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City Honors receives a top honor

Newsweek ranks school fourth in the nation

News Staff Reporter
The rigorous college preparatory curriculum at Buffalo's City Honors School has landed it at the head of the class in a Newsweek magazine ranking of the country's top high schools.

Newsweek's 2006 list of "America's Best High Schools" ranks City Honors No. 4 on its list of the nation's 1,000 top schools. The high school rankings are the cover story of the publication's current issue.

At the heart of the magazine's ratings is how well U.S. high schools prepare students for college. The schools were sized up using a formula devised by Newsweek to measure student participation in Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) courses - curriculum that introduces students to a college-level learning experience.

City Honors outscored all other high schools in New York State and is ranked far ahead of any other Western New York high school. Youngstown's Lewiston-Porter High School, at No. 280, was the second-highest-rated local school on the list. Clarence was third among Western New York schools at No. 418.

City Honors Principal William A. Kresse said a Newsweek reporter contacted the school last fall seeking data on participation in its AP and IB courses, but the magazine had not notified him about the survey outcome.

Kresse got the good news "unofficially" while on a Sunday morning walk in Delaware Park.

"A parent spotted me and wife in the park and said they'd just gotten an e-mail from another parent who saw it on the Newsweek Web site," Kresse said, who hurried home to check it out for himself. "It is absolutely exhilarating news for City Honors students, parents and staff."

Nationally, just 30 percent of high school students are exposed to AP courses, and a fraction of that take IB classes. At City Honors, AP courses are mandatory for all 450 students at various points of their high school education, and 30 percent graduate with IB diplomas.

Buffalo School Superintendent James A. Williams said one of his goals is to offer the advanced courses in all city high schools.

"Parents are looking for more rigor and higher expectations, and there are students in every one of our high schools that could benefit from the challenge," Williams said. "This great success at City Honors shows how important it is to expand the concept."

The district will spend some $300,000 in the coming year to instruct teachers on how to teach the demanding courses. The advanced curriculum is slated for introduction at Seneca and East high schools.

Williams and other district officials will join City Honors students, teachers and administrators at the school this morning for a celebration event.

"This is a really big deal and it needs to be celebrated," Williams said.

Talented & Gifted High School in Dallas earned Newsweek's No. 1 ranking, followed by Jefferson County High School of Irondale, Ala., and BASIS Charter High School of Tucson, Ariz.

Kresse, who has served as City Honors principal since last fall, said Buffalo school leadership and past principals deserve the credit for building the magnet school's advanced class offerings. A strong advocate of AP and IB curriculum, who launched similar courses as an assistant principal at Buffalo's South Park High School, Kresse said the challenging classes are beneficial to students in almost any high school setting.

"They work in a small, urban magnet school, like City Honors, but they also work in rural West Virginia and huge suburban high schools," Kresse said. "Every student has a subject they do well in, and if offered the opportunity to challenge themselves, they might begin believing they could go on to college and succeed."

In addition to City Honors, Lewiston-Porter and Clarence, eight other Western New York high schools made the list of the Top 1,000 schools, including: Williamsville East (424); Iroquois Central (568); Amherst Central (631); Williamsville North (655); Sweet Home, in Amherst (762); Grand Island (900); and East Aurora (908).

Orchard Park High School fell just outside the formal ranking at No. 1028.