Two area high schools ranked with best in nation

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 23, 2008

By AMY GORDON / Staff Writer

Newsweek magazine has ranked two Shelby County high schools among the top 1,300 public high schools in the nation.

Oak Mountain High School and Spain Park High School were ranked Nos. 756 and 1,006, respectively.

Newsweek compiled the rankings by finding the number of Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate or Cambridge tests taken by all students at a school in 2007 and then dividing that number by the number of graduating seniors.

The 1,300 schools on Newsweek’s list make up the top 5 percent of public high schools in the nation.

Oak Mountain principal Joan Doyle said the school’s inclusion on the list was a cause for celebration.

“It’s a great affirmation for what we’re trying to do here,” Doyle said. “A lot of work goes into preparing the kids for these programs and these classes. From the time they step into the door, we work hard getting them ready.”

This is Oak Mountain’s first year on the list, with 30.5 percent of graduating seniors passing at least one AP test.

“We really promote our AP program, and we encourage our students to take advanced placement courses,” Doyle said. “Our parents really encourage their children to take these classes. That is huge and that really makes all the difference.”

While getting on Newsweek’s list was not one of Oak Mountain’s set goals, the school’s faculty plans to work hard to stay there, Doyle said.

“This isn’t something we applied for, it’s a result of what we do every day,” she said. “I think we’ll continue to improve our program and look at ways we can encourage more and more students to get involved in AP courses.”

Spain Park High School made Newsweek’s rankings last year. This year’s ranking of 1,006 is a jump up from last year’s ranking of 1,313.

Howard Furnas, Advanced Placement coordinator for Spain Park, said having state schools ranked on the Newsweek list helps correct Alabama’s negative reputation about education.

“It’s always a goal to be thought of as an excellent school,” Furnas said. “This is a nice honor, but I wouldn’t say it was a goal. Our goal is to provide the best education for the students we have.”

Spain Park had 22.1 percent of graduating seniors pass at least one AP test. Furnas said the school plans to add more AP courses, which should help keep it on Newsweek’s list