Small Eastern Oregon schools earn national awards

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Six small community high schools in northeast Oregon ranked among the best in the country for 2013, according to U.S. News & World Report.

Riverside High School in Boardman made the list with a bronze medal ranking for the fourth year in a row, based on the magazine’s evaluation. Only 13 percent of high schools nationwide received a bronze ranking, measured by state test scores and how well teachers prepare their students for college.

The Stanfield School District in Umatilla County, Ione School District in Morrow County and three Union County charter schools — Cove, Imbler and North Powder — were also awarded bronze rankings. All schools have fewer than 500 students enrolled.

Ione Superintendent Mark Mulvihill said the smaller schools have an advantage with smaller class sizes, which allows their teachers more time one-on-one with students. That individual attention helps kids learn and succeed in the classroom

“It’s very hard to fall through the cracks at our small rural high schools,” Mulvihill said. “We have an extremely caring staff, who will go the extra mile for a kid.”

The recognition is nice, Mulvihill said, because it really reinforces the good work done at small Eastern Oregon schools. And, with the Eastern Promise program in place, he believes they can do even more to improve.

“It’s made college more affordable and more accessible to kids in our communities, and really makes their high school experience much more rigorous so they’re prepared when they get there,” Mulvihill said.

Every year, U.S. News & World Report evaluates nearly 21,000 public high schools in 49 states and the District of Columbia. Of the 335 schools in Oregon, 88 made the Best High Schools list for 2013.

Corbett School, which received a gold ranking, is tops in state and No. 70 in the country. The No. 1 overall school is the School for the Talented and Gifted in Dallas.

Robert Elizondo, principal at Riverside, said the school will continue to work “diligently” for a silver or gold ranking, and will celebrate their achievement this year at the next Pirate Pride assembly. He credits the school staff for their run of four bronze medals.

“Since almost 80 percent of our student population is below the poverty guideline and minority, we have been able to overcome barriers and close the achievement gap,” Elizondo said in an announcement Friday. “We are proud of the hard work the students and staff have demonstrated.”

For more information, or a complete list of U.S. News & World Report rankings, visit

This article originally appeared in the May 3, 2013, edition of the East Oregonian and was written by reporter George Plaven. It has been posted to this web site with permission from the East Oregonian.

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