South Caldwell High School ended the school year with an honor: a silver-medal ranking from U.S. News & World Report’s annual Best High Schools section, which includes profiles of more than 21,000 public high schools and rankings of the highest-scoring schools.

South’s silver ranking puts it among the top 3,000 high schools in the nation. South was ranked 48th in North Carolina out of more than 600 high schools. Hibriten High and West Caldwell High received bronze-medal rankings and ranked in the state’s top 100 (only gold- and silver-medal schools receive national rankings).

“We have a wonderful faculty and staff that’s doing a great job getting kids ready for post-secondary opportunities,” South Caldwell principal Mike Peake said. “We’re very blessed to be recognized as silver medalists, and we hope that we can continue to improve so that we can go for the gold next year.”

The rankings are based on how students do on state end-of-course exams – and specifically on how disadvantaged students score. Whether a student is “disadvantaged” is based on participation in the free and reduced-price lunch program.

Performance on Advanced Placement exams can push a school from a bronze to a silver ranking.

At South, 80.3 percent of disadvantaged students are proficient, based on state exams. The AP participation rate is 20 percent, with 68 percent of those students passing at least one AP exam.

It was a goal in South’s improvement plan to increase AP offerings, Peake said. Both the number of courses offered and the participation and pass rates are up over previous years.

At Hibriten, 73.4 percent of disadvantaged students rated as proficient on state exams. The school has a 21 percent AP participation rate and a 51 percent participant passing rate.

“It is always an honor to be recognized for academic excellence,” Hibriten principal David Colwell said. “This award is a direct reflection on the hard work and commitment to excellence by our staff, our parents, the Caldwell County school district, and most of all, of course, our students.”

At West, 69.6 percent of its disadvantaged students rated as proficient, 11 percent of the student body participating in AP courses, and 74 percent of those students passed at least one AP exam.

“The honor does not surprise me, as West is a school that continues to meet challenges and excel year after year,” West principal Jeff Link said. “But it is an honor for the school to be recognized for the hard work that goes on each day at West.”

The area’s non-traditional public high schools – Caldwell Early College High School, Gateway High School and Caldwell Career Center Middle College – are listed in the section, but they don’t receive numerical rankings, and test-score data isn’t listed.

The U.S. News rankings also reveal demographic data about the area’s three traditional high schools.

At South, the student body is 51 percent male and 49 percent female. Total enrollment is 1,574, with total minority enrollment of 10 percent. Forty-one percent of students qualify as economically disadvantaged, and the student-to-teacher ratio is 15:1.

Hibriten’s student body is 48 percent male and 52 percent female. The total minority enrollment is 23 percent, with 47 percent of students qualifying as economically disadvantaged. The student-to-teacher ratio is 13:1.

West’s student body is 53 percent male and 47 percent female, with a total minority enrollment of 30 percent, and 62 percent of students qualifying as disadvantaged. The student-teacher ratio is 13:1.

In the district as a whole, 83 percent of students are proficient in English and 74 percent are proficient in algebra.