SHEFFIELD -- The hands shot up when about a dozen sophomores in a U.S. history class at Mount Everett Regional High School were asked if they disliked math. But as the students talked about it, they also described a school network that helps them succeed -- even in their least favorite subject.
"If you have any questions, anyone will help you," said student Kara Ormsbee.
The sophomores said any teacher at the school will help students with questions.
"The peers I have seen in geometry utilize that resource," said student Jordan Sander.
This educational culture has propelled Mount Everett Regional High School onto U.S. News and World Report's 2013 annual survey of the top high schools in America. As a "silver medal school," Mount Everett ranked in the nation's top 2,290 schools out of 21,035, according to the U.S. News list.
School officials said the designation is a validation that Mount Everett has created an education model that reaches all students and prepares them to succeed. It is the only school in Berkshire County to be designated with the U.S. News recognition. The high school is part of the Southern Berkshire Regional School District and serves the towns of Alford, Egremont Monterey, New Marlborough and Sheffield.
"It bears out the fact that we take really good care of our students -- no matter what their challenges," Principal Glenn Devoti said. "We take care of each student as an individual."
U.S. News and World Report teamed up with the American Institutes for Research to analyze standardized testing and publicly available data from 2010-11.
Mount Everett was ranked 1,549 overall and 46th in the state. According to state exam results, the school's proficiency in English was 98 percent and math was 95 percent.
The survey evaluated schools for things like above-average test proficiency and providing college-level achievement for the highest percentage of their students.
The Mount Everett sophomores said that small class sizes help, too. There are 45 students in the Class of 2013, Devoti said.
Malik Hogan, 15, said he attends a Spanish class with four students.
Lorna Houghtlin, 16, said her math class has eight
The sophomores said they get ample one-on-one attention.
"It keeps students on task," Hogan said.
School officials also credit encouragement of an entrepreneurial spirit from teachers, a data-driven approach, and knowledgeable teachers who understand their students through extracurricular activities. At a 10th grade English class, the students were asked how many participate in extracurricular activities. Every one of the dozen students raised their hands.
They said working in a small school allows for innovative approaches.
"We try to keep as few rules as possible, but we focus on trust, civility and respect," Devoti said.
English teacher Jeanne Lemlin challenges students to read on a topic of their choice, prepare a presentation and explain the subject to their classmates.
Lemlin recalled that being frustrated when she couldn't study her interests when she was in high school.
"What I like to explore and read and learn, I never got to know in high school," she said.
Sophomore Alex Dunn read a dissertation by John Searle called "The Mind: A Brief Introduction," which examines consciousness, free will and intentionality. Other students studied things like the history of Gatorade, September 11 and religion.
"Those [scores] wouldn't happen without the teachers going the extra mile," special needs teacher Andrew Repoire said. "If you take the amount of hours they [put in] and add it up, they really aren't making money from that."