Central High has been named one of the top 50 Catholic high schools in the country by the National Catholic Honor Roll, the first time a Montana school has made the list since the honor roll was created in 2004.
The award is based on academic excellence, Catholic identity and how well a school prepares its students to succeed, all areas in which Central Principal Shel Hanser said the school excels.
“It allows us to take a stop for a moment to celebrate what’s going on because it’s so easy to get caught up in the day-to-day of high school,” he said. “It’ll be nice for us to step back and say, ‘This affirms we’re doing the right things.’ ”
Each year, more than 1,300 Catholic high schools are invited to apply for the inclusion on the top 50 list, according to a press release from the National Catholic Honor Roll.
On the academic side, Central’s test scores stood out. In the 2009-10 school year, 95 percent of the graduating seniors took the ACT and posted a composite score of 24.3. In comparison, Billings School District 2 students posted a composite score of 22.6.
Hanser said a recent focus on honors and advanced placement course also helped, with nearly 70 percent of last year’s seniors completing at least one such course.
A more pronounced emphasis on the school’s Catholic aspects also likely played into Central’s inclusion, Hanser said. The amount of prayer time in the school has increased over the last few years, with a student-run prayer group and more time for Mass, both on a volunteer and schoolwide basis.
School officials said they’re honored and excited about being named to the list and hope to maintain the positive recognition.
“Every step we take, every time the bar gets raised higher, I’ve been amazed at how our staff and students have responded,” Hanser said. “We have no desire here at Central to go backwards from some of the success we’ve had.”
The Honor Roll is a project of the Acton Institute, a Michigan-based research and education group, which uses a board of Catholic college presidents and scholars to determine the list.