By Robb Murray
Free Press Staff Writer
MANKATO — Mankato West High School has been ranked 13th in a recent U.S. News and World Report ranking of Minnesota high schools.
The rankings, released this week, included both national rankings and state-by-state rankings. West ranked 13th, just behind Eden Prairie High School and ahead of Roseville High School.
West Principal Brian Gersich said the school appears to have moved up. In a previous ranking the school came in at about No. 20. West is the only school from the region to crack the top 25.
Northfield came in at 26 and Gibbon Fairfax Winthrop came in at 28. St. Peter was 34 and Fairmont 42. After No. 46, the schools are listed without a ranking.
One of the key factors in the rankings is scores on standardized tests, an area Gersich says is going well for West. “Traditionally, a lot of our test scores have been above the state average,” he said.
Gersich said another main contributor to West’s high ranking is the emphasis the school places on Advanced Placement courses, more commonly known as AP classes.
He said they encouraged more students to enroll in AP classes — in the spring of 2009, 270 AP tests were administered. Last spring, that number jumped to 478. (AP tests are the culmination of a year’s worth of work in an AP class. The score determines what, if any, college credit a student will be able to transfer to a college.)
But it’s not just a matter of more people taking the tests. The pass rate of those tests has remained the same.
Gersich said that even if the scores went down, though, it’s still a good opportunity for students. “Students who take the test are better prepared. And we’ve maintained a level of passing.”
In 2010, 83 percent of Mankato West students received some level of passing grade. In 2011, that number inched up to 84 percent.
Gersich, who insisted any credit should go to the district, said he’s not surprised that the work of the people at West is being recognized.
“We’ve got some great staff and we’ve got teachers who work really hard,” he said. “It’s a validation of the hard work. People sometimes don’t realize how powerful the work is that they’re doing. And I think our kids are buying into the idea that we want them to challenge themselves.”