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Whitefield school shines in graduation rate rankings

Grit — along with optimism, gratitude and zest — have found their way into lesson plans in the White Mountains.

An emphasis on positive dispositions is just one factor that may be responsible for the White Mountains Regional High School being ranked among the best high schools in the state, said Harry Fenson, superintendent of the five-town school district.

Grit is the most important, he said.

"It's the idea of struggling through and persevering, not giving up," he said.

Last week, U.S. News & World Report issued a list of the Top 10 high schools in the state. Most were from affluent bedroom communities such as Bedford, Bow and Hopkinton. Two — Plymouth and Hanover — host colleges.

But the White Mountains school in Whitefield is the standout. It is one of only two schools north of the Notches. And 39 percent of its students are listed as economically disadvantaged.

Fenson said the ranking is nothing new to White Mountain. The high school actually dropped a couple of notches; last year it was ranked No. 3.

"They've really gone after it," said Paul Leather, deputy New Hampshire education commissioner. He credited the school's emphasis on technical and career education, virtual learning and high standards. It makes an effort to engage each of the 426 students in the school, he said.

Fenson said the school:

• contracted with Antioch University New England to train instructors in teaching critical thinking skills;

• integrated Common Core into its curriculum four years ago;

• researched and devised the disposition program on its own;

• and re-oriented the four teaching tracks of the school — college prep, honors, high honors and AP.

Fenson said he's had flat budgets in four of the last five years.

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