Limestone’s Maine School of Science and Mathematics ranked 38th in nation by US News & World Report

Luke Shorty, executive director of the Maine School and
Science and Mathematics, is surrounded by students and staff at the
Limestone magnet school in a recent photo.
Jessica Baker
Luke Shorty, executive director of the Maine School and Science and Mathematics, is surrounded by students and staff at the Limestone magnet school in a recent photo.
Posted May 10, 2012, at 8:47 p.m.
Last modified May 10, 2012, at 9:06 p.m.

LIMESTONE, Maine — A 17-year-old magnet school in Limestone that has racked up countless accolades since it first opened has another award in its trophy case.

The Maine School of Science and Mathematics announced earlier this week that U.S. News & World Report ranked the establishment as the 38th best high school in the nation. The ranking, which includes nearly 22,000 schools in 49 states and the District of Columbia, measures how well schools prepare students for college and how well they serve disadvantaged students. The publication also ranked MSSM the nationʼs ninth best magnet school, the second best magnet school in New England and Maine’s top high school.

“We were very honored to receive the recognition,” Luke Shorty, a 1998 MSSM graduate and now executive director at the school, said Thursday. “We have been recognized since 2007. It is not something we always expect, but we acknowledge the ranking, are proud of it and it is a wonderful testament to the strength of the students and staff here.”

The Limestone school caters to students in grades 10 through 12 from approximately 81 Maine communities. A handful of the 103 students are from out of state. The maximum enrollment is 142 students.

The majority of students live in residence halls on campus.

To rank the schools, the publication uses a number of factors including test scores, proficiency in reading and math, setting and type of school. U.S. News & World Report calculated a College Readiness Index based on exam participation rates and percentages of students passing at least one exam. The magnet school had a CRI of 92.2 percent. Data showed that 81 percent of the students who take Advanced Placement classes at MSSM pass them. On the Maine High School Assessment test, 60 percent of the students exceeded the standards in reading and 37 percent met the standards. No student failed to meet the standards. Thirty-seven percent exceeded the MHSA math standards and 63 percent met the standards. No one failed to meet the standards.

The curriculum at MSSM includes AP courses in physics, English literature and statistics, among others. After the fall semester and winter break, the students embark on a 10-day January term, popularly known as the “J Term,” where they dedicate themselves to a particular course or project. Their undertakings have included traveling to foreign countries and embarking on internships at laboratories and research facilities.

The school was recognized as the 35th best high school in the nation by U.S. News & World Report in 2007, making it one of only 100 high schools to earn a gold medal. Last October, the magnet school was recognized by U.S. News & World Report as the 14th best math and science high school out of about 600 in the nation. In 2008, it was ranked No. 12 on the list of America’s Best High Schools by the publication.

The school’s dropout rate tends to be 10 percent or lower, depending on the year, according to school figures. Most of those who leave the school do so because of homesickness or inability to keep up with the rigorous academic pace.

Tuition is free to Maine residents but they are charged a room and board fee, which is set at $7,950 for the 2012-2013 academic year. The nonresident cost for tuition, room and board is set at $38,850 for the 2012-2013 academic year.

Shorty said that the school has a number of programs in place to help students succeed and develop excellent study habits, including a two-hour mandatory study time five evenings a week in which quiet is enforced in the residence halls. The school also has expanded the number of AP classes it offers to students.

Shorty said he is not sure if the U.S. News & World Report rankings have increased admission at the school, but making the list “certainly has not hindered it.”

The school already has seen an increase in applications for the next school year, and is still accepting incoming students.

For information about the Maine School of Science and Mathematics, visit www.mssm.org.

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