Eight Lane County high schools make list of Oregon’s best

South Eugene, Churchill and Lowell are place in top 35 in U.S. News’ rankings

Alisha Roemeling

The Register-Guard

Apr 22, 2016

Three Lane County high schools have earned a spot on U.S. News & World Report’s 2016 list of “Oregon’s 35 Best High Schools” and five more made the complete list of 249 nationally recognized schools.

South Eugene High School was ranked ninth; Lowell Junior/Senior High School came in at 19; and Churchill High School in Eugene was ranked 23rd out of 326 public and charter schools in the state. The U.S. News rankings gave national recognition to 6,218 top-performing public high schools in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

North Eugene, Junction City, Crow, Elmira and Siuslaw high schools also made the national list of Oregon’s 249 best high schools, though they were not ranked in the top 35.

To be eligible for a state ranking, a school must be awarded a national gold or silver medal. North Eugene, Junction City, Crow, Elmira and Siuslaw each was awarded a bronze medal. South Eugene, Lowell and Churchill all were awarded silver medals. Only the top three on the Oregon state list — International School of Beaverton, Corbett Charter School and the School of Science and Technology in Beaverton — received gold medals.

The rankings are based on multiple criteria, including standardized test scores, student-teacher ratios, graduation rates, college readiness, reading and math proficiency and student performance in International Baccalaureate and Advanced Placement programs. The survey, for example, makes note of the percent of students who take AP tests as well as the percent who pass the tests.

Nationally, South Eugene ranked 1,018 out of 28,561 public high schools. Lowell ranked 1,674 and Churchill ranked 2,079.

Most of the top 35 schools in Oregon reside in the greater Portland metropolitan area. South Eugene High, in fact, is the highest ranked school outside of the Portland region.

South Eugene Principal Andy Dey said officials there are “certainly pleased” by the ranking. He declined to elaborate, deferring to Eugene School District spokeswoman Kerry Delf, who said rankings such as the ones compiled by U.S. News “should be taken with a grain of salt.”

“It’s gratifying to see the hard work of school staff and student recognized so publicly,” Delf said. “Schools have been working hard to ensure strong outcomes for all students, but we can never stop where we are, there’s always more to be done to help all students succeed. Also, it’s exciting to see so many of our schools recognized in this program.”

Churchill High Principal BJ Blake said her school’s ranking can be attributed to its engaged students and teachers.

“We have great kids and hardworking staff,” Blake said. “Our staff is dedicated not just to academics but to the whole child.”

Blake noted that Churchill offers seven career technical education programs, which contribute to student success. “That really engages kids,” she said. “They get to experience their passion while getting college and high school credits.”

Lowell Superintendent Walt Hanline said it’s exciting for his district’s rural school to have made the list.

“Assessments based on test scores, like the U.S. News rankings, go up and down” from year to year, Hanline acknowledged. “But I’m proud of the work we’ve done.”

Hanline said there’s always room for improvement, even for a school ranked 19th out of 326.

“It’s something we should all feel good about, but we should continue to press forward,” Hanline said. “When good reports come in, you need to be thankful but keep going. This is not our only measurement of success.”

Correction: A previous version of this story did not include Elmira High School as having recieved a bronze medal.

This article originally appeared on The Register-Guard

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