TUPELO • Rankings for the best public high schools in the nation were released earlier this week and showed high scores for two Northeast Mississippi public high schools.
Lewisburg and DeSoto Central high schools in DeSoto County led the list of Mississippi schools, according to U.S. News & World Report, while Pass Christian ranked third.
Oxford High School was ranked the No. 4 public high school in Mississippi and had an overall score of 87 percent. Booneville High School was ranked No. 14 with an overall score of 78.
Data from more than 23,000 public high schools across the nation was analyzed, and 234 Mississippi schools were recognized in the 2019 U.S. News Best High Schools rankings.
Data was taken from the 2016-17 school year, and rankings were put together by looking at factors such as test scores, graduation rates, access to Advanced Placement courses and college readiness.
Former Oxford High School principal Bradley Roberson was promoted to assistant superintendent last January, but was in charge of the high school in the year the ranking data was acquired.
Roberson said a combination of rigorous curriculum, teachers committed to student achievement, and college readiness contributed to the school placing so high on the list.
“That particular school year, the staff members were absolutely amazing and relentless in their pursuit of excellence for their kids. If a student failed an assessment or did not master content, it didn’t stop there, we remediated immediately and assessed again, so failure just wasn’t an option,” Roberson said.
The high school emphasized college readiness by developing its Advanced Placement and dual enrollment programs. AP participation at Oxford High is at 48%, according to the school ranking.
“We actually have the highest college- and career-readiness percentage in the state of Mississippi,” Roberson said.
Roberson said in the 2016-17 school year, the school integrated 35 minutes of flex time into the daily schedule for students to do makeup work, remedial studies and other coursework activities.
“For students that struggle, a lot of the time they don’t have the support at home to get the help that they need, so we had to find a way to give them the time and the opportunity to get that help during the school day,” Roberson said.
The school also places an emphasis on the ACT test, providing an ACT prep class and even paying for juniors to take the ACT test in the spring.
Booneville High School Principal Bo Sandlin said there is one reason his school ranked so high on the list: the teachers. He said the extra support helped contribute to the school’s high ranking.
“Obviously there are several factors that contribute to the success of our school and our school district,” Sandlin said. “We have a very supportive school board with a very innovative, forward-thinking superintendent. We are blessed with great teachers here who not only teach but love our school and will go above and beyond to do extra things for our school.”
Sandlin said the Booneville School District provides Chromebooks to students in grades K-12 and familiarizes its students with online coursework as early as possible, teaching how to use Canvas, a program that is utilized for community college classes.
“One of our school board members and our superintendent just visited all of our subject area teachers the other day, and all four subject area test scores were in the top-10 percent of the state,” Sandlin said.
ACT scores have increased every year in the past four years, and Sandlin said it is not just because teachers implement ACT questions into daily lessons. Students who scores a 24 or higher on the test have their picture hung alongside their scores in the high school and middle school to be recognized by their peers.
“We believe that success takes everyone, our motto here at the school is together we are better,” Sandlin said.