The Westwood Public School system was recently ranked fourth on a list of the top 10 small city public school systems in the country.
The list, which boasted Massachusetts suburbs in the top four spots, was created by GreatSchools, a website providing information on more than 200,000 public and private schools in the country.
The idea of the list was to evaluate public schools in towns ranging from 10,000 to 100,000. Westwood, with a population of just over 14,000, was given an education quality score of 96.8 out of 100.
School administrators are pleased with the prestigious ranking. Westwood superintendent John Antonucci said that it came as a pleasant surprise, and that he was not notified of the ranking. He explained that it had been reported on local news sites.
"We are absolutely thrilled to be on such an elite list," said Antonucci. "Anytime Westwood is ranked high around the country, it is good for the whole community."
While the announcement may have been a surprise, the placement certainly was not. Thurston Middle School Principal Allison Borchers said that she and the staff are pleased and that it can be attributed to the school system's tremendous staff and students.
"Westwood has a school district made up of people who are always looking for ways to improve," said Borchers. "I think that is a big part of this."
Antonucci agreed with Borchers and added that it is a reflection on the historical investment that the entire Westwood community has made to bring excellent education to today's youth.
"Sure, we do a good job and it bring a sense of satisfaction," said Antonucci. "But it has taken a lot of effort from all around the community to get to this point."
GreatSchools is a national nonprofit that collects data in an effort to strengthen school systems and evaluate performance. In addition to GreatSchools.org's listing of 200,000 public and private schools serving students from preschool through high school, the site also features some 800,000 parent ratings and reviews.
Westwood resident Dave Atkins, who is the creator of Westwoodblog.org, worked with founder Bill Jackson in 1996 when they developed SmartVoter.org. Jackson went on to create GreatSchools with an idea that shared information between parents, teachers and communities would create ways to ultimately improve school systems.
In his local blog, Our Westwood, Atkins wrote: "Being featured as a top school nationally is much more than simply having the highest MCAS/income-correlated pass rates - it reflects the comprehensive commitment to education in the town of Westwood and is a recognition everyone should be proud of."
The GreatSchools listing praised Westwood for its location, being 12 miles from Boston. It also said that 'Norman Rockwell would have felt right at home in this picturesque New England hamlet that retains an old-fashioned feel.'
GreatSchools also pointed out that Westwood students score in the top percentiles on national reading and math tests, and an overwhelming majority of high school graduates continue to college. The only downside it noted with diversity, with Westwood coming in at a reported 95 percent white population.
Additionally, while Westwood was recognized as a top school system, the community chips in as well with the Westwood Educational Foundation giving nearly $78,000 in grants last year, funding everything from spelling bees to math contests.
"It's nice to be on a list like this, but we still a lot of work to do," Antonucci noted. "Westwood continues to grow every year as a district and will continue to do so."