High school ranks fourth in Greater Cleveland, 13th in Ohio

by Melissa Martin

April 24 school board meeting

Brecksville-Broadview Heights High School has again been recognized by U.S. News and World Report as one of the top-performing public high schools in Northeast Ohio, the state of Ohio and the nation.

BBHHS was ranked 13th in Ohio as part of the publication’s 2024 Best High School rankings. It was rated fourth among Cleveland area high schools and 488th in the nation. It was also ranked 491st among STEM high schools across the U.S.

U.S. News and World Report ranks schools according to scores on state tests, access to and performance on Advanced Placement courses, graduation rates and an assortment of college-readiness markers.

According to the district’s scorecard, BBHHS received an overall rating of 97.24%, based on the fact that 65% of students took at least one AP exam; 52% passed at least one AP exam; 77% demonstrated mathematics proficiency; 89% demonstrated reading proficiency; 94% demonstrated science proficiency; and the district’s graduation rate was greater than 95%.

In 2023, the district ranked 27th in the state, fifth in the Cleveland area and 724th nationally. The district received a score of 95.91% last year.

Superintendent Jeff Harrison told the school board that BBHHS has consistently achieved high rankings from the publication, reflecting the hard work and achievement of students, the dedication of teachers and staff and the support of parents and the greater school community.

“We are very proud of [all of those factors], but that is not the whole story,” Harrison said. “We need to focus on the whole child and the whole experience, and we do a great job as a school district providing more than just test scores. …

“As a former high school principal, we love to take the credit for all the work students do, but we really only have them for four years and most of the time we forget to thank those educators at the middle school and elementary school that put in so much work over the years. Their efforts need to be recognized too.”

Curriculum upgrades

Harrison announced that the district plans to spend over $1 million in 2025 to upgrade its curriculum. Among the most costly purchases, he said, will be $600,000 for a new English language arts curriculum for students in kindergarten through grade 5.

Harrison said the district has received a $200,000 grant from the state to help purchase the new materials.

Also noted was the district’s intention to spend $377,000 to refresh curriculum in all three schools next school year. That includes math curriculum in kindergarten through grade 5.

Therapy dog presentation

BBH Elementary School Principal Tina McCauley provided an update and a handful of new policies associated with the district’s 2 ½-year-old therapy dog, Cocoa.

The dog, which was put into service in elementary school in 2022, weighs 63 pounds and comes to school nearly every day with McCauley, her full-time handler.

In addition to explaining the differences between an emotional support dog and a therapy dog, McCauley noted some of the benefits the therapy dog can provide students, in and out of the classroom.

“Her presence can benefit students and staff on a physical and psychological level,” she told the board. “She can decrease blood pressure, improve a student’s overall well-being, enhance mood and contribute to a positive school environment.”

McCauley added that Cocoa makes “a great reading buddy for students who may be struggling or who are stressed and that she can also be used as positive reinforcement when students are reading.” 

To make dog’s presence safer in a school environment, Harrison and McCauley noted that the district has modified its guidelines for how students and staff engage with the dog. In addition to changing the policy for how students approach and pet her, the way Cocoa gets treats was altered.

Another change is that the dog is now located in her crate when not helping students in elementary school. Harrison said the district had two handlers for Cocoa when she was brought to the district.

“We’ve since made some adjustments,” he said. “We quickly realized that just like teenagers who have two homes with different rules and expectations that sometimes the rules aren’t followed [at both homes]. So we had to recalibrate Cocoa this school year.’’

Harrison added, “I have to remind people that when Cocoa comes to school, she’s not a pet. She is on the clock and working.”

The dog will still “act like a puppy” if rules aren’t followed,’’ Harrison said, adding, “So sometimes when Cocoa is in the crate, she will whine trying to get a response. I remind the community that she is not being hurt, she is not being harmed, it’s just part of that recalibration process, and she is still young.”

Harrison said the district is ramping up plans to have Cocoa service the high school and middle school as well.