Morton High School receives pair of awards

Adam Larck TimesNewspapers

Morton High School has been honored with a pair of awards by national newspapers.

The US News and World Reports rewarded MHS with a national level Bronze award in its 2013 rankings. In addition, the Chicago Sun Times listed the high school as No. 25 of the top 50 schools in Illinois. This is up two places from last year.

“It is a great honor to be named nationally as one of the Best High Schools in the nation and in Illinois,” Superintendent Dr. Lindsey Hall said. “However, my competitive spirit causes me to ask how do we get better, continually improve, and move into Silver and/ or Gold category?

“Basically, I want to know what the target is to hit to move up, and then we’ll take aim.”

To calculate the national rankings, US News uses a three-step process. ‘The first step compares students’ performance in math and reading at the high school to the average performance in the state. The percentage of economically disadvantaged students who tend to score lower are also factored in afterwards.

The second step looks at least-advantaged students (black, Hispanic and low-income) to see if they are performing better than similar students in the state.

A school that makes it to the final step has its college-readiness performance evaluated. The evaluation is done by looking at either Advanced Placement classes or International Baccalaureate test data, depending on what program is larger at the schools.

The first two steps helped the students at MHS show just how far ahead of the other schools in the state they are by scoring a 95.9 on the state test performance index and having 30 percent more disadvantaged students meet or exceed on the tests when compared to the state average.

“Our students perform much higher than average on our state assessments, and this makes Morton High School exceptional in the state of Illinois,” Hall said.

These strong test results are also what helped Morton secure the No. 25 spot on the Sun Times’ list. Only one other school in the area, Dunlap, finished better, coming in at No. 17.

However, Hall also saw room to improve from the results, starting with college-readiness classes.

“It’s my understanding that part of the calculation has to do with the number of Advanced Placement classes offered, as well as enrollment in those classes,” she said. “We’re taking a close look at this, and moving forward in offering expanded opportunities for our students in this area. ‘College preparation’ is one of the criteria, and having a well-developed AP program helps to meet this criteria.”

Another area the district has trouble improving deals with disadvantaged students. Hall notes that MHS has a “very low percentage” of low-income students, and that it is harder to show gains in that area year after year.

In addition, while Morton does have some minority students, the demographics show a mostly white population.

“Again, I am competitive,” Hall said. “When I see other organizations, school districts, etc., who are doing this better than we are, I want to find out the whys and hows of making it happen.”