It’s an opinion surely shared by many in this area already, but one now backed up by one of the nation’s most noteworthy periodicals.

Pulaski County is home to some of the best high schools in the state.

All three public high schools in the area — Somerset Independent, and Pulaski County and Southwestern from the county school district — were ranked in the top 30 in Kentucky, according to the latest rankings by U.S. News and World Report. 

This isn’t unusual — local schools have frequently fared well compared to their Bluegrass peers in the annual assessment of high schools in each state across America, hovering up around similar rankings. But what’s not usual is the conditions they had to work in over the past year, due to concerns and restrictions related to the COVID-19 virus. Social distancing, virtual learning outside the classroom, and a host of other considerations played havoc with the ability of educators to do their jobs almost all throughout 2020 and on into this year. Despite these challenges, local schools continued to rise to the occasion.

“It’s very exciting,” said Patrick Richardson, Superintendent of Pulaski County Schools. “I’m just very happy for (Pulaski and Southwestern) both to be in (the top 30), I’m very excited for our schools and staff. They do a good job. They’ve been through a rough year, and all that’s gone on with COVID. It shows the effort of our staff and students at that level.”

Southwestern was 24th in Kentucky and no. 2,133 in the nation, with a 98 percent graduation rate and 32.6 college readiness score. Somerset was right behind at no. 25 in Kentucky and 2,149 nationally, with 90 percent graduation and a 37.7 in college readiness. Pulaski County High School was no. 29 in the state, 2,308 in the nation with 97 percent graduation and a 34.8 in college readiness.

“We are extremely proud to have Somerset High School once again ranked as a top school in Kentucky,” said Somerset Independent Schools Superintendent Kyle Lively. “This recognition is possible because of the hard work of great students, faculty, staff, administrators, and supportive parents.”

The rankings involve a score which considers six key indicators, including college readiness (30 percent of the score), math and reading proficiency, and math and reading performance (both 20 percent) and college curriculum breadth, graduation rate and underserved (that is, Black, Hispanic and low-income) students (10 percent each).

According to the article “How U.S. News Calculated the 2021 Best High Schools Rankings,” available at www.usnews.com, “After the six indicators that had been standardized were weighted, those weighed scores were summed and then transformed so that each eligible school received an overall percentile score between zero and 100 at two decimal places, with the top performer scoring 100. The overall score is calculated as a percentile score that indicates what percentile position a school is in out of the nearly 18,000 ranked schools. For example, a school with a score of 90 means that 10% of the high schools are ranked higher and 90% of the schools are ranked lower. The overall score is published rounded to two decimal places like 99.96 to show how close schools are in the rankings.

“Finally, high schools are ranked against peers in descending order of their overall scores. The numerical ranking was based on the overall score carried out to many decimal places to prevent ties. High schools placing in the top 75% display their individual rank on usnews.com.”

This year’s rankings were announced on April 28.

With May 3-7 being Teacher Appreciation Week, it was the perfect time for Richardson and Lively to acknowledge the hard work their staff put in under unusually difficult circumstances to continue to produce quality results for area students.

“I think (the high rankings were achieved) by focusing on the individual students and trying to meet the needs of individual students as well as focusing on the curriculum and standards,” said Richardson, who noted that he anticipated the schools in his district would do something soon to celebrate the national recognition. “It’s a great honor.” 

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