Stone Bridge High School in Ashburn was ranked the 10th best high school in Virginia by U.S. News and World Report – the first time a Loudoun County school has been included among the top 10 state schools since the list was created in 2007, according to school district spokesman Wayde Byard.

Stone Bridge High School in Ashburn. (Courtesy Loudoun County Public Schools)

 The school, ranked 178 nationally, also received a gold medal based on the students’ “college readiness index” – meaning their exposure to, and understanding of, college-level material.

 David Spage, director of high school education for Loudoun County Public Schools, described a “symbiotic connection” between teachers and students at Stone Bridge that helped bolster the school’s performance.

 Students at Stone Bridge are currently preparing for their math SOL tests, Spage said.

“If you go over there at 8 o’clock in the morning, an hour before school, there are cohorts of students already in math classrooms,” he said. “There are teachers who are there, not on contract time, not compensated, but sitting down next to a kid asking questions or standing up in front of two or three kids and helping them understand.”

 Staff and students have the freedom to explore individualized instruction, Spage said, which helps keep them engaged and committed to the material.

According to U.S. News, the state and national rankings reflect the performance of each school’s students on state exams – including the performance of minority and economically disadvantaged students – and also evaluate the schools’ preparation of students for college, based on participation and scores on Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate exams.

 All public high schools in the country are eligible to be considered, and nearly all were evaluated during the ranking process, according to U.S. News.

 Stone Bridge, with more than 1,900 students, boasts a 79 percent participation rate in AP exams, according to the U.S. News overview of the school . Twenty-seven percent of the Stone Bridge students are minority students, and six percent are economically disadvantaged, the report said.

 The student body, evenly divided by gender, recorded a 99 percent proficiency in reading and 96 percent proficiency in geometry.

Stone Bridge’s location in Loudoun – a generally affluent, education- oriented community – certainly helped its achievement, Spage said; but he credited the staff and principal James Person with fostering a “collective dedication to learning.”

“It’s not an accident that Stone Bridge is in the top 10,” Spage said. “It’s really the staff’s willingness to think about how they’re interacting with students. That’s the walk and the talk of the principal.”

The state's top-10 list was rounded out by nine other Northern Virginia schools: eight Fairfax County schools, including the elite Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, and Falls Church City's George Mason High School.