By Rachel Boomer

Queen Elizabeth High School is going out on top.

The downtown Halifax school, which merges with St. Patrick’s High next year to become the new Citadel High, made the top of the heap in the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies’ annual ranking of high schools.

With a final B+ grade, QEH beat out Islands Consolidated of Freeport, Digby Co., which had been the top-ranked school in the province for the last four years. Rankings are based on factors like pupil-teacher ratio, teacher certification, attendance, and grades in languages, math and humanities.

Charles Cirtwill, acting president of AIMS, said QEH students’ science marks and “student engagement” scores – including factors like pass rates and post-secondary preparation – gave it the edge over its long time Digby rival.

Bedford’s Charles P. Allen was ranked seventh place, while St. Pat’s came in eighth.

“That’s the good news for folks going into Citadel High. The two schools feeding into it both do very well. They do very well keeping their kids in there. They’ve had interesting programs. It’s not just targeting the kids that are expected to do well, they’re also trying to push the kids that may come from different backgrounds.”

Cirtwill said schools in poorer areas don’t necessarily rank poorly. St. Pat’s High, for example, draws students from inner-city Halifax, and has consistently ranked in AIMS’ top 10.

“The message for all schools is that there’s just not those kind of excuses. They’re all going to have challenges and they all should be able to serve their students well.”

QEH students had mixed reactions yesterday, except for one thing – they all wanted to know where traditional rival St. Pat’s placed.

“This school’s the bomb,” said Grade 12 student Iain Robertson. His friend, Kevin Graves, agreed.

“I’m not surprised. Good faculty, good students, good spirit.”

But Nikki Sullivan and Barbara Hagan, both in Grade 12, were surprised to hear their school did so well.

“Everybody skips all the time. There’s a lot of suspensions,” said Sullivan, 18.

Hagan complained the teachers lecture, rather than trying to get students interested and involved in the material.

“They just stand there and expect us to relate to everything.”

Sackville’s Millwood High was the worst-ranked metro school, coming in 69th of 72 schools in Nova Scotia. Grade 12 student Ashley Maillet said the teachers try hard, but some students don’t co-operate.

“Every second week, our back window is broken and there’s garbage everywhere. People just don’t have any respect for the property.”