MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — An unassuming building on the east side of St. Paul is home to one of the best high schools in the nation — Twin Cities Academy.

It was ranked 42 on the list of the nation’s top 500 schools by Newsweek Magazine.

The rankings are based on how well they prepared students for college. TCA received a college readiness score of 97.25

Members of TCA’s class of 2015 say they knew their school was special the first time they walked through the door. Small classes and rigorous academics are the norm for the 220 students.

But they credit their teachers for getting them engaged.

“They’re willing to meet you in the morning, they’ll meet you in the afternoon. Like, they’ll do it on their own time,” said a student named Gabby.

The diverse student body is learning and graduating, ranking TCA 17th in the nation for its graduation rate for low-income students.

Principal Betsy Lueth says she is proud there is no achievement gap at TCA.

“We have the highest group of students that either qualify for free and reduced lunch or are non-white students,” Lueth said. “So for me … my mission is to ensure that we have equity for all students.”

It’s TCA’s goal to make sure every child has what’s needed to get to the next level.

“The school is designed to offer, always have rigorous classes in all of the content area. But if the student needed an extra push, they’d have a parallel class,” she said. “So they may have two English classes for a couple of years or two math classes for a couple of years in order to catch them up.”

Students also get instruction in character development and leadership along with academics. Lueth says they are coming out well-rounded, motivated and confident.

“We do all kinds of things to surround these kids with a lot of love and school parenting,” she said.

TCA parents are required to volunteer 20 hours a year at the school. Lueth says it builds a team with parents, teachers and students to guarantee success.

The charter school is 15 years old, and also includes middle school students.

It was one of the first charter schools established in Minnesota.

Reg Chapman