DAWSON SPRINGS, Ky. (WEHT) – Every year, students in grades 3-8, and grades 10-11, are tested to measure where they stand on state standards through the Kentucky Summative Assessment. With a score of 98.3, Dawson Springs High School beat out every single school in the Commonwealth.

“We felt like we were going to have strong results, we didn’t know it was going to be top in the state,” explains Dawson Springs Independent Schools Superintendent Leonard Whalen. Whalen calls the accomplishment a shot in the arm for the community and credits classroom camaraderie.

“We put a whole lot of premium, if you will, on building relationships with our students, as well as our academic focus and rigor, and seeing it all come together is just an extremely positive situation for us,” explains Whalen.

“We’re not just the little guys anymore,” says Dawson Springs Junior Ty Marshall. “We’re actually on the top.”

Marshall and his classmates say they were surprised to hear the Panthers ranked first in the state.

“I was like, ‘First? First in what? First in academics? First in sports’,” recalls Marshall. “I was like ‘Oh, we’re the best in the state right now!’.”

Junior Hailey Goodaker adds, “I knew we would do good because we have really good academics here, but I didn’t know we would be first. And I was super excited when I heard about it.”

Marshall also says this accomplishment adds a sense of school pride.

“I feel immense pride and gratefulness, not only for me for trying my hardest, but basically every single person,” adds Marshall.

Fellow junior Ava Ward says, “It’s nice to know that I’m in this place that’s going to give me the best education I can possibly get.”

Throughout the year, students took mock tests through fun competitions to prepare for the assessments, which cover a multitude of subjects. For Whalen, a high score is a testament to the resiliency of a community that has gone through more than most.

“We say often, ‘We’re putting Covid and we’re putting the tornado in our rear view mirror’. And we try to do that as much as we possibly can, but it’s a reality that we had some students, staff, a lot of adults around here as well, that went through some traumatic experiences,” says Whalen.

Junior Rex Blue says, “Right when I moved here, all the stuff kind of happened and all that. And I got to see the full thing of the school and the community fighting through the things that were happening to them.”

Whalen says the school plans to celebrate the achievement, but adds there is still work to be done to keep improving as a school district.