August 9, 2017 10:44:47 AM
The Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science ranked eighth in the nation and first in Mississippi on the niche.com Best Public High Schools list for 2018.
Niche.com uses reviews and analytics from the U.S. Department of Education to rank the best places to live and go to school all over the country. It also provides information on test scores, teacher-student ratio, graduation rates and other categories by both school district and individual school.
MSMS is a residential public high school for gifted 11th and 12th graders from all over Mississippi. The school enrolls up to 235 students each year and emphasizes instruction in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
The school's staff was "ecstatic" to learn about the newly released 2018 rankings, Executive Director Germain McConnell said.
"It's great for the state of Mississippi," McConnell said. "I think all of Mississippi should be proud of this accomplishment."
Of the seven schools ahead of MSMS nationally, only two -- Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Virginia and Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy -- have a specifically math, science and technology focus. Niche also ranked MSMS No. 5 among best magnet schools in the country.
Though MSMS is a math and science school, McConnell said the faculty works to ensure the students are challenged in all areas, not just STEM fields. McConnell the school has a distinct advantage over many nationwide by being residential. But he mainly credited the school's dedicated staff and talented students with making the school one of the best in the country.
"If you look at (the rankings) ... our faculty are rated No. 1," he said. "I would say we're a great faculty and staff. It matters what happens. It matters that our (teachers) can take these really bright students and challenge them."
McConnell said the rankings, and particularly the national rankings, show the potential of Mississippi students.
"We are an extension of other high schools throughout the state of Mississippi," he said. "... We are just a small sample of the great students in (this state)."
Of the more than 200 Mississippi public high schools niche.com, three Golden Triangle campuses ranked among the top 50 in the state. Lowndes County School District's Caledonia and New Hope high schools ranked 36th and 47th, respectively, and Starkville High School ranked 41st. No other Golden Triangle schools were in the top 85.
Robin Ballard, assistant superintendent of Lowndes County School District, said she's aware of many websites like niche.com that grade and rank schools and neighborhoods. But she is pleased to see the grade the website gave the schools more or less matched the Mississippi Department of Education's assessment of them.
"We're pretty proud of these high school rankings," she said.
Caledonia received an overall B+ grade from the website and was listed as 12 out of 226 in the best college prep public high schools in Mississippi. New Hope also received a B+ but was listed in eighth place among the best college prep schools. However it lagged behind Caledonia in reading and math proficiency.
Starkville received an overall B+ grade and was ranked 45th out of more than 200 for best public high school teachers in Mississippi.
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