Ranking puts Aspen School District on top in Colorado, 24th in the nation | AspenTimes.com

Ranking puts Aspen School District on top in Colorado, 24th in the nation

The Aspen School District ranked No. 24 on a list of the top 25 "2016 best school districts in America" by Business Insider this month.

Business Insider's ranking is based on findings from the group Niche, which researches and collects information on schools throughout the country. One of the largest content startups in the U.S, Niche's database consisted of more than 12,000 school districts at the time of its calculation.

Niche bases its ranking on each school district's grade for overall experience, which includes factors such as academic strength, quality of staff, student life, school resources, student culture and diversity, and student and parent reviews.

The site also ranks Aspen School District as the No. 1 school district in the state of Colorado.

Aspen High School principal Tharyn Mulberry said he is extremely proud of the school district's accomplishment, which he attributed to the hard work of the staff as well as the support of the local community.

"My son loves school and our experience has been 100 percent positive," Aspen Elementary School parent Tami Solondz said.

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Solondz said she is thrilled with the school district's high national placement, adding that it makes her want to do more as a parent to help maintain its high standard.

Having grown up on the East Coast and attended prep school, Solondz said the Aspen School District's ranking makes her "less worried" about her second-grade son's education.

Aspen High School is one of the smallest U.S. public high schools to offer the IB Diploma Programme, of which roughly 70 percent of students partake, according to the high school's 2015-16 profile.

"Even though it's a tiny public high school, I felt that the education system is at a level of a highly acclaimed private school," Aspen High School alum Lauren Sumner said.

Five hundred seventy three students attend Aspen High School, which has 55 staff members with an average teaching experience of 12 years.

Sumner, who graduated in 2014 and is enrolled in her second semester at the University of Colorado at Boulder, said she thinks Aspen School District definitely prepared her for college and life after high school.

"With the outdoor education programs, we were able to learn real-world skills by traveling in a small group and letting us make personal connections outside the classroom," Sumner said.

Mulberry said that he thinks the school district's outdoor and experiential education programs set Aspen apart from other school districts.

"We do some incredible extracurricular activities," Mulberry said, "with truly out-of-the-box thinking."

Aspen parent Rosie Andrews said she thinks part of what makes the school district so special are the "unquantifiable" life experiences its students have.

Another key factor that sets the Aspen School District apart, Mulberry said, is that its students are exposed to international communities and able to gain global perspectives both through its extensive Sister City programs, as well as "just being in Aspen."

Students have "an amazing amount of access" to arts, music and culture, Mulberry said, and to international visitors and speakers through The Aspen Institute, for example.

"What's great about the school is I think we take advantage of all of it," Mulberry said. "Aspen is such a celebrated place to be."

Sumner echoed Mulberry's thoughts having gone through Aspen elementary, middle and high school.

"Even though Aspen is a small town, Aspen High School did an incredible job making each student globally knowledgeable," Sumner said.

erobbie@aspentimes.com

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