Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
NORTH LOGAN — For the second consecutive year, InTech Collegiate High School was named the best high school in Utah by U.S. News.
But even Utah's top school failed to make a splash in the national rankings. InTech's No. 1 finish in Utah translated to only 652nd place out of 21,035 U.S. schools examined by U.S. News.
InTech, a charter school where students earn high school and college credit simultaneously, was followed in the state rankings by the Academy For Math, Engineering & Science, an early college charter school in Murray.
The rankings, created in partnership with the American Institutes for Research in Washington, D.C., are based on a school's ability to serve all of its students, not just those who are traditionally college-bound or high-achieving, according to U.S. News.
InTech Principal Jason Stanger said the state's early college high schools are particularly suited for the U.S. News rankings because they are specifically charged with reaching out to and preparing underrepresented students for higher education.
"I believe the public should expect that early college high schools will frequently be found in national and state rankings," Stanger said. "That’s our mission, and if we’re not meeting that mission, then why do we exist?"
At InTech, one-third of the student body are first-generation college students, 34 percent of all students qualify for free or reduced price lunch, and 12 percent qualify for special education.
By partnering with nearby Utah State University, one-half of graduating seniors leave the school with between one and two years of college credit.
"We have students from all sorts of backgrounds," Stanger said. "We are trying to help not only the best and brightest but also the students who may be average in their ability but exceptional in their work ethic."
The remaining schools in Utah's top 10 were all comprehensive, or traditional, public high schools, with Logan High School at No. 3.
"We were just notified this morning ourselves, and I think we're still trying to process it," Logan High Principal Shane Ogden said. "It’s a great honor to be there in the top of Utah with so many awesome schools across the state, but I don’t think we want to be complacent."
Ogden, who has been at Logan High for a year, said the partnership his school and InTech share with Utah State contributes to their success, both in terms of educational opportunities for students and their families and academic presence the university brings to Cache Valley.
Logan High teachers also have high expectations of students, and they're committed to finding ways to intervene with those who fall behind, he said.
"I just think it comes down to the attitude of, ‘You can do this. You can get into an (Advanced Placement) class and excel in it,'" Ogden said.
Despite the performance of schools such as InTech, AMES and Logan High, the state as a whole lagged in the national rankings, with no Utah school breaking the top 500, the cutoff for a "Gold Medal" ranking.
The nation's best schools, as determined by U.S. News, boast student-to-teacher ratios in the mid- to high-teens and 100 percent participation and passage rates for Advanced Placement exams.
InTech, by comparison, is listed as having 27 students for every one teacher, and only 40 percent of students passed at least one AP test.
Logan High jumped from sixth to third place in the Utah rankings with this year's report. Ogden said it's "exciting" to see the school's standing improve, but he wants to see Logan, or at least another Utah school, take home a gold medal.
"There wasn’t a Utah school that broke the top 500, and we certainly don’t like that," he said.
For InTech, Stanger said the top ranking is validation for the school's programs. More importantly, it recognizes the hard work being done by both students and educators, he said.
"I think it speaks to the dedication of our faculty to high-quality instruction and to trying to reach out to every student," Stanger said. "It’s really their honor, and the students' honor, rather than the school's."
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