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Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Why Highlands Was Left Out of 2013 State Rankings

By Pat Lafleur, 
FortThomasMatters City Beat

Last Friday reported the U.S. News & World Report had released its top 10 best public high schools in the state, ranked for meeting state proficiency standards and college preparedness goals.

Two NKY public high schools made KY’s top 10 – Beechwood (6) and Ryle (9) – but Fort Thomas Independent administrators were surprised last week that there wasn’t a third NKY high school recognized, as HHS remained absent from the list.

The news came as a shock to Superintendent Gene Kirchner and HHS Principal Brian Robinson because, in 2012, Highlands was ranked 5th overall in KY. “Our most recent data is consistent with [last year’s] level of performance,” said Mr. Kirchner in an email over the weekend. “I have come to the conclusion that there has been a reporting error.”

After reaching out to US News and World Report, Mr. Kirchner has learned today that HHS was actually left out of the ranking process entirely. This was due to the percentage of free and reduced lunch students scoring proficient or above at HHS being lower than the ranking formulas required for inclusion in those rankings.

“Quite frankly, I don’t totally agree with this reasoning,” Mr. Kirchner said. “The reality is that when looking at overall performance, Highlands was among the top performing schools” (emphasis added).

That said, Highlands’s absence from this year’s rankings reveals an important area in which HHS has continued to struggle: that is, performance by the population of students who qualify for financial aid due to their economic class and household income levels (among other criteria).

While the data for this year’s rankings were pulled from the 2010-11 school year (acc. to U.S. News and World Report’s communication with Mr. Kirchner), the Superintendent acknowledges this to be an area that continues to deserve more attention. “It has been one of our priorities this school year and will be going forward,” he said, “The information received from US News only serves to motivate us more.”


  1. Shouldn't the emphasis be on something other than a ranking? Perhaps, praise for students who do well as the result of good teaching...?

  2. So basically their top end students do very well. Their lower end students and special-ed are basically ignored.

    So, if my child is in one of those categories, don't send them to Highlands.

    Got it.

  3. One thing that could lead to this is the small population of free and reduced students. One or two kids that are new to the school, or don't put a major effort into the testing can skew all the results. Most of the kids could have done well, but a few can effect that. Hard to get a great sampling from a small number.

  4. Another politically-correct, left-wing media source that puts forth standards that defy reality. What a silly criterion for judging a school's performance. Why should children receiving free/reduced price lunches be judged differently than the rest of the student body? This reminds me of the magazines that list the Top 100 places to live in America, which in reality is the Top 100 places that liberals want to live. They always add some criterion into the contest that no typical American would consider, e.g. "access to free range chicken."

    BTW, many schools rig their test scores by several means. For example, some schools put an inordinate amount of kids on IEPs; other schools push out poor performing students; many schools teach to the test. I don't need to look at test scores to tell me whether the local school district is doing a good job. I simply look at the students who graduate from HHS and their successes in life.

  5. I am a conservative but must comment about this resulting from the left-wing media. This is an offspring of the NCLB act that was passed under the George W. Bush administration. At risk populations are targeted to achieve at the same pace-- commensurate with their same-age peers. If a gap in achievement exists, schools are penalized dependent upon various circumstances. This penalty is based upon various levels or "tiers". The Obama administration has tried to inject a dose of reality into the situation, however, it would appear to be politically incorrect to throw out all components of of NCLB. In essence, if this were to happen, it would send the message that it is acceptable to leave some children behind. Thus, the paradoxical situation that most districts in Kentucky have faced for years has not left Fort Thomas Independent Schools untouched.

  6. We can debate whether there is merit to how schools are currently ranked by various rankings services, but the truth is that perception is reality. Fort Thomas has attracted many successful people over the years because the FTISD (and Highlands High School in particular) have had the reputation of being the top public school system/high school in NKY. Now, it seems that Beechwood is taking over that position, and someone looking at this latest set of rankings would be left with the impression that both Beechwood and Ryle are superior high schools. If this trend continues perceptions will change regarding the pecking order in NKY.

  7. That's not politically correct, it's reality..

    While Highlands is a fine school, 95% of their "ranking" success comes from the socio-economic demographic of the community they serve. Those that want to look down their noses at urban schools in Covington and Newport, etc.. should just look at what Highlands does with students that have those same challenges.

    I'm glad to see that the superintendent sees that as motivation to increase help to those students... Let's face it.. the smart kids from upper middle class homes don't need a lot of help..

    Highland is a public school, after all..

  8. Also...

    US News and World Report is part of the left-wing media? LOL

  9. Have to say that being on theSite Based Council at Woodfill for the past year has been an eye opener into the world of education. To not give the schools credit for doing everything they can to help EVERYONE is a crime. With that said, three things come to mind. #1. Schools can not be expected to raise your kids. Parents have to be involved. #2 Single parent households face more challenges than some of us who are in a more comfortable situation, #3. If you are going to lob grenades about a left wing media conspiracy, have the courage to sign your name to such tripe. As a parent, officer in the USAF and volunteer in my community I value this system and support it accordingly. All this said and done, who cares about US News & World report.... Is my child getting a top tier education that my really high taxes are paying for is my main concern.

  10. Then stop building cheap low rent apartments in Ft. Thomas and curb the section 8.

  11. Ditto on the section 8. Look no further than 825 S grand the imperial arms apartments. You will find your free and reduced lunches. NKY is inheriting Cincinnati's transient population. Godspeed. A community is only as strong as the people who represent it.

  12. I wish FTM would post all comments rather than the select few.

  13. I take exception to the fact that we do not post all of the comments. I post 99.9% of the comments whether I agree with them or not.

    The one thing that will not be tolerated are personal attacks or blatant attempts to incite others. This is not a tabloid. Period.

    If you are unsure that your comment will be published or not, I ask that you do one of two things.

    1) Go to our Facebook page and comment with your identity and name.

    2) Use your blogger profile to comment here with your identity and name.

    If your comment cannot be attached to your name, it is not worthy of being published on this site. There are other sites more than willing to take anonymous commenters views and opinions. But Fort Thomas Matters will not be one.

    We have come a long way to become a site of promotion and positivity. Mudslinging in any sense has no place here.

    We will report controversial issues and or negative issues as they come, but we expect a respectful dialogue.

  14. The true measure of any school is the school's ability to EFFECTIVELY instruct students of diverse backgrounds, socially, economically, & culturally.

    The effective instruction of students of diverse backgrounds is a labor intensive endeavor that requires commitment, hard work, and the knowledge of appropriate instructional techniques. The fact is, in Ft. Thomas, most students come from families and backgrounds in which education is a high priority. Those students go home at night and are exposed to appropriate role models, adults that have high expectations for themselves and their children. Their parents interact with their children, and model their expectations continually within the home. Those same children go to school each day, and model their parent’s behaviors and expectations. Being a teacher in a classroom filled with motivated students is a simple task, requiring little effort. The students will be successful, regardless of the effort, or lack of effort on behalf of the educator.

    As I read this article, and the comments above, I am extremely disappointed in those residents of Ft. Thomas, and others that are critical of the results of the rankings and reports. The fact is your high-performing students are still high-performing students. Be proud of that fact, and celebrate that fact! Your over-all scores are indeed, among the highest in the state and nation!

    But, you should be embarrassed to learn that the students that attend Ft. Thomas Schools who live at the poverty level, do not fare as well in the Ft. Thomas Schools as they might in other neighboring school districts. Once again, remember that the effective instruction of students from diverse backgrounds is a labor-intensive endeavor. Are the Ft. Thomas Schools capable of addressing the needs of ALL students? Probably, but the present data tells us that there are other schools and districts that have performed more proactively and energetically in getting the job done.

    It would be my hope that those who are critical of the method of reporting, simply accept the fact that Ft. Thomas Schools did not live up to the standards of addressing the needs of all students. As a member of the Ft. Thomas community, ask yourself, what do the boys and girls who live in poverty in Ft. Thomas deserve from the Ft. Thomas Schools? Don’t they deserve the very best, also? Present data indicates that this is an area of great concern, and an area for improvement. Is Ft. Thomas up to the task? Are the teachers willing to learn and adapt to the instructional needs of all students? Are they committed to the labor and time that this effort will take?

    Further, Ft. Thomas needs to realize that the rules of reporting school data have changed. No longer can the district depend upon their “high students” from highly motivated households to bring their score averages up. The “true” success and impact of a school should be measured on its ability to inspire and motivate students from all walks of life. Other schools and districts have accepted this challenge and their test results show it. It’s time for Ft. Thomas to “step to the plate,” or to accept the fact that “Ft. Thomas” will no longer appear on such reports as the “Top Ten In The State” from U.S. NEWS AND WORLD REPORTS.

  15. I also was disappointed to read some of the comments above. My oldest child goes to Woodfill and, while we have had a wonderful experience there, we are moving to another school district. I simply don't want my children growing up around the "get away from poor people" attitude that is in Fort Thomas. It is so sad. We are adopting a child of another ethnicity and culture and I feel that she would benefit from greater diversity and I fear that attitudes in Fort Thomas would affect her as she has spent the first several years of her life in abject poverty.

    I value a good education for my children and the fact is that Fort Thomas is not the only public school in the area where I can get it. It is inexcusable for Ft Thomas residents to behave as though they are inherently better and would like to exclude those who aren't like them.

  16. I am sorry to hear that the poster above has had such a negative experience living in Fort Thomas. His/her experiences are very different from the ones I had growing up and living in Fort Thomas for 18 years. Actually, my family (which includes non-white individuals) has encountered and observed much more race/ethnic-based negativity in communities with greater "diversity" than Fort Thomas.

    I expect that the school district will use these latest findings to make adjustments that will be beneficial for all the students in the district, be they white, black, rich, poor, bright or average.

  17. I attended Highlands from 1991-1994. I was a foster child and probably ranked last in our class. I dropped out in 1991 because it was too hard to keep coming after missing 72 days of school and being passed around to different families while my mom was in a mental hospital. I returned a year later to finish in 5 years instead of 4. I was a bright teen with lots of hardships. Highlands was the best thing to ever happen to me. Mr. Freer never gave me a break and expected success. Mr. Keller was a wonderful English teacher. My teachers were fair and nice but firm. I had no friends to come over and spend time with except one but for me that was okay. I was too busy surviving. I will thank God every day for the rest of my life for Highlands. It made me who I am today. Stacey Woestman Weller. Homeschool Teacher, mom of two, married 18 years, and happy.