Fort Hays State University has been ranked tops in the country for its elementary- and secondary-education programs by the National Council on Teacher Quality.

The NCTQ ranked 2,400 teacher-education programs, and FHSU's history and government program is ranked as the third-best program in the country. The elementary school education program had the 12th-highest ranking.

"That's not too bad," FHSU President Edward Hammond said Thursday. "It shows we could improve. These things don't happen by accident."

FHSU is the only Kansas institution to receive a ranking and one of seven schools to have two programs ranked.

"This is yet another confirmation of the dedication of the faculty," Hammond said. "Our commitment is not just for access. Everyone talks about low cost and how hard we work to make sure the environment is accessible for students. In the final analysis, you have to have a quality academic program to go with access."

The majority of students who graduate from the history secondary education program receive two degrees -- a bachelor of science in secondary education and a bachelor of arts in history.

"So the fact that our teacher education program is producing students that actually have dual degrees," Hammond said, "that really impressed the people who were doing the ranking, and we need to give a lot of credit to the department for their success."

Students also are required to take more history courses than most other teacher education programs in the state. In addition, students are taught American, European and world history to become "world-ready and classroom-ready," said Kim Perez, chairwoman of the department of history.

Several political science classes are required, as well as courses in statistics, economics, geography and sociology.

"I'm proud of what the faculty has achieved," Hammond said. "It's nice that nationally, someone recognizes something we've known all along; that we do an outstanding job preparing teacher candidates for our schools throughout the state of Kansas and throughout the nation."

Rob Scott, dean of the college of education and technology, attributes the success of the programs to innovation and forward-thinking, in particular the Red Balloon Project. The Red Balloon Project aims to lower costs, increase participation and respond to the challenge of technology in the department and university as a whole.

"These rankings are a gratification of the hard work we all do," he said. "We embraced the Red Balloon Project when we sought to be as innovative, forward-thinking as we could. We wanted to make ourselves better, more accessible, and we wanted to make sure this wasn't a place that was just up to speed with the other schools, but was one that other schools would emulate down the road. I'm proud to say we've done that and will continue to do that."