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Two county schools among best in country

Two Lawrence County High Schools have been honored as some of the best in the nation.

Dawson-Bryant High School and Chesapeake High School both received bronze awards on the 2010 list of America’s Best High School from U.S. News and World Report.

“We’re very pleased,” said Joe Rase, principal of Chesapeake High School. Rase said the award demonstrates the hard work of the staff. “It also shows the hard work of the middle and elementary schools too. We’re very pleased with that.”

Principal Steven Easterling at Dawson-Bryant is also pleased with the award.

“We’re definitely pleased with it, we weren’t expecting anything like this,” Easterling said. “It was definitely a nice surprise.”

According to the U.S. News and World Report website, the list is an annual report with the goal of identifying the country’s top-performing high schools.

The list is based on an analysis of more than 21,000 public high schools in 48 states across the country. The top 100 schools were given gold medal awards.

Schools are measured on their state accountability test scores for all the school’s students in reading and math. Proficiency rates by their least advantaged students groups must exceed state averages.

Rase said his school received the award because it has raised its standards.

“We started asking more of our students and that’s what they started doing,” he said. “We asked for more rigor and more out of all of them to get them ready for post secondary life.”

Rase said he is proud of the students’ success.

“We’re here for the kids, that’s what you’ve got to remember,” Rase said. “If you’re an educator, when (students) do well that’s when you feel good.”

Easterling said the award reflects the hard work of the students and staff.

“It shows we have a dedicated staff and we have a good student body,” he said. “Our board of education always allows us to try new things. That’s good that they don’t tie our hands.”

The schools are also measured by the degree to which they prepare students for college, as measured by student participation in and performance on advanced placement exams or international baccalaureate exams.

The bronze award means that the schools demonstrated commendable performance on state tests but did not perform well enough on the college readiness index, according to the website.

The college readiness index is something on which Easterling would like to improve.

“That’s something we’re trying to accomplish by bringing in (advanced placement) classes and foreign languages,” he said. “We’re looking to see what other schools have. Our students deserve what other schools have.”

Lawrence County schools typically share ideas about improvement, Easterling said, “because it’s not about Dawson-Bryant, we’re here for the kids.”