On the List

ORHS is on the list again this year — but this is a list we definitely want to be on.

I looked at the list narrowed down to only those Tennessee schools that made it, and found some interesting tidbits.  First, we have the second-highest percentage of economically disadvantaged students (of the Tennessee schools on the list); the one above us, White Station, is one of those that I would only marginally place in the "public school" category.  As an  "optional school," students have to meet some fairly rigorous admissions criteria:

  • Applicants must score at or above the 80th percentile on the Reading/Language Arts subtest or its equivalent AND on the Mathematics subtest or its equivalent.
  • Applicant’s report card must have A’s and B’s with no more than one C as a semester average. Report cards must also have no D’s or F’s as a semester average in any subject.
  • Applicant’s report card must show satisfactory conduct and attendance (including promptness to school and to each class). A total of more than 15 absences and/or tardies is considered unsatisfactory.
  • For tenth through twelfth grade applicants, ACT scores in Reading, English and Mathematics must be equivalent to the 80th percentile or higher. On the SAT Reasoning Test, Critical Reading and Mathematic scores must be equivalent to the 80th percentile or higher.
  • Final approval is contingent upon review of the student’s second semester grades.
  • Transportation is the responsibility of the student’s parents/legal guardians.

The top two Tennessee high schools on the list are both magnet schools, operating on the same type of rigorous screening to admit only the most capable students.  If Oak Ridge worked that way, we’d undoubtedly be way on up at the top of this list, too.

But, that would deny opportunity to a significant number of students in this community… students who deserve a chance at the best teachers, who deserve the opportunity to stretch beyond the boundaries of what their parents achieved, or even what their parents think they can achieve.  It provides some opportunity for students who took a little longer to mature academically, but by their junior or senior year, they’re ready to take on some really tough courses.

Beta, graduating next week, doesn’t make anyone’s list of academic all-stars.  She got a lottery scholarship on the basis of her ACT score (29), not her GPA (something less than 3.0).  But she has performed quite well in some tough classes — AP Physics, AP Chemistry, and AP Calculus.  It’s those other subjects that are bothersome to her — things like Wellness A, Civics, English — stuff that most people can breeze through — that nicked her GPA pretty badly.  Basically, if it’s not interesting to her, she does only the minimum necessary to pass.

I’ve tried explaining that this is not a good strategy, but… let’s just say she has an independent streak.   One that she comes by honestly (and it’s not her dad who’s to blame).

Anyway, I’m quite proud of Oak Ridge’s placement on the Newsweek list.  I’m somewhat concerned that we’re falling in the rankings over the last five years, but we’re still only sixth of the 15 Tennessee schools in terms of the percentage of graduating seniors having passed at least one AP test — and that means they passed as juniors, since the scores from this year’s tests won’t be in until July or so.  Three of the five above us are among those who admit only the best students to start with.

That’s nothing to shrug off.  Now, if only we can find a way to bring the rest of the student body up a notch, maybe we can reverse that trend for next year.

2 Responses to “On the List”

  1. on 20 May 2008 at 9:45 pm Joel

    Let her go, Netmom. There are lots of kids who don’t excel at everything they touch, but who have a focus. Many of these end up in grad school, which I don’t count as a bad thing. She sounds like a winner to me.

  2. on 21 May 2008 at 10:56 am CrackerNation

    I think we did quite well considering we are a full-service educational kind of town. The AP/student ranking is not a good overall measure of a non-access-controlled school system. Being in the top 5% nationwide by such a narrow index is truly extraordinary!

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