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Attleboro High on 'Challenging Schools' List

The school is ranked 48th in Massachusetts and 1,947th in the nation

The Washington Post's recently published list of "America's Most Challenging High Schools" includes Attleboro High. The school was ranked 48th in Massachusetts and 1,947th in the nation, placing it among the top 10 percent of schools in the United States.

The Post ranked schools based on a formula that took the number of Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate and Advanced International Certificate of Education tests given at a school each year divided by the number of seniors who graduated that year.

"We're very proud of this," said Attleboro High principal Bill Runey in a press release issued by the school district. "Anytime that you can show that your rigor and high expectations put your school into an elite category, it validates the efforts of the students, the teachers, and the families. This also gives credibility to our philosophy that taking challenging courses is beneficial even if the qualifying score isn't attained."

Superintendent Pia Durkin said the school's inclusion on the list represents a significant milestone. 

"Seven years ago, Attleboro High School was not fully accredited and only 70 students were participating in a limited offering of Advanced Placement courses," she said. "Today, over 400 students, nearly one quarter of the entire student body, representing the full spectrum of diversity in our community, are taking and succeeding in a broad array of AP courses."

She added, "Our AP work has not only benefitted our high school students to seek deeper and wider college opportunities, but has also served as motivation and more rigorous learning in our elementary and middle schools."

Go here to see the Post's information about Attleboro High.

Larry Rose May 03, 2013 at 11:45 AM
Thank you Dr. Durkin for a job well done. It is too bad we don't have a School Committee that recognizes what you have done in this city. But alas, we the voters will have our say.
sally096 May 03, 2013 at 01:14 PM
I couldn't agree more Larry
Rob Geddes May 03, 2013 at 01:34 PM
This is great! In looking at the list, the only other public schools that are nearby were Bellingham, Hopkinton, Sharon and Dedham. I also noticed that a number of the 47 in Massachusetts that ranked higher than Attleboro were chart/private/college prep schools. Great job AHS!
Theresa Richard May 03, 2013 at 01:45 PM
This is great news and a testament to the great work Pia Durkin has done with our school system, it is a definite shame she won't be returning. I also agree with you Larry! Mr. Sheehan has some big shoes to fill.....
Rob Machado May 03, 2013 at 02:31 PM
Congratulations to Attleboro Public Schools Shame on the school committee for forcing out Ms. Durkin because they didn't care for her management style. As a parent with a child in APS I am anxious to see if the district will revert to accepting mediocrity and sub par performance as par for the course. Yes--Durkin's mgmt style aside, she led the way to district wide improvement and secured AHS accreditation. There is no doubt her leadership led to the departure of personnel, some well liked and popular among parents, but ask yourself is it more important to coddle teachers or maintain excellence for our children? In the real world employees pay for sub par performance. AHS didn't lose accreditation status in a single year but as a cumulative result of years of ineffective leadership.
Ken Tenglin May 03, 2013 at 02:44 PM
Great job by the faculty and staff at AHS. Great job Dr. Durkin. I guess our schools reputation is far better than some would have us believe.
Jerry Chase May 03, 2013 at 03:12 PM
I believe that the simple ratio, from the Washington Post and adopted by the Attleboro Public Schools, used to assert a worthy status, is MISLEADING. It is misleading because this simple ratio, the number of Advanced Placement college-level tests taken by AHS students, divided by the number of seniors that graduate, says nothing about the success rate in such tests locally. Further, this simple ratio is easily "padded" by all sorts of 'encouragement' to participate, " . . and don't worry if you do not earn a sufficient score for college credit." The number of seniors that graduate won't change a whole lot for a given year; but all the administration has to do is get more and more students to take these AP tests for the "system's ratio" to "improve". If this ratio was properly adjusted by a factor which expresses the percent of students who earn a "3" or better, then the statistic would really mean something. As it is, is an unfair over-simplification which obfuscates the truth. Let's aim for accuracy in objectively assessing performance, please.
Stephen V. Kane May 03, 2013 at 04:14 PM
On the methodology its author Jay Mathews writes, "I decided not to count passing rates in this way because I found that most high schools kept those rates artificially high by allowing only top students to take the courses. In other instances, they opened the courses to everyone but encouraged only the best students to take the tests." So the index author accounted for this, specifically intended to set the index according to numbers of test-taking experience, believing it was in itself significant. Congratulations to Mrs. Durkin and best wishes in all her future endeavors leading young people on the road to excellence.
Paul Plato May 03, 2013 at 04:54 PM
@Stephen - you took the words out of my mouth. @Jerry - sign up for an AP course yourself to learn how to COMPREHEND so as not to be MISLED. The author and the district were transparent. We need to show the children of Attleboro that we believe in them! No one from the schools seems to be doing anything to the contrary by spreading this exciting news.
Paul Plato May 03, 2013 at 04:56 PM
If you read the article, you will note that the Xaverian's and the Feehan's of the world will never make this list because they are elitist and report 95% qualifying scores from a sample size that is INTENTIONALLY miniscule.
Janice Mattson McKearney May 03, 2013 at 05:23 PM
I'm not sure it's so misleading...encouraging them to take the test means they were encouraged to take the course. And the AP courses ARE in fact, challenging. I don't see anyone just choosing to take an AP course for the heck of it if they didn't care about it....If they didn't care they would just take the standard level course and sail through. Even if they didn't score a 3 or 4 I've got to believe they were 'challenged' and got more out of the AP class than the standard classes....and AP class participation means everything on a college application. It IS a good thing for Attleboro and I attribute the success to Pia Durkin. She's been wonderful for our schools and I'm sorry to see her go.
Jerry Chase May 03, 2013 at 08:30 PM
Janice, I did not say that taking the AP tests were a bad thing. Indeed, it does serve a good purpose, by conveying the message to the student as to what will be required at a higher level. Paul Plato, I served a term on the local school committee in the 1990s, after I spent most of the evenings in the 1980s earning a business degree at a nearby university, graduating with (external) honors. Stephen, my point was a very NARROW one: that it's easy to "pump up" a ratio by raising the number on the top. For hypothetical example in pure math, 40 divided by 6 is higher than 30 divided by 6. I have heard claims locally that AHS "pushes" TAKING the tests. What I want to know is the RATE OF PASSING said tests, which is what really indicates 'advanced learning'. BTW, my son was AHS, '97, national honor society & diploma of academic distinction; and I'm just as proud of him as his younger brother who was the last high school graduate of Hamilton Country Day. To each his or her own, and peace to all of good will.
A May 03, 2013 at 09:46 PM
Yes great job Attleboro faculty and students! Congrats! Sad to see Dr. Durkin leave soon. She has done a remarkable job improving our school system.
Duff White May 04, 2013 at 01:16 AM
Jerry: has anyone in the city of Attleboro ever done anything right in your eyes? Let's say that the results are "padded" as you say, there must be thousands of schools doing the same thing nationwide or else, the padding would make Attleboro number one nationally. And I am sure that all of the students who have busted their tails to undertake the challenge of AP courses and the like appreciate your demeaning their accomplishments. Not everything in the world is a conspiracy, not everyone is someone else's pawn and sometimes, good things are the result of hard work and desire by the collective. Congratulations to all who have worked to gain such recognition.
Jerry Chase May 04, 2013 at 05:14 PM
Duff White: I am not critiquing the local public schools----I am critiquing the adoption of a poorly-designed measurement, a ratio, promulgated by the liberal Washington Post newspaper. It is a flawed premise. Thus, I am merely critiquing adoption of a ratio or percentage that is misleading. Period. A more salient 'standard' would be the number of successfully passed AP tests divided by the number of graduates: that would indicate success in learning----not success in increasing the number of those simply taking the tests. It's just my opinion. All are free to have theirs. Note, however, that I am NOT criticizing Duff White. So, let's keep the focus on "things" instead of people and personalities. Peace to all of good will.
Amy May 04, 2013 at 09:11 PM
This is great news! Just wish our kids had a better facility to learn in.
Larry Rose May 05, 2013 at 12:52 PM
Amy, it is not the building, it is the quality of teachers. I would rather pay teachers and get a higher quality of teachers.
DebEgan May 13, 2013 at 03:30 AM
I hate to agree with Jerry. What a stupid way to say a school is challenging. Take the number of ap tests and divide by the number of graduating students. Stupid! Any school district could make this list if all they cared about was the status. Just throw more kids into ap even if you know they are not ready for the class. Force them to take the test like Attleboro does. So what if one out of ten or one out of five students aren't ready for this level. So what if those students will drag down the class or will do worse in their other classes or will have breakdowns because of the undue stress. So what if it lessons the meaning of ap in Attleboro! And colleges will know that Attleboro's ap means nothing because too many students are forced into it. Or colleges will know that Attleboro ap is only a good thing if the student got the 3 or 4 like Jerry said! I now see that making this list is a bad thing cause it shows Attleboro and Mrs.Durkin cares more about this status then the kids! This has to change for the kids even at the risk of losing this status next year!

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