The Augusta Chronicle's May 26 editorial, "Happy to repeat ourselves," highlighted three area schools in a recent Newsweek survey of top American high schools. While these schools are to be lauded for their achievement in excellence, the single data point survey was very limited in scope.
Other relevant factors not considered, such as AP scores and inclusion of students dual-enrolled in college level courses (in lieu of AP courses), provides a more complete picture how other schools in the area perform. While Newsweek clearly identified three outstanding area schools, other state and national data clearly demonstrates at least one other area school made the grade as one of the best in America.
The November 29, 2007, U.S News' "America's Best High Schools" ranked high schools nationwide utilizing a Standard and Poor's devised formula. Two Augusta area schools, Davidson Fine Arts and Johnson Health Science and Engineering Magnet Schools were recognized.
Davidson received top honors with a Gold award, while Johnson received the second highest Silver award.
More recently, the nonprofit Magnet Schools of America recognized these same two area schools. In April of 2008, Johnson received the top honors National Magnet School of Excellence award while Davidson received second-highest honors with the National Magnet School of Distinction Award.
ON THE STATE level, Johnson has been ranked the second-, third- and fourth-best high school in the state of Georgia by the Georgia Public Policy Foundation for the school years 2004, 2005, and 2007 (no data available for 2006). With a 100 percent pass rate on 2008 Georgia High School Graduation Test, taken by all high school juniors, similar results are expected in next year's rankings.
The exceptional performance of the school has earned it three Georgia Achievement Platinum Awards and a Blue Ribbon Award.
Although the numbers are impressive, they are only part of the story. Ultimately, what matters most are results after graduation. Here again, Johnson positions its students for success. U.S News' "Best Careers 2008" ranked the top 31 career paths on factors such as job availability, average salary, job satisfaction, and degree required. Nine health-care careers and engineering -- almost one-third of the total -- made the list.
Locally, major employers such as SRS, Vogtle, area hospitals and other industries have an ongoing need for talented professionals in the health science and engineering fields, ensuring ample employment opportunities for Johnson graduates once they've completed their respective college degrees.
UNFORTUNATELY, MOST students pursuing these coveted jobs will fail to earn the necessary college degrees. Design News ' "Crisis in Engineering Education" (March 17, 2008) cites the dismal success rate for engineering students. As stated in the article, fewer than 50 percent of engineering students will successfully complete a four-year degree. Johnson's highly-focused curriculum and exceptional staff ensures students they are well equipped to beat these oppressive odds.
Johnson's accomplishments have not gone unnoticed by the same major employers that will be courting these students after completing their education. MCG has formed a very strong partnership with Johnson, a partnership that brings the expertise of MCG to the classrooms of Johnson and the students of Johnson to the clinics of MCG.
Additionally, Augusta Technical College has established a dual enrollment program for pharmacy majors, providing participating students the opportunity to become certified pharmacy techs after high school graduation. Within the engineering program, the Savannah River Site is well represented on Johnson's Engineering Advisory board, provides work study opportunities for engineering students, and is actively participating in numerous school-sponsored engineering events.
ALTHOUGH NEWSWEEK'S data identified three excellent area schools, their method is far from perfect. U.S News , Magnet Schools of America, the Georgia Public Policy Foundation, and the Georgia Department of Education all agree that A. R. Johnson Health Science and Engineering Magnet High School is a truly remarkable school -- a school offering opportunities in some of the best careers, with strong support from major area employers.
As Johnson adds its middle-school component in the 2009-2010 school year, even more students will have the opportunity to experience this unique, challenging, and highly rewarding school experience.
(Kevin Huffman is principal engineer, Savannah River National Lab, and A.R. Johnson PTSA president-elect.)