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Laquey school listed among top in USA

LAQUEY, Mo. (Dec. 15, 2008) — A national newsmagazine has named Laquey High School as one of the nation’s top-performing schools.

This was the second year for U.S. News and World Report, which has published college rankings for years, to publish rankings of high schools. Last week’s issue of identified 1,925 high schools that exceeded statistical performance expectations on state tests, out of a total of public 21,069 high schools in 48 states that submitted enough data from the 2006-07 school year for evaluation. Laquey received a “bronze medal” award as one of the top 1,925 high schools but didn’t receive the magazine’s “gold medal” award given to the country’s top 100 high schools and wasn’t ranked from 101 to 604 and given a “silver medal.” However, Laquey was the only area school to make any of those three lists.

Bronze, silver or gold medal awards were given to schools whose students exceeded statistical performance expectations on state tests based on “relative level of student poverty,” and also exceeded state average proficiency results on state tests for their least advantaged students, such as black, Hispanic, or economically disadvantaged students. Of the 1,925 qualifying schools, an additional 604 schools were identified that not only met both criteria but also were determined to have done the best job of preparing students for college based on student scores in the Advanced Placement program or International Baccalaureate program. The top 100 schools were analyzed further and ranked in order from first to 100.

U.S. News and World Report editors developed their school ranking methods in cooperation with School Evaluation Services, an educational data research business run by Standard and Poor’s, a ratings and research firm that usually focuses on financial investment ratings but also does other types of ratings.

Statewide, Missouri had none of the county’s top-100 “gold medal” schools and only five “silver medal” schools — three in metro St. Louis, one in Kansas City and one in Columbia. Laquey was among 36 Missouri schools to receive a “bronze medal” ranking; the only other nearby Missouri schools with that ranking were Conway High School in Laclede County and Morgan County High School in Versailles.

Missouri had two silver and 15 bronze winners last year, but none were in the area.

Laquey school board member Joni Klemp remembers attending Laquey for the first six years of her education during the days that Laquey didn’t even have a high school. When Klemp was growing up, Missouri legislators were forcing the consolidation of smaller schools because parents in larger districts often questioned whether the lack of funds and equipment in smaller schools would leave their students at a disadvantage.

With 222 students in high school during the 2006-07 year that US News and World Report used for statistical comparisons, Laquey is much larger now than it was when Klemp was a child. However, Klemp said last week’s award helps prove that small schools can do as well as their big-city cousins, and often can do better.

“For a very small rural school, we’re extremely happy,” Klemp said. “We usually try to keep our numbers low in the classroom, especially in the elementary school where the kids need more one-on-one education.”

A recent addition to the school building should help Laquey keep elementary school sizes at 20 or less; Laquey Middle School and Laquey High School classes are typically 25 to 30 students or less, she said,.

“The teachers can still handle, they can still teach, they can answer questions; it’s a very good atmosphere,” Klemp said. “We have pretty much most sports. We don’t have football but we are working on that.”

Klemp moved out of Laquey and became an airline flight attendant, but returned to Laquey after receiving additional training to become a nurse. Having experienced larger cities, Klemp said she’s glad to be living in a small town.

“I think rural education is the way to go if you can do it. I know if you’re stuck in a city, that’s how it is, but rural education has a lot to offer for your child,” Klemp said.

One key advantage, she said, is that students in rural schools have greater opportunities to participate in extracurricular activities.

“A friend of mine, her kids go to St. Louis and they both have graduated in the past two years. I was talking to them and they don’t feel they have friends that they really bonded with,” Klemp said. “They didn’t go to the proms, they didn’t participate in their sporting events, and these are straight-A students. They did well in academics but they didn’t get a well-rounded education. I think they kind of regret it a little bit now; they wish they had gone to a smaller school where they would get more opportunities.”

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