Maquoketa Valley High School in Delhi has cracked the top 10 list of Iowa high schools in rankings put out by U.S. News and World Report earlier this spring.
The school is ranked sixth and is the smallest school in enrollment in the top 10. Decorah is ranked first, followed by Pleasant Valley, Iowa City West, West Des Moines Valley and Ames. Maquoketa Valley comes in ahead of Williamsburg, Gilbert, Ankeny Centennial and Cedar Rapids Kennedy.
U.S. News and World Report takes in several factors in their rankings. Maquoketa Valley, with an enrollment of 204 students, has a graduation rate of 100%, tying them for first in the state. The district has a math proficiency rate of 86% and a reading proficiency rate of 89%. The combined math and reading proficiency rate put them in a tie for first in the national rankings as well as the state rankings.
In addition, 25% of the students participate of advanced placement courses.
Administrators in the district praised the work students and staff have done to earn the ranking.
“We are extremely proud of our staff and students,” said high school principal Troy Osterhaus. “We are also extremely proud of the support our parents and communities provide for us. Having all those pieces together leads to the type of success we are having, not just this year, but in years past.”
Superintendent Dave Hoeger said the district’s size is an advantage when it comes to helping kids succeed. “A school this size provides a lot of opportunities for kids. It’s easier for us to not let kids fall through the cracks. We really focus on each one of them.”
With a piece of the rankings coming from results of standardized tests like the Iowa Assessments, Hoeger said the results mean the students are taking the tests seriously and putting forth their best effort.
“You can have all the educational programs that are perfect, but if you get to the tests and the kids don’t try, you won’t have any success. The fact our kids rank so well means that they bought into our culture of trying to do your best and really perform on the test.”
Hoeger also said students at Maquoketa Valley know the staff cares about their well-being, something Osterhaus said begins first thing each morning.
“It starts with the environment in the building,” he said. “When kids walk in and they feel welcomed, they know people care about them. Our staff wants the best for them. When you have that climate and culture, that positive learning environment, that helps tremendously.”
Osterhaus said it’s important to provide programs students are interested in. “It’s important that we are offering kids the opportunity to do things they have interests in, that they want to excel at or to see where their skill sets are to determine what they may want to do in the future. When you can tie all those pieces together, you can find ways to motivate students to do well in a class they may not be as motivated in just because of the relationships and the environment you have in your building. That’s the part that has really helped us propel to the level we are at right now.”
Osterhaus said the district will continue to work to help all students. “With a ranking like this, I think we have to be reflective. What do we still need to do to meet the needs of our students? How can we improve, how can we provide all of our students (with) opportunities to excel in their areas of interest?”
Western Dubuque High School ranked 18th, with a graduation rate of 98%. With 902 students in high school, Western Dubuque has a math proficiency ranking of 83% and a reading proficiency ranking of 86%. In addition, 19% of students participate in advanced placement courses.
Superintendent Rick Colpitts said the rankings support the work he sees administrators, teachers and support staff do every day.
“I think it’s a reflection of what we do in the district. We do a great job of educating our kids. That report takes in a lot of different factors. Part of it is students’ readiness for college. I think it demonstrates what we do to help kids prepare for life beyond school. I’m proud of that, but at the same time we have more work to do and we will continue to work hard at that.”