The top high school in southwest Wisconsin is in “The City on the Move,” according to the U.S. News and World Report’s 2015 Best High School rankings announced last week.
Fennimore High School ranked 14th in Wisconsin, followed by Lancaster (17th), Prairie du Chien (26th), Platteville (29th), Dodgeville (50th) and River Valley (59th).
“Our ranking in U.S. News and World Report is the result of our staff who are dedicated to student success,” said Fennimore High School principal Dan Bredeson. “We study the data available on each individual student and work to provide the support that is needed for individual student success.
“Our students also understand the importance of success in high school and put in the work necessary.”
Fennimore High School ranked in the top 1,000 nationally for the first time, checking in at 933. Lancaster finished just outside the top 1,000 (1,052), while Prairie du Chien (1,512) and Platteville (1,574) finished just outside the top 1,500.
“What I am most excited about is the fact that we cracked the top 1,000,” Fennimore Community Schools District Administrator Jamie Nutter said. “There are 28,000 high schools and we are 933. That puts us in the top three percent of schools in the nation when it comes to college readiness.
“Next year, with our new middle school, we are not just looking at physical space, we are offering more programs and differentiation. I am hoping in two, three or four years down the road, this will provide more opportunities throughout their high school career, which will increase those dual-credit numbers and increase our ranking.”
To create the 2015 Best High Schools rankings, U.S. News worked with RTI International, a North Carolina-based research firm. More than 29,000 public high schools in all 50 states and the District of Columbia were evaluated.
High schools were evaluated in three stages, including student performance on state-required tests. Also considered was how well students educated their least-advantaged students. Finally, schools were assessed on how well they prepared students for college based on participation in and performance on Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate exams.
“Fennimore High School has increased the number of Advanced Placement courses we offer in the past five years and our students have stepped up to the challenge of doing well in those courses and on the assessment at the end of the class,” Bredeson said. “The Advanced Placement course teachers have attended professional development and worked with colleagues to ensure that our students have a rigorous curriculum and are prepared for the end of course assessments.”
In the national rankings, 500 high schools received gold medals, 2,027 schools earned silver and 3,990 took home bronze.
“At one time, to say we might be ranked in the top 500 would have seemed way, way off, but right now we are really close to that ranking,” Nutter said. “With the new Laude system we have in place that rewards kids for rigor rather than punishing them for worse grades, I think it is allowing students to challenge themselves more without impacting them with a risk of not getting into a college. It is allowing students more access to more options.”
Fennimore High School earned a silver medal for the second straight year, having placed ninth in Wisconsin in 2014.
“The high rankings Fennimore High School has achieved over the past several years are the result of hard work and dedication by both our students and staff,” Bredeson said.
Fennimore freshman T.J. Kenney agrees.
“Without [the staff] we would be nowhere,” he said. “They are all great people and they push us to do great things. They help us when we need help and they give us a gentle push when we need it. They know how to make us smile while we learn and that is the most important thing.”
What else helps make Fennimore High School great?
“I think that FHS is awesome because of the teachers and staff that we have,” said junior Brandon Krantz. “They are all super-good at being as flexible as possible. Often times teachers are staying way later than what is required to help out students that need help.”
“I am very lucky I get to attend school at Fennimore High,” added junior Jillian Smith. “I wouldn’t want to go anywhere else. It is very exciting that the high school gets the recognition it deserves.”
Nutter did not hesitate to shine the spotlight on Fennimore High School’s students.
“This recognition is a representation of how hard our students are working and challenging themselves,” he said. “If students don’t challenge themselves, we aren’t recognized. I am just glad to see the hard work of our students is paying off.”