School Graduation Tests, Manning said.
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