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A Brief History of High Schools in the ACSD

This spring, voters will be asked whether they support a bond for a new high school to the tune of $95 million. Let’s get it out of the way and just say that that is a ton of money.

But it’s not the first time that the Ames community has had to make this decision on whether to build a new high school. Let’s look back at the history of high schools in Ames.

High Schools #1 & #2

In March of 1880, the Ames school board submitted a request to issue bonds for the purpose of building a new school house. They were asking for $10,000. When the votes were counted they had 148 citizens in favor, and only 28 against. The debt was contracted and the first brick school house, known as Central School, was constructed on the west side of Clark Avenue, currently where City Hall is located.

The new building had six large classrooms, two of which were used for high school classes. An addition was built in 1900, but its construction was so shoddy that the addition was condemned in 1910 and removed.

After Bearshear Elementary School was built in 1903 and Welch Elementary School opened in 1906, this building was used exclusively for high school students.

When a new high school was built just across the street in 1911, the original 1880 building eventually became Ames’s first junior high school. Neither building stands today, with the original building being demolished in 1937, and high school #2 being taken down more recently in the 1981.

City Hall Building

In September 1939, a new high school building was opened on the same site as the original 1880 building. It served as the high school for 22 years until our current high school was built in 1961. High School #3 was used as a junior high until 1986, and in 1990, the building was remodeled and is currently being used as the Ames City Hall.

Current High School

In the fall of 1961, the 4th Ames High School opened at 20th and Ridgewood and is the current home to Ames High students. Since 1961, the building has undergone 15 additions and is starting to show its wear.

What will the next Ames high school look like? That remains to be seen, but we feel confident that it will be a great addition to the history of Ames.

Thanks to the Ames Historical Society for the images and historical support. 

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Thirteen Ames High Students named National Merit Scholar Semi-Finalists

National Merit Semifinalists

On September 12, officials of the National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC) announced the names of approximately 16,000 Semifinalists in the 63rd annual National Merit Scholarship Program. These individuals have an opportunity to continue in the competition for some 7,500 National Merit Scholarships worth about $32 million that will be offered next spring.

Ames High School had thirteen students achieve Semifinalists status this year. To become a Finalist according to the NMSC, the Semifinalist and his or her high school must submit a detailed scholarship application, in which they provide information about the Semifinalist’s academic record, participation in school and community activities, demonstrated leadership abilities, employment, and honors and awards received. A Semifinalist must have an outstanding academic record throughout high school, be endorsed and recommended by a high school official, write an essay, and earn SAT® scores that confirm the student’s earlier performance on the qualifying test. The thirteen semifinalists from Ames mark some of the highest totals in the state. Congratulations to these students!

The Ames High School National Merit Semifinalists:

  • Elena Andrews
  • Hector Arbuckle
  • Emma Cai
  • Channing Che
  • Nicole Cho
  • Dana Gustafson
  • Ryan Jeong
  • Rucha Kelkar
  • Melissa Liu
  • Samuel Packard
  • Caroline Paxton
  • Benjamin Steward
  • Tianxin Xu
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ACT Report on the Ames High School Graduating Class of 2017

ACT Report 2017

The 2017 Graduating Class ACT Profile Report was recently released, after being embargoed from media publication until September 7. The report summarizes the preparation and performance of last year’s graduates and compares Ames students on the college entrance exam to the state and the nation.

Last year, 214 Ames students took the test with an average composite score of 25.2 (out of a perfect 36). This average is 3 points above the state average, and 4 points better than national average. Ames students performed higher across all the tests which include English, math, reading, and science.

ACT Composite       English        Math         Reading      Science

Nation     21.0                 20.3           20.7            21.4            21.0

Iowa        21.9                 21.2           21.3            22.6            22.1

AHS        25.2                 24.4           24.9            26.0            25.0

No students last year scored a perfect 36, but 5 graduates recorded a score of 35. Of the 214 total students, 48 of them marked a score of ≤ 30.

In addition to the composite score comparison, Ames students outperformed state and national averages in every area. As a way to understand the scores, the report also provides ACT College Readiness Benchmark Scores. “The standards relate test scores to the types of skills needed for success in high school and beyond. They serve as a direct link between what students have learned and what they are ready to do next.” The numbers below reflect the percentage of students who met the benchmark.

ACT   English        Math         Reading      Science

Iowa          71            45                55              45

AHS          88            72                74              69

In general, the report focuses on:

  • Performance – student test performance in the context of college readiness
  • Access – number of your graduates exposed to college entrance testing and the percent of race/ethnicity participation
  • Course Selection – percent of students pursuing core curriculum
  • Course Rigor – impact of rigorous coursework on achievement
  • College Readiness – percent of students meeting ACT College Readiness Benchmark Scores in each content area
  • Awareness – extent to which student aspirations match performance
  • Articulation – college and universities to which your students send test results

The report mirrors some of the many reasons why the Ames Community School District has been ranked as the #1 District in the state for 5 consecutive years according to Niche.

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School Board Voting Information

School Board Voting Information

School Board Candidates:

Monic Behnken –

Jamet Colton –

Gina Perez –

Tim Rasmussen –


Polling Hours:

7 a.m. to 8 p.m. at all Ames locations


Polling Locations:

There will be eight (8) vote centers available. Any registered voter within the Ames Community School District who is eligible to vote at the regular school election may vote at one of the following locations:

(1) University Baptist Church, 2400 Mortensen Parkway

(2) Ames Public Library Auditorium, 515 Douglas Ave.

(3) Bethesda Lutheran Church, 1517 Northwestern Ave.

(4) North Grand Christian Church, 919 30th Street

(5) Ascension Lutheran Church, 2400 Bloomington Road

(6) Collegiate United Methodist Church, 2622 Lincoln Way

(7) Trinity Christian Reformed Church, 3626 Ontario Street

(8) Hilton Garden Inn, 1325 Dickinson Avenue


Physical Plant and Equipment Levy (PPEL)

A Guide to Understanding the Physical Plant and Equipment Levy


PPEL Overview Video:


Short Videos on what PPEL has been used for:

Middle School Athletic Complex –

Northwood Preschool Center –

Additional Projects –


Ames Tribune Profiles:

Q & A with each candidate:–making-their-cases


Ames Tribune editorial on why you should vote:


Video of the Candidate Forum from September 7, 2017

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Old Edwards Cornerstone

The original Edwards Elementary was built in 1951 and the Board of Education honored the work of David Edwards by naming the “new Fourth Ward school” after him. Edwards was the owner and operator of the Edwards Coal company in Ames and was an influential member of the school board for 18 straight years. During that time, he saw a number of building projects completed, including the construction of Louise Crawford School, the reconstruction of what was the Central Junior High, as well as the Senior High School. He passed away on January 25, 1948.

In 2012, when the Ames community approved a bond measure to rebuild or renovate all of the elementary school buildings, the fate of the old Edwards building was sealed. Unlike other school properties such as Meeker Elementary where a new structure could be built on the same site, there simply was no room on the Edwards property. The Ames Community School District took the opportunity to build a new elementary school in a growing part of town.

History has interesting ways of making itself present. After Edwards Elementary was built in 1951, Meeker Elementary was finished the next year in 1952. Both buildings were done by the same architect and have a similar floorplan. Six decades later, both buildings are new again and followed a similar pattern. The new Edwards Elementary was completed in 2014 with the new Meeker Elementary finished in 2015. They were done by the same architecture firm, and also have a similar floorplan.

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Tackling the Racial Disparity Gap: Step One

Racial Disparity Graphic

On May 25, 2017, the School Improvement Advisory Committee (SIAC) met to discuss the 2016-17 goals recommended by District content teams, and reviewed and analyzed the 2017 Iowa Assessment Data. They recommended District goals based on this data, that we, as a District, are required to report in our Annual Progress Report (APR) to the Iowa Department of Education.

During the analysis of subgroup data, SIAC uncovered with quantitative evidence that African-American students were underperforming compared to all other subgroups. Dan Andrews, the Data, Assessment and Program Evaluation Coordinator for the District, presented these findings at the July 17 school board meeting. The achievement gap is considerable and much more than a statistical anomaly: a 28.11 percentage point gap in reading, 33.73 percentage points in science, and 33.91 percentage points in mathematics.

This kind of achievement gap is not unique to the Ames community. In fact, African-American students are underperforming white students across the United States on high stakes standardized tests. In the past couple years, this achievement gap has become a topic in national publications like The Atlantic, U.S. News, and CNN, among many others, where the articles cite studies and show graphs similar to what the SIAC team reviewed. The authors talk about how students in the same building do not receive the same education, or have access to the same academic opportunities, and they call for schools to become agents of change and reform. We agree and believe we can do better in the Ames Community School District.

The difference with the SIAC data compared with those in the national publications is that the SIAC numbers reflect students within the Ames community. Those numbers, and more importantly, those students, can be directly impacted within our buildings.

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DACA Statement from the Superintendent’s Office

DACA Statement

On Tuesday, President Trump and his Administration announced plans to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. The Ames Community School District believes that this decision will have a negative impact on many of our students and families, and we want to express our concern and support for those who may be impacted by this decision.

The Ames Schools are designed to provide quality education for all young people who enter our doors. We are inclusive. We are welcoming, equitable and caring for all students regardless of immigration status. We support ALL children, no matter their place of birth, religion, language, or color. We’re glad you’re here. You belong here and we support you.

The responsibility of the Ames Community School District is to prepare all students to be college and career ready, and to equip students to be productive citizens. Like our colleagues at Iowa State University, we have no control or authority over the enforcement of federal immigration laws. Students and families who are fearful or in need of emotional support can reach out to their building principal or school counselor. Additional support can be found here:

Human Resources Director, Ms. Lisa Negus – 515-268-6610

Student Programs Director, Dr. Anthony Jones – 515-268-6628

Registrar, Ms. Barb Peterson – 515-268-6605

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Ames High Junior Performs at Prestigious Sydney Opera House

Sydney Opera House

Julie-Michelle Manohar, a 16-year-old junior from Ames High School, recently performed at the world-renowned Sydney Opera House as part of the prestigious 2017 High School Honors Performance Series (HPS) honor choir. The HPS program provides a selective learning and performance opportunity to qualified high school musicians who are invited to apply after being nominated by music teachers/directors familiar with their accomplishments. Students are accepted after a review by the Honors Selection Board based on their talent and achievements demonstrated in the application and audition recording.

Julie-Michelle (pictured right) auditioned and was selected to sing Soprano-1. HPS processed 18,000 nominations this year for their various programs at the Carnegie Hall and Sydney Opera House. According to the director, Nancy Richardson, 750 of these nominations were for the 2017 High School HPS at the Sydney Opera House of which only 150 were selected- 80 for the HPS choir, and 70 for the HPS orchestra. This was an international program; performers arrived from 44 states within the United States, Guam, several provinces of Canada, Australia, China, Malaysia, the Philippines, and South Korea.

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Back to School Message from Superintendent Dr. Tim Taylor

August 23rd is the start of school for the Ames Public School system. It will mark the 156th year of public education, dating all the way back to 1862 when Hoggart’s School first opened. Since that time, we’ve become the #1 public school system in the state and we’ve held that ranking for some time. Niche ranked us #1 in academic opportunities, #1 in clubs and activities for our kids, and #1 in college preparation. I think the message here is that quality staff, quality programs, and most importantly, quality students provide for the highest quality of education, and that’s what you’ll get in Ames.

For the 400+ pre-kindergarten through kindergarten students, who are beginning their educational experience, our principals have put together a really tremendous orientation program that includes opportunities to get into the building and get set up before the education begins.

On the other end of the spectrum, for the high school seniors, this is going to be the fastest school year in your life. You’ll be going from the first day of school on August 23rd, and then in the blink of an eye, it will be commencement.

Another important message is that if you’re new to Ames, you’ve made the smart choice. Amazing Starts Here as we provide an amazing education for all of our kids. Ready, get set, go. Classes start on August 23rd.

As a reminder, start times for the first day of school are as follows:

  • Elementary schools start at 8:25 with an early dismissal at 2:05
  • Middle School start at 8:00, dismiss at 3:15
  • High School start at 7:50, dismiss at 3:05
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Ames CSD Ranked #1 again by Niche

Niche Ranks Ames #1

On August 7, Niche released their 2018 K-12 Rankings of the best schools in the country. For the fifth consecutive year, the Ames Community School District has been ranked as the #1 district in the State of Iowa, with Ames High School also receiving the #1 ranking for the third year in a row.

The Ames CSD earned this ranking through key factors such as strength of academics, quality of teachers, school resources, as well as student and parent reviews. The statistical data used in this ranking was obtained from the U.S. Department of Education and then analyzed by Niche’s team of data scientists to create the 2018 rankings.

The Niche 2018 K-12 Rankings are based on rigorous analysis of academics and student life data along with test scores, college data, and ratings collected from millions of Niche users. Their wide-ranging data allows them to provide a comprehensive suite of rankings across all school types.

Thank you to our students and staff for continuing to make the Ames Community School District the best in the state. We’re very proud of our long tradition of excellence, and we’re confident that the upcoming school year will continue that tradition.

Learn more about the methodology of the Niche rankings on their website.

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