"We set our standards very high, and the faculty certainly spends a great deal of time meeting those standards," says Liz Norman, principal of the Loveless Academic Magnet Program High School in Montgomery, Ala. Loveless is one of four high schools that earned gold medal status in a recent update of the U.S. News America's Best High Schools rankings. When the rankings were first published in fall 2007, public high schools in Alabama were not analyzed because their 2005-06 school year test data were unavailable for analysis by U.S. News and our partner in the project, School Evaluation Services, a K-12 education and data research and analysis business of Standard & Poor's. The Alabama data now have been released and, as a result, 31 schools from the Yellowhammer State have been added to the searchable database of high schools.
We've also picked up a few new schools in Connecticut, Maine, and New York and upgraded the medal status of some previous best high schools in California, New Jersey, New York, South Carolina, and Vermont.
"The big thing for us is really developing in teenagers a joy and a passion for learning history," says Principal Alessandro Weiss of the High School of American Studies at Lehman College in New York, another new gold medal school. Because the school is on a college campus, juniors and seniors can sign up for college courses and graduate seminars. The school also tries to help students better understand history by taking them on frequent trips to historical sites in Boston, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C. "It makes history come alive for our students," Weiss says.
Union County Magnet High School in Scotch Plains, N.J., offers an academic program that emphasizes architecture and engineering. Too often, though, people mistakenly think the school just teaches students about "welding or cosmetology," says Principal Gwen Seneschal. In fact, last year, the school sent three students to Yale University. "The vocational piece gives us something to focus on," Seneschal says.