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Newsweek recognizes Gatton Academy as America’s Best High School

The Carol Martin Gatton Academy of Mathematics and Science in Kentucky at WKU has been recognized by Newsweek magazine as the nation’s top high school.

America’s Best High Schools 2012, released online Sunday and in the May 28, 2012, print edition of the magazine, recognized 1,000 schools from across the United States. The Gatton Academy was ranked fifth in 2011 list.

Rounding out the top five schools were The School for the Talented and Gifted Magnet (Dallas, Texas), BASIS Scottsdale (Arizona), School of Science and Engineering Magnet (Dallas, Texas), and BASIS Tucson (Arizona).

Newsweek’s methodology for their rankings sought to highlight schools that focus on providing solutions to the challenges of 21st century education and prepare students for both college and life. (To read more about the Newsweek list, visit http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2012/05/20/newsweek-ranks-kentucky-academy-as-america-s-top-high-school.html)

Each school’s score is comprised of six components: four-year, on-time graduation rate (25 percent), college matriculation rate (25 percent), Advanced Placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate (IB) tests per student (25 percent), average SAT/ACT scores (10 percent), average AP or IB scores (10 percent), and AP courses offered (5 percent). (To view the complete list, visit http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2012/05/20/america-s-best-high-schools.html)

Dr. Julia Roberts, executive director of the Gatton Academy, explained that the components of the methodology reflect the high-level learning necessary for successful students in a globally-competitive society.

“The United States has emphasized proficiency or grade-level learning to the exclusion of nurturing the talents of advanced learners,” Dr. Roberts said. “A promising future for our country is closely tied to the development of talent in science, mathematics, languages arts, the social sciences, and the arts. The purpose of the Gatton Academy is to extend learning opportunities for gifted students who live in all parts of Kentucky.”

WKU President Dr. Gary Ransdell underscored the unique experiences available to Gatton Academy students and the role the campus community has in engaging students at the highest level.

“What a great tribute to everyone on our faculty and to the staff of the Gatton Academy,” Dr. Ransdell said. “The key has been the manner in which WKU faculty have involved these students in serious undergraduate research and opened up international experiences for them.”

Over half of Gatton Academy students engaged in study programs abroad during the previous academic year, with opportunities in Italy, the United Kingdom, Costa Rica, China, and Taiwan. Moreover, 91 percent of recent Gatton Academy graduates participated in a research project sponsored by a university faculty mentor.

The program’s strategic partnership with WKU plays an important role in the development of students both in and out of the classroom, according to Gatton Academy director Dr. Tim Gott.

“This recognition would not have been possible without the full partnership we have with Western Kentucky University,” Dr. Gott said. “Having access to top professors and instructors, the university’s research facilities, and the support of the administration provides a pathway for advanced Kentucky students to be on equal footing with others across from the United States.”

Corey Alderdice, assistant director for admissions and public relations, also noted the recognition is something that should be shared with the more than 100 public school districts in the state that have partnered with the Gatton Academy to engage students from 107 Kentucky counties since the program’s inception.

“At the core of its mission, the Gatton Academy acts as an extension of the nearly 200 public high schools is the state of Kentucky,” Alderdice said. “These students excel not only because of the opportunities they have been provided by the Academy but also because of the preparation and experiences they have pursued at the elementary, middle, and early high school level in their home districts.”

The Gatton Academy, which opened in 2007 and is funded by the Kentucky General Assembly, is the commonwealth’s only state-supported residential high school with an emphasis in math and science.  Dr. Roberts added that the announcement is the culmination of over a decade of advocacy to make the program a reality for Kentucky students.

“Fifteen years ago the idea for what has become the Gatton Academy was put forward,” Dr. Roberts said. “Ten years of advocating preceded its opening. Being recognized as the top high school in the country by Newsweek at the conclusion of the Gatton Academy’s fifth year is a dream come true.”

Contact: Corey Alderdice, (270) 705-3632; Dr. Julia Roberts, (270) 745-6480; or Dr. Tim Gott, (270) 745-3605.

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