RBHS ranks eighth best in Missouri


US News and World Report ranked RBHS as the eighth best school in the state of Missouri. Photo by Patrick Smith

Ashleigh Atasoy

US News and World Report ranked RBHS as the eighth best school in the state of Missouri. Photo by Patrick Smith
U.S. News and World Report ranked RBHS as the eighth best school in the state of Missouri. Photo by Patrick Smith

U.S. News and World Report recently ranked RBHS eighth best high school in the Missouri. Earning a silver medal from the site, analysts based the ranking on Advanced Placement testing scores, Algebra competency and English proficiency. Though there are many possible reasons behind the school’s success, for RBHS principal Mark Maus, the school’s ranking is easily attributed to the students and teachers.

“I really think all the credit goes to the students and the teachers,” Maus said. “We set really high standards for our students and really high expectations, and what we find is that the higher we set them, the more our students not only meet but exceed our expectations. And then our teachers are always thinking outside the box and do things [differently], trying to push the students more and give them the skills they need to be successful in the future.”
But despite breaking into the state’s top ten best high schools, junior Lily Salzer had higher expectations. Enthusiastic about the culture of freedom that RBHS preaches, Salzer believes the school is much more unique than other surrounding high schools.
“I’m a little surprised that [the ranking is] not higher … because I know it sort of played out as something we put a lot of emphasis on here.” Salzer said. “The freedom with responsibility really is something that makes our high school stand out and makes it a great environment to be in; as well, it teaches you values of what it’s actually going to be like to be in college because that’s what college is. It’s freedom with responsibility.”
But RBHS isn’t the only school in Columbia that achieved academic recognition. Hickman High School came in close behind RBHS, at 14th in the state, again according to U.S. News and World Report. Established in 1927, HHS is 46 years older than RBHS, which opened in September of 1973. A former student of RBHS, social studies teacher David Graham can see firsthand how much RBHS has grown as a presence in Columbia.
“I look at Rock Bridge from the time I was at Rock Bridge to now. When I first started out here, we were proud of our unique way of doing school. We were proud of the relationships we built with students, [and] the teachers even then I became very close to.” Graham said. “I think that we were proud of what we believed about teaching and learning. … No one wanted to go to Rock Bridge for academics. Everyone wanted to go to Hickman for academics. And as time has progressed and things have gone on, what we’re seeing is that the trend is towards the Rock Bridge way of doing school, and when I read all these educational articles from around the world, I realize really that they’re all trying to do what Rock Bridge does.”
The unique style of learning RBHS offers, Graham believes, is deserving of national acknowledgment. However, when it comes down to the  systems the U.S. News and World Report and other publications use, ratings cannot be accurately set in stone; although test scores are easy to access, school atmosphere is not so easily graded based on numbers.
“I think that it’s great that Rock Bridge gets the recognition that I think that it deserves, but I also think Rock Bridge is great, whether it’s ranked eighth in the state or eightieth in the state,” Graham said. “I don’t think it’s necessarily because of the academic measurements. It’s because of the way that we treat people, and I don’t know that they have a measurement for that yet. But once they do, I think we’d be first in the state, for how we treat students and how students treat us and how we view school as not this massive place of learning but this massive place of growth. … And when people tell us that we can’t do it, as long as we have the students’ best interests at heart, that’s what we want to hear. We want to hear, ‘You can’t do that,’ because we’ve heard [that] for 40 years. ‘You can’t do AUT. You can’t let students have this much freedom, and students can’t handle this and can’t handle that,’ and all those things have grown us into the institution that we are now.”
By Ashleigh Atasoy