BLOOMFIELD — School rankings can be, and are, endlessly argued by teachers and administrators. But Dan Maeder, is quite happy with how U.S. News & World Report ranked Davis County High School.
The school received a bronze award rating from the magazine, which rated almost every high school in the country. It was the only area school to receive a rating that high. Maeder, the superintendent for Davis County schools, said the result is gratifying for the administration and the teachers who work to make sure their students are prepared.
“Well, when we heard it first off we felt really good about it,” he said. “To be recognized by an external source and not to have to do anything to seek recognition, we’re really excited about that. I think it’s a great tribute to the traditions of excellence we have in Davis County.”
The rankings rated 80 percent of Davis County high schoolers as proficient in reading and 89 percent proficient in math. That’s unusual. When there was a significant difference for schools between reading in math, it was far more common for students to do better on reading.
Maeder said changes made to the district’s math approach over the past 10-15 years made the difference. Part of the push for better math proficiency came with the start of No Child Left Behind, which Maeder said cause educators to change how they look at student achievement. The district took a hard look at the data and made some adjustments.
A combination of dedication in the classrooms and specific teams geared toward helping the students learn math paid off.
“We’ve had great leaders in Davis County for many, many years,” said Maeder. “We’ve had dedicated teachers for many, many years.”
The picture for Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont was closer to what most schools saw on the reading-math split. E-B-F Superintendent Dean Cook. The ratings suggested 85 percent of high school students were proficient in reading, among the top area scores. Cook allowed that there is some work to be done on math, where 75 percent of students were considered proficient.
As with Davis County’s efforts on math, Cook said E-B-F has put a specific focus on reading, especially with students who struggled to reach the reading levels they should in their grade levels.
When students take the summer off, skills generally decline. And Cook said students who were already struggling with reading tended to avoid it over the summer months, making the decline even more pronounced.
But an intensive summer reading program for those students has helped. Not only does it stem the summer decline, some have returned in the fall better readers than they were when summer started.
“The credit really goes to our teachers,” Cook said.
He believes math results for E-B-F will improve. The effort is there, but you can’t flip a switch and turn weaker math students into the second coming of Albert Einstein. It takes consistent, focused effort. And that can be a tough sell in a society that likes quick fixes.
“That’s the thing that I think is frustrating,” said Cook. “We’re going to see results. We really will. But we have to be patient.”
Maeder echoed the sentiment.
“This is the work of dedicated professionals over many years,” he said. “Major improvements and gains are not made overnight.”