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Central Magnet School judged best
Does it take a new building to house a nationally ranked academic magnet school? Apparently not. The Rutherford County School District renovated one of its oldest buildings, the 1957 Central High School, for its new Central Magnet School in 2000.

What does is it take to be the best high school in Tennessee?
Just ask Dr. John Ash, founding principal of Central Magnet School in Murfreesboro, judged by US News & World Report to be the Volunteer State’s highest-performing secondary institution.
Central Magnet serves some 1,260 students in grades 6 through 12, part of the 40,000-student Rutherford County system which has seen explosive growth over the past several years as a bedroom community to Nashville and a dynamic business and education hub in its own right.
Besides being scored best in Tennessee, Central earned 37th place among the thousands of American high schools and won first-place among U.S. magnet schools.
Speaking at The Rotary Club of McMinnville last week, Ash emphasized school “culture” and “habits of excellence” as basic ingredients in producing top academic results. On the culture side, he noted only a half dozen or so of the student lockers are actually secured by padlocks.
“In seven years there’s been no theft,” he said. At the bulk charging stations for cellphones, students can leave their wireless devices without fear they’ll go missing.
Among the many measures of achievement at Central Magnet, the school’s 193 graduates this year earned more than $10 million in accepted scholarships, not counting the usual student financial aid and scholarship offers declined in favor of better deals. With an average ACT score of 32 and a graduation rate of 100 percent, CMS graduates typically get to pick among the nation’s most exclusive colleges and universities and often have all expenses covered, Ash told local Rotarians. Three students hit the maximum 36 on the national assessment of college readiness.
MTSU’s Honor College awards 21 “full ride” Buchanan Scholarships worldwide each year. The latest CMS graduating classes scooped up nine of those coveted prizes.
The lofty ACT numbers have to start “in kindergarten,” the principal stressed.  “It has to be a team effort,” with teachers from the earliest grades through high school working every day to help their students succeed in a highly competitive environment. With its entering class of sixth-graders, chosen on the basis of test scores from throughout Rutherford County, CMS emphasizes rigorous instruction in English vocabulary as one of the keys to ACT success.
“In education the largest group that gets left behind is the high achievers,” Ash stated.  “They don’t cause discipline issues so they’re generally ignored.”
But the most gifted students are short-changed when they are not appropriately challenged at above-average levels, the CMS principal observed in an interview airing this week on McMinnville public radio WCPI 91.3. That half-hour interview airs Wednesday at 5:05 a.m. and again Thursday at 1 p.m. with a final repeat Friday at 1:05 a.m.
How much does it cost a community to create and maintain a powerful academic magnet school? Not significantly more than it does to operate a run-of-the-mill school, said Ash, who entered Rutherford County Schools administration after several years as an AP chemistry teacher.
“Our kids are going to work extremely hard. Our teachers work extremely hard,” he said.