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National ranking gives Orcutt Academy top grade for Santa Barbara County high schools

Orcutt Academy High School
Orcutt Academy High School earns high mark in U.S News and World Report recent national assessment of American high schools. (Dave Alley/KEYT)

ORCUTT, Calif. – An annual educational ranking recently published by a national media outlet has given Orcutt Academy the top grade for all high schools in Santa Barbara County.

U.S. News and World Report ranked nearly 25,000 public high schools in the country based on on several criteria, including college readiness, state assessment performance, underserved student performance, college curriculum breadth and graduation rate.

For 2023, Orcutt Academy received a score of 87.99, which earned the charter school the highest ranking for any Santa Barbara County high school.

“We are honored to be recognized once again by U.S. News & World Report,” said Orcutt Academy principal Rhett Carter. “This validates the hard work of our students and staff.

The score also placed it 316th among all California high schools and 322nd among all charter schools in the nation.

“We continue to be so proud of our students and staff at Orcutt Academy High School,” said Dr. Holly Edds, Orcutt Union School District superintendent. “They are committed to challenging and supporting every student, every day, and it shows from the moment you step on campus.”

The school district pointed out several factors helped in Orcutt Academy achieving the high mark.

"We feel that our school is succeeding because we have so many terrific programs for kids," said Joe Dana, Orcutt Union School District Assistant Superintendent, Educational Services. "We have concurrent college enrollment, where kids can earn college credit while in high school. We have an early college cadre partnership with Allan Hancock (College), where students and get an Associate's Degree from our local college by the time they graduate from high school. We have some career technical education pathways in computer science and performing arts that are fantastic. We have a good, strong academic program, and we're producing kids that are just phenomenal and just totally ready for college and careers."

Looking ahead, the school is eagerly awaiting the opening of its long-planned gymnasium and multi-use building.

The $9 million facility is currently under construction and is scheduled to open late in the school year.

"It will be a game changer for us," said Carter. "Being able to have all of our events on campus, being able to hold our performances. Our performing arts program are really big and for them to have a bigger and better place to perform on campus is going to be big, as well as our athletic teams, and just things that we do with rallies and other events with the students. It's going to really change  things for us a lot and we're happy and excited for that and for the school and the students."

First opened in 2009, Orcutt Academy currently has a student body numbering just under 650 students. As a charter school, it pulls students from around Northern Santa Barbara County, as well as a handful of students from South San Luis Obispo County.

Dos Pueblos High School was the second ranked school in Santa Barbara County, while San Luis Obispo High School was the ranked first in San Luis Obispo County.

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