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U.S. News and World Report ranks Sheffield High #2 in Shoals Metro area

burch Sheffield High School (SHS) has nabbed the title as one of the best schools in the Shoals area, according to a report published by U.S. News and World Report.

The local high school is listed as No. 2 out of 14 area schools on the report, only coming behind Muscle Shoals High School, which received the top mark.

The school is ranked above (listed by place number) Cherokee High, Lauderdale County High in Rogersville, Brooks High in Killen, Lexington School, Central High in Florence, Waterloo High, Colbert County High in Leighton, Colbert Heights High and Deshler High, both in Tuscumbia, and Rogers High, Florence High and Wilson High, all in Florence.

The list, found on usnews.com, highlights Sheffield High’s 88% graduation rate, 20.6 college readiness score, an enrollment of 283 students and a teacher-student ratio of 12:1.

For its 2020 school report, U.S. News graded 17,245 high schools nationwide and assigned rankings based on overall grades, which are calculated weighing a school’s college readiness, college curriculum breadth, math and reading proficiency, math and reading performance, underserved student performance and graduation rate.

While the report is an exciting feat for the local high school, SHS Principal Joey Burch says there is no mystery as to why the school placed as well as it did.

“This is all just reflecting the good things we’ve been doing for some time,” Burch said.

The Sheffield High principal said reports like this are especially encouraging as they help dispel some common notions that the Sheffield School System is somehow inferior in the Shoals area.

Burch said he doesn’t believe there were overnight changes in policies at the high school that resulted in these successes. Instead, he says strong principals and effective practices implemented over the last few years are simply beginning to produce fruit--fruit that is evident in data and official reports as well.

In its most recent school report card for the 2018-2019 school year, Sheffield High saw its overall grade improve a letter grade to a B.

The grade report issued by the Alabama Department of Education shows that its grade improved by seven points last year, from a 75 for 2017-2018 to an 82.

The school also saw level-grade improvements in its academic growth score and graduation rate. Academic growth improved from an 83 last year to a 98. The graduation rate rose from 86% to 92%.

Burch noted the high school is in its third year of receiving aid through an A+ College Ready grant, which has provided enhanced training for high school teachers, financial assistance to pay for student testing and support for the school’s Advanced Placement (AP) courses.

The school has also focused on building opportunities for students to earn trade credentials, Burch said. Sheffield High career tech students have begun earning trade credentials through the school programs, helping to increase the school’s report card scores.

The college and career readiness rate at the high school improved in 2019, increasing from 74% during the previous year to 76% last year. The school scored a 71% in the category in 2016.

One of the biggest areas for improvement at the high school was in attendance.

The school was able to slash its chronic absenteeism rate from 33% in 2018 to just 18% in 2019.

“We focused on getting our students here and making the effort to be creative and reward our students for attendance,” Burch said.

The principal said one of these steps to improve attendance has been simply feeding students when their attendance is in good standing.

Burch also said a concerted effort to improve communication with parents about their students and using the resources available through the court system when truancy needs to be formally addressed has been used.

“It’s never just one group or one person doing it, it’s everybody involved,” Burch said. “Our teachers are really committed to working with students. Our students have bought-in--the same with the parents and the community. We also have support from our board and superintendent.”

Even with the recent accolades, Burch said that he is still keeping an eye on improvement and would like to see the high school earn an A letter grade on its next school report card.