US News & World Report released its annual rankings of best high schools Tuesday, declaring Coeur d’Alene Charter Academy takes the top spot among all Idaho high schools.
“It feels awesome for everybody here to be recognized for the work these kids put in everyday,” Principal Dan Nicklay said. “Everybody here has worked incredibly hard.”
The report, which evaluated more than 23,000 schools nationwide, determined its findings based on a number of factors that prepare students toward future success in college. These factors include Advanced Placement opportunities and test scores, state-required tests and assessments, and graduation rates.
Nicklay said that while Charter’s student success is nothing new, receiving recognition from the magazine has been a long time coming.
“For years,” he said, “the State [of Idaho] wouldn’t release our numbers because of their interpretation of privacy laws. Because we were seeing results at or near the 100th percentile, they felt they couldn’t report them because of privacy laws.”
In other words, Nicklay explained, Coeur d’Alene Charter students have done so collectively well over the past four years in certain testing categories, their results couldn’t be reported. For years before that gap, Charter was consistently rated Idaho’s top high school.
“Our school has this college prep mission,” he told The Press. “Everything we do is geared toward success in post-secondary education … We believe in homework. When kids go off to college, they’ll have to work independently at home. Our kids come out of here knowing how to budget their time and work independently. Our kids are college-ready from the get-go.”
The study is an annual project in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics and the nonprofit research firm RTI International.
Coeur d’Alene Charter earned a 98.64 score out of 100, boosted by a 99 percent graduation rate for its 301 students.
Overall, Coeur d’Alene Charter ranked 56th in charter high schools nationwide and 234th in all high schools nationwide.
The rankings weigh college readiness as the most important, followed by math and reading proficiency and performance, underserved student performance, the spectrum of AP students and graduation rates.
While Idaho ranked 43rd of 50 states and the District of Columbia with only three Idaho schools in the top 5 percent and 17 in the top 25 percent nationwide, Nicklay emphasized those rankings skew Idaho’s real educational potential.
“Idaho is not New Jersey,” Nicklay added. “It’s not Illinois. The huge percentage of high schools here are 1A. They’re very small, in comparison to other states. So take one of these smaller schools [for example]. Say you’ve got five kids there who would rock those AP classes. But the school can’t afford to provide an AP class for those five kids. The huge majority of schools are never going to be in the running, even though their kids are outstanding academically. “In that regard, Idaho’s ranking as 43rd is misleading. We’re far better than that report shows.”