By Olga Peña

Killeen Daily Herald

It was a pleasant surprise.

Killeen High School was listed in Newsweek's annual report of top public high schools in America, and the school's principal was more than happy to receive the good news.

"I can't even describe it," Principal Michael Sibberson said of his reaction. "We've worked so hard together as a staff to make the kids really step up to the plate for us. You want to see something that gives you a signal that we're doing it right."

Killeen High was listed as number 723 in a list of the 1,300 top public high schools in the nation in the report released last week.

Newsweek takes the total number of Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate or Cambridge tests given at a school, and divides by the number of seniors graduating in May or June.

All public schools that Newsweek researchers Dan Brillman and Gina Pace found that achieved a ratio of at least 1.000 – meaning they had as many tests in 2007 as they had graduates – are on the list.

Sibberson said Newsweek asked for data, which the school submitted around Christmas 2007.

He said Killeen High is an International Baccalaureate School with advanced courses and AVID participation. Sibberson noted that the school is also an AVID national demonstration school, which means other schools interested in implementing the program can tour KHS to see a good example.

Newsweek editors state on their Web site that their top school distinction is unique in that it focuses on advanced course participation rather than actual test scores.

"AP, IB and Cambridge are important because they give average students a chance to experience the trauma of heavy college reading lists and long, analytical college examinations. Studies by U.S. Department of Education senior researcher Clifford Adelman in 1999 and 2005 showed that the best predictors of college graduation were not good high-school grades or test scores, but whether or not a student had an intense academic experience in high school," states the Newsweek Web site.

Sibberson, who has been KHS principal for six years, said he is very proud of the continued growth of students enrolling in advanced placement courses.

He described his elation at seeing so many athletes with both sports and academic badges on their KHS letter jackets.

"That's what you hope for. There are more kids realizing they can be athletes and not taking slower classes, they step up on advance classes," Sibberson said. "Although we do pretty well in sports, I'm more proud of the gains we've made here in academics. It's a cool thing to see kids who are athletes that are also in the international baccalaureate program and challenging themselves academically."

Killeen High School ranked 669th in 2006 and 1,024th in Newsweek's 2007 listings. This year, KHS also was denoted with asterisks for this note: "Includes IB (International Baccalaureate). Nearly all other schools use just AP tests."

"I'm pretty proud of their accomplishment," Sibberson said. "This is a school-wide effort of staff and students. We've done it together."

Contact Olga Pena at or *254) 501-7555.

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