Baldwin High School given bronze rating by 'U.S. News and World Report'

BALDWIN — As the staff of Baldwin High School prepares to send the class of 2015 on to bigger and better things, they have received some recognition to show they are on the right track: a bronze rating from U.S. News and World Report.

Each year, the publication makes a list of the best public high schools in America, and awards schools a gold, silver or bronze award if they are achieving above-average results. Baldwin Community Schools Superintendent Stiles Simmons said the rating shows the progress the district has made over the last five years.

'We have a significant number of students achieving above the state average compared to their peers from other school districts," said Simmons. "It's extremely gratifying because it validates the hard work done by our students and staff as well as our community and parents."

Of the 29,000 public high schools U.S. News and World Report looked at throughout the country, only 6,500 achieved a gold, silver or bronze rating. Simmons noted for Baldwin to receive higher than a bronze rating the district needed to offer certain amount of advanced placement courses.

"We are going to begin offering our second AP course next year, so we are on our way," said Simmons. "We want to keep growing. Offering more advanced classes is one of the ways we want to do that."

This is the second year in a row Baldwin High School earned this honor. Although the publication noted their standards are slightly less stringent than last year, Simmons said this does not negate the award, and their inclusion last year means the Baldwin community can hold their own with the best in the country.

Simmons credits their recent success to a number of factors but he singled out the work done by the Baldwin Promise program, which encourages students to continue their education beyond high school, provides them with the resources to explore their options and helps pay for college for several students.

"With the advent of the Baldwin Promise, the community gave their stamp of approval and said 'We want better for our students and our schools and whatever we need to do to achieve that needs to happen,'" said Simmons. "This put the Board of Education in a position to transform the academic programs, culture, climate and overall operations of the district."

Simmons credits these measures for making the school worthy of recognition by U.S. News and World Report. The addition of the Baldwin Promise and the increased involvement of the community led to changes to the curriculum (notably their shift towards what's known as the "common core" model), an improved system of accountability for both teachers and students and additional college preparedness both in and out of the classroom.

"This is a manifestation of our work with the Lake County Community Foundation, the Baldwin Rotary Club and the Baldwin Promise Authority," said Simmons. "This is everyone coming together and saying they want something better for our kids."