A unique Akron high school is getting a national honor.
Akron Public Schools' Early College High School has been named a National Blue Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education.
It's one of only two Ohio high schools to get the honor.
The award is given to high performing schools across the country. Akron's Jennings Middle School got the award in the early 1980s, shortly after the program began.
(Akron Public Schools - news release) The Akron Public Schools Early College High School (AECHS) has been named a National Blue Ribbon School by the program bearing the same name. Started in 1982, the National Blue Ribbon Schools Program recognizes schools where students perform at high levels.
The announcement came today from the U.S. Department of Education, which has bestowed the coveted award on more than 7,000 schools now, including Jennings Middle School in the early 1980s. (Read more, and view U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan's announcement at www.ed.gov/nationalblueribbonschools.)
The Blue Ribbon School honor also recognizes schools where significant improvements are being made in students' academic achievement.
"Our students and our staff here are incredible," said Principal Marilyn Bennett. "It is because of the hard work that goes on in this school that our students achieve so much."
A school made up largely of students who are the first generation in their families to attend college, AECHS offers a high school diploma and a two-year degree from The University of Akron upon graduation.
"This school's performance has increased year after year," said Superintendent David W. James. "This is one of our many success stories at APS. And it may be the biggest, best-kept secret about our district. No longer!"
Of Summit County's 25 high schools, AECHS ranks second only to Hudson in performance. Of Ohio's roughly 800 schools, it ranks in the top 13.
"More than half of our students are economically disadvantaged," said Marilyn Bennett. "We have a minority population twice that of the state average. Yet, we outperformed 727 of Ohio's 740 public high schools last year."
Akron Early College, part of Summit College at The University of Akron - and housed in the Polsky Building - bridges secondary and post-secondary education.
"This program really fosters independent students," said Superintendent James. "We see some really ambitious kids here. They attend college classes while getting their diploma. That's a significant amount of work."
At AECHS, students complete six combined years of high school and college instruction in four years. By graduation day, many have attained an associate degree at no cost.
And that, according to the superintendent, is the program's greatest benefit - a cost-free college education. "It's also a terrific motivator," said James. "We couldn't be more proud of what the principal, staff and especially these kids have achieved here. It's wonderful."