By Sue Moore
High standards and high expectations with no excuses for students at Vicksburg High School, was illustrated for the school board by Principal Keevin O’Neill at the Board’s January meeting. He explained the high school’s vision statement that all students at VHS will graduate college and career ready.
This effort has been on the upswing over the last three years, as 80 percent of graduates in 2014 enrolled in some kind of higher education program. This has gone from 65 percent in 2011, 75 percent in 2012, and 74 percent in 2013.
Success on Advanced Placement (AP) exams is a big indicator, O’Neill said. Of the 792 students enrolled in 9 through 12 this year, 240 are taking at least one AP course. The number of students enrolled in AP courses totaled 758 because many students take more than one AP course. If they pass the exam, they receive college credit for free, although it costs $91 to take the exam, he told the board. “The goal now is to get even more students in AP courses. The fear of [failure] needs to be removed for some of the kids,” O’Neill said. Guidance counselors are working hard to get to this goal.
Trustee David Schriemer was concerned that the cost of taking the AP exam is contributing to the reason that not everyone who is taking AP courses take the exam. He would like to explore ways that this could be mitigated.
Kim Armitage, science teacher in the high school, was recognized for her three years as an essay reader for the college boards. She explained that 1,000 readers congregate in Kansas City for eight days to read exams. More than one person reads and scores each exam. “It has given me a broadened scope of what the college board is looking for and now I can give a clear direction to our students in how they can do even better on the exams,” she explained.
When students took the Michigan Merit Exam in 2014, the Vicksburg class of 2015 scored higher than the state average on each subject (see charts) except for math. In terms of college readiness, the juniors scored higher than the state norm in all four core areas. Next year, 2016, will see a big change in testing, with the state moving to the SAT rather than the ACT that has been administered to juniors for many years.
Carol Higgins, a substitute teacher in area schools, brought the need for better pay for substitutes to the board’s attention. She is a VHS graduate, class of ’72, having taught 16 years and substituted seven years, and felt that subs are paid like the working poor. “I am speaking for lots of other subs. We want to be treated as professionals. At $75 per day, and no opportunity to make suggestions or even bargain, it isn’t fair. This is a big responsibility and I would like to explore ways to improve the situation for everybody,” she said.
Superintendent Charlie Glaes told Higgins that the district spent $250,000 last year for substitute teachers, or one percent of the entire budget. “It is a huge priority of ours to lower this cost and not increase it. We need to improve the pool of qualified subs, while reducing the number of substitutes needed. Perhaps we need to adjust the calendar so the professional development [can take place] at other times or shift some of the work to the summer months.”