Kennebunk High School was ranked second among high schools in Maine by U.S. News & World Report, which conducts the annual survey of high schools across the country. Dan King photo

KENNEBUNK — Kennebunk High School is ranked second among Maine high schools for 2020 in the U.S. News & World Report’s annual Best High Schools survey. Greely High School in Cumberland took top honors.

With the No. 2 ranking, Kennebunk High School, which had an enrollment of 717 students when surveyed, moved up considerably from its 11th-ranked position in the state just a year ago.

Regional School Unit 21 officials say Kennebunk’s No. 2 position, out of 125 Maine high schools, is due to hard work by both students and staff.

“Above all, we have a philosophy that we’ll do whatever it takes to help students succeed, assuming that they will, in turn, do whatever it takes along with us,” said KHS principal Sue Cressey. “To that end, we have many supports in place including dedicated faculty and staff who offer extra help before, during and after school, guided study halls, learning centers for regular ed students, and after-school homework help. In addition, National Honor Society students offer peer tutoring during each block in the school library. ”

Cressey said 80 percent of the high school’s students are involved in extracurricular activities and sports — yielding a two-fold benefit.

“They need to do well academically to be eligible, and experience has shown that the busier students are, the better they do in class,” Cressey said.

Interim Assistant Superintendent Meg Parkhurst said she is incredibly proud of the students and staff at the high school.

“The ranking speaks to the dedication of RSU 21 students supported by the engaging and challenging instruction provided by our staff,” Parkhurst said. “KHS has maintained a focus on multiple pathways for students to learn, high levels of engagement in coursework, and extracurriculars that keep students connected to the school and the community. Teachers’ continued dedication to each and every student has paid off in this year’s ranking. The hard work of staff has been further evidenced by their skill and work ethic as they meet student needs in unique ways through distance learning.”

Kennebunk High School is ranked 1,553 out of 17,700 high schools in the country that were surveyed.

According to the U.S. News & World Report, the student/teacher ratio at Kennebunk High School is 12 to 1. Its overall score card is 91.27.

The report noted 54 percent of students took International Baccalaureate courses and exams and that 41 percent passed at least one IB exam. It noted that 58 percent of students are proficient in math, 76 percent in reading and that the graduation rate is 97 percent. The report states that the total minority enrollment is at 8 percent. It noted that 14 percent of students are economically disadvantaged.

In a news story about the 2020 rankings, U.S. News & World Report said it focuses on college readiness, reading and math proficiency, reading and math performance, underserved student performance, college curriculum breadth and graduation rates. The company worked with research firm RTI International to implement the ranking methodology.

The high school ranks first in the state among the 125 high schools in the survey’s college readiness rankings and in the college breadth index, which is based on taking and passing AP and IB exams.

Kennebunk students are seventh in Maine in math and reading proficiency, 28th in math and reading performance, and 12th statewide in graduation rate.

“Our teachers have worked very hard over the last half a dozen years to identify standards and develop common assessments for courses,” said Cressey. “The focus on skills is important; school is more about learning to problem solve, read critically than memorizing content.

“The entire faculty and staff of RSU 21 contribute, from pre-K to grade 12, to help our students succeed. We are also fortunate to have the support of the RSU communities as evidenced by the state-of-the-art facility that they recently built to support our programs.”

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