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Central Kitsap High: We’re number 297!

Central Kitsap High School can now claim to be among the top 300 schools in the country.

That assertion comes courtesy of Newsweek magazine’s recently released annual ranking of the top 1,300 schools in the United States.

The ranking is the highest yet for CKHS, which has been named on the list every year since 2000.

“This is the best ranking we’ve ever had,” CKHS Principal John Cervinsky said. “It’s a lot of pride with us.”

The school’s former high watermark came last year, when it landed at No. 419. Of the 22 other Washington state schools on the 2008 list, CKHS ranked sixth.

CKHS’s Advanced Placement Coordinator Jay Jackson attributed the leap to the school’s wide-open AP class offerings.

“Where our program has been different from other districts is we let anyone who wants to take the course try,” Jackson said.

Newsweek’s rankings are compiled according to the ratio of the number of AP, International Baccalaureate or Cambridge tests taken at a school, divided by the number of graduating seniors at that school.

Some schools and school districts restrict AP classes based on academic performance, but that’s not the case in the Central Kitsap School District.

A little more than 10 years ago, a district committee met to discuss ways to raise standards among students “who are motivated and have good skills,” Jackson said. “After that committee met, we started down the road of taking down the gates (to testing) ... and little by little, our numbers rose.”

Just less than 400 students took the AP test last year and Jackson estimated more than 400 would be taking it this year.

AP testing is optional for kids in AP programs, but CKHS students have turned out fairly enthusiastically to the tune of 90 percent.

Of the roughly 400 in last year’s AP testing pool — the same pool that landed CKHS in the top 300 — 83 percent scored a three or better out of a possible five points.

What may come as a surprise is that its not really the teachers who are pushing CKHS’s kids to jump into AP classes.

“There has been some encouragement (from teachers and staffers) ... but I think the best encouragement has been from other students who have been in those courses and found success,” Cervinsky said.

Perhaps unsurprisingly then, credit for the ranking is being spread well enough around. Cervinsky gave a nod to the many teachers, administrators and volunteers at CKHS and its respective feeder schools, while Jackson hinted that a robust tutoring program might have something to do with students’ AP successes.

Like many schools in the district, CKHS students have had the benefit of before and after school tutors to help them with whatever they need.

“That’s irrespective of AP, but the AP kids do take advantage of that,” Jackson said.

Some recently went on a marathon run, staying at school until about 9 p.m. the night before AP testing, Cervinsky added.

There aren’t any plans to use the Newsweek ranking as a selling point for prospective new students, but CKHS can for the time being rest secure in its unique spot in the district.

“We don’t have to sell it — people see the advantage of it,” Jackson said.

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