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Bemidji, Blackduck high schools earn high marks in U.S. News and World Report rankings

BEMIDJI—A pair of Bemidji-area high schools are among the best in the state, according to new U.S. News & World Report rankings released Wednesday.

Bemidji High School is the 50th best in Minnesota and the 2,344th best in the country, according to the longstanding media company. Blackduck High School is ranked 57th in the state and 2,580th nationwide.

U.S. News put together this year's rankings by examining schools' performance on state reading and math assessments, especially among historically underserved students; graduation rates; and how many students sat for and passed an Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate exam.

About a third of Bemidji High Schoolers take an AP test, Principal Brian Stefanich said, and 74 percent of them earned a 3, 4, or 5 on it. That's several percentage points higher than the state and national average, according to Stefanich. The school has an enrollment of about 1,405 students.

"I'm very pleased. I'm excited. It's a testament, like I've always said, to our excellent staff," Stefanich told the Pioneer. "It's not just the high school. It's our Bemidji Middle School, all of our elementary schools, all our staff across the district. And obviously our parents and our students."

In Blackduck, about 33 percent of students participated in AP classes from a school enrollment of about 300.

Mark Lundin, Blackduck's high school principal and superintendent, said the rankings were akin to the top schools with AP programs.

"I don't see how you could possibly make that list if you don't have those offerings at all," Lundin told the Pioneer. Many small schools don't offer many AP classes, he explained, and some students opt for college-level classes in lieu of them. "Obviously, it's great any time they put out these lists if you can be recognized in them. I think you always have to be careful...on what they're actually rating."

Minnesota has seven schools in the top 500, nationally. Cass Lake-Bena High School, Red Lake High School, Laporte High School, TrekNorth Senior High School, and Voyageurs Expeditionary School were all unranked this year.

Twin Cities area schools were at the top for the 72 Minnesota high schools that were listed.

Nova Classical Academy Upper School in St. Paul topped Minnesota's rankings, followed by Orono Senior High School, Long Prairie-Grey Eagle Secondary School, Math and Science Academy in Woodbury and Great River School in St. Paul.

More than 20,500 high schools were evaluated by U.S. News, with 5,948 of them receiving national recognition.

To learn more, visit www.usnews.com/education/best-high-schools.

Joe Bowen

Joe Bowen covers education and health for the Bemidji Pioneer.

He is a Minneapolis native and a 2009 graduate of St. John's University. Before moving to Bemidji, Bowen covered education, local politics, crime, and everything in between for the Perham Focus in Perham, Minnesota, and Sun Newspapers in suburban Minneapolis.

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