King Kekaulike High School was ranked the third best public high school in Hawaii and awarded a silver medal by U.S. News & World Report as part of its 2014 Best High Schools rankings.
The Pukalani school with about 1,030 students had a college readiness score of 20.3 - about six points higher than the state average of 14.4. The readiness score is based on Advanced Placement exam participation rates and the percentage of students passing at least one exam, which could lead to college credit, according to the publication.
Nearly 40 percent of students at the school took the AP test and 35 percent passed, the survey said.
The score also determined which types of medals - gold, silver or bronze - were awarded to top-performing schools.
"I'm happy because it's validation for what our staff and students are doing every day," Principal Susan Scofield said. "I appreciate the teachers and students because I think that is the heart of education. All their hard work is being recognized."
Kalani High School was ranked first in the state followed by McKinley High School. Waialua High and Intermediate School ranked fourth. All three schools, which are on Oahu, received silver medals.
Kihei Charter School was the only other Maui County school to be recognized by the publication and was awarded a bronze medal, though unranked.
Kekaulike placed 1,860 out of the nation's 4,707 highest-scoring schools. In comparison, Kalani ranked 1,009th and boasted a college readiness score of 34.8.
Kekaulike received a score of 2.8 for reading proficiency, or finding 71 percent of 283 students tested exceeding and meeting proficiency levels. The school garnered a score of 2.5 for math proficiency - 54 percent of 279 students exceeding and meeting proficiency levels.
Statewide proficiency for reading and math were 69 and 41 percent, respectively. The proficiency rating is determined by students' results on the Hawaii Content & Performance Standards III test, according to the publication.
Scofield said she has not looked too deeply into the rankings, and that the variations in proficiency levels between Hawaii schools is not too wide. However, she was thankful for the school's designation, which has "invested heavily into math and reading."
"We've added an emphasis in our curriculum for reading and writing, especially in the realm of college readiness," she said. "There's been an all-out effort with (state Department of Education) schools toward college readiness, and it has been our mantra for the last couple years from K-12."
Kekaulike still has a long way to go to reach the upper echelon of schools, such as top-ranked School for the Talented and Gifted in Dallas. The gold-medal school scored a 100 in college readiness - a score shared by the top 15 schools in the survey.
Scofield said her school is on the right track due to the state DOE becoming more of an "evidence-based organization."
"As a system, everyone has become more data focused in determining how we can impact the data more positively, which helps with student performance," she said.
Scofield added that the school has provided more meetings at night for parents to help guide them through the college application process.
"It's really not well thought out by most families, even though it is a huge investment," she said. "I'm happy that my counselors have met with parents and provide information to them because there's a lot of information out there that they explain to them in layman's terms."
Kekaulike's silver medal follows last year's bronze medal and recognition as one of the most academically challenging high schools in the nation by the Washington Post. The Upcountry school ranked ninth out of nine Hawaii public and private schools that made the cut in that survey.
The U.S. News & World Report's Best High Schools rankings and data offer the most comprehensive information available on public high schools in the nation, according to its website. The 2014 edition includes profiles on more than 19,400 high schools.
The Hawaii rankings can be found at www.usnews.com/education/best-high-schools/hawaii/districts/hawaii-public-schools. The national rankings can be found at www.usnews.com/education/best-high-schools/national-rankings.
* Chris Sugidono can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.