In the 2011 Best American High Schools rankings conducted by NEWSWEEK*, Poolesville High is ranked first in the state and 64th overall among the top 500 high schools across the country. As one of the oldest high schools in Montgomery County, it is also the only “whole school magnet,” which was created in 2006. This close-knit, Western Montgomery County community offers diverse global perspectives, while challenging its students through real-world and tangible learning experience.
“The information released in NEWSWEEK is based off of data from 2010 – our first graduating class from the magnet program,” says Billie Bradshaw, Magnet Coordinator at Poolesville High School. “The information and rankings will continuously increase in the years to come, not only in the County and State, but also nationwide.”
With four areas of concentration, Poolesville High School is much like a college campus; students take general classes the first two years and focus on areas of interest the second two years. They have the option to choose between Global Ecology, Humanities, Independent Studies, or Science, Math and Computer Science. The whole school model engages and challenges students selected through an application process, as well as local school students interested in a magnet focus area. One student notes, “It’s not a competitive environment; people are competitive with themselves- not each other.”
“We tap into Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory; first is a need of food and shelter; and second is a sense for belonging,” says Bradshaw. “
he difference here from the other schools in County and State is a sense of belonging for all students. The bottom line is, we set out to make sure that there are opportunities for all students.”
Principal Deena Levine explains that the programs and coursework are challenging, authentic and rigorous at every grade level. Using real world examples and problems, students are constantly engaged and stimulated. Whether it’s setting the crime scene for a forensics class or developing a new product and sales pitch for a technical education class, teachers at Poolesville H.S. work with students to teach them how to become creative and enjoy the challenge of problem-solving through these real world assignments. Levine explains, “It’s very welcoming, very open and encouraging for new students. Building relationships and building friendships are key components to success of what we offer at Poolesville.”
Among the smaller schools in Montgomery County, teachers are able to focus on helping each student succeed in whatever area of study they are passionate about. The unique types of course work and programs help students prepare for entry-level college classes.
“There is a very contagious enthusiastic energy that these students exhibit for the school,” says Emily Sigman, head of the Humanities magnet program at Poolesville H.S. “They love it here.” Earlier in 2011, Poolesville H.S. was ranked 69th out of more than 27,000 schools in the National High School Challenge Rankings conducted by the Washington Post. In addition, the school ranks 4th out of more than 170 Washington, DC-area public high schools.