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A handful of Rock County and Walworth County schools rank among the best in the nation, according to annual high school rankings released today by U.S. News & World Report.

The media company ranked 17,245 high schools nationwide.

Of those, five area schools made it into the top 30%. They include Williams Bay, No. 833; Elkhorn, No. 2,008; Beloit Turner, No. 2,573; East Troy, No. 3,884; and Milton, No. 4,095.

Janesville’s Craig High School ranked 5,297, and Parker High School was 7,810.

To see the complete list, visit the U.S. News & World Report website.

U.S. News & World Report based its rankings on six weighted factors, including college readiness, 30%; reading and math proficiency, 20%; reading and math performance, 20%; underserved student performance, 10%; breadth of college curriculum, 10%; and graduation rates, 10%.

Reading and math proficiency is based solely on state tests. Reading and math performance is also based on state tests, but the score is also compared with what U.S. News predicted for a particular school with its demographic characteristics in its state, according to a news release from U.S. News.

“There is a very positive statistical relationship between the proportion of its student body that is black, Hispanic and/or from a low-income household … and a school’s results on state assessments. Schools performing best on this ranking indicator are those whose assessment scores far exceeded U.S. News’ modeled expectation,” the release states.

Williams Bay High School frequently has done well in the rankings, school district Superintendent Wayne Anderson said.

Anderson cited great teachers, small class sizes, diligent attention to graduation rates and community support as the primary reasons the district—and the high school—excel.

“Small class sizes has been something our school board has always stressed,” Anderson said.

Four-year-old kindergarten classes have a teacher-pupil ratio of 15 to 1, and all have teachers’ aides. Five-year-old kindergarten through fifth-grade classes have a teacher-pupil ratio of 20 to 1. High school classes are also close to 20 to 1, he said.

Smaller class sizes are good for academics and help teachers get to know their students, he said. Tutoring and additional math and reading assistance in the early grades get students ready for more rigorous standards in high school.

“The community has always had high expectations of the schools,” Anderson said.

At the same time, residents have been willing to give the district what it needs, he said.

“When we needed a new elementary school, the community stepped forward,” he said.

Jerry Schuetz, director of operations for the Milton School District, said several factors helped the district perform well in the rankings.

“We have an amazing staff,” Schuetz said. “The teachers are very dedicated; they engage students and families on an individual level.”

The district is committed to “academic rigor,” Schuetz said, but it’s the teachers’ relationships with students that make the difference.

Schuetz has two children at the high school, so he also speaks from a parent’s perspective.

“The teachers care so much about the students,” he said. “They care about the students’ academic success, their social success and their well-being. That’s the kind of environment where students are going to be successful.”

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