By Steve Fryling
District Communications Specialist
Springtime is the traditional season for awards and honors in education, and Vicksburg High School (VHS) has been placed in the positive spotlight recently by both state and national news outlets who rank high schools in Michigan and nationwide.
The national magazine U.S. News and World Report recently ranked VHS in the top 100 high schools in the state and awarded it a national silver medal. The rankings were based on state and national test scores, graduation rate, and measures of college readiness for the class of 2014-2015. VHS was ranked 82nd in the state and in the top 15 percent of all high schools in the nation. The U.S. News and World Report website (usnews.com) contains all of the rankings both nationally and statewide, and provides detailed information about each high school. According to the site, only 12 percent of all high schools in the nation earn a gold or silver medal, indicating high student performance and college readiness.
A statewide magazine has Vicksburg High School an “Academic State Champion”, one of only 54 champs in the state. The designation was made by the publishers of Bridge Magazine, which is dedicated to improvement in education, health, and governance in Michigan, in an article released February 14. According to the article, “The schools (listed in the article) are best at preparing students for success after graduation.”
After studying graduation and college data from the graduating classes of 2009-2011, state champions were selected from schools with students in every economic category so that schools with students of similar income profiles could be compared. These schools had the highest percentages of students who scored as “college ready” on the ACT, as well as percentages of students who enrolled in postsecondary schools and those who graduated or were still in school after four years.
Principal Keevin O’Neill pointed out that both of these accolades were honors for the whole district, not just the high school. “It took the work and skill of the staff of each elementary and middle school to get the students ready for what they need to do in high school. It is a team effort.”
Charlie Glaes, Vicksburg superintendent, echoed those sentiments noting that, “These things don’t happen by accident, but are a result of a whole community of parents, taxpayers, and educators who saw to it that we invested in success for our kids. We know that these investments pay off, and awards like these are more proof of that.”
The ratings in the Bridge Magazine article placed Vicksburg in the category of schools with “above average incomes” by using data on free and reduced lunch rates. During the study period, the free and reduced lunch percentage for Vicksburg was 26 percent in 2009-2011, but has risen to 34 percent since then.
Vicksburg and 13 other Michigan high schools were selected from 179 schools in this income category for the state champion designation after it was learned that the school is also among the top 10 percent of the 179 for the number of graduates still in college or earning a degree after four years. Records show that 58 percent of Vicksburg graduates from the classes of 2009-2011 earned a degree or were still in college after four years.
Other academic champions listed in the area, in various income classes, include South Haven, Kalamazoo Central and Loy Norrix. Some high schools in the same income class as Vicksburg that earned the designation include Grand Haven, Mona Shores, Dearborn, East Lansing, and City High School in Grand Rapids.
Bridge Magazine, in a related article, linked high levels of students being successful in college to six factors which ranged from poverty levels to college “promise” programs such as the one in Kalamazoo, to college counseling of high school students and coaching and support services offered to college students by the colleges they attend. Also noteworthy is the inclusion of certificate programs in the category of “college completion”. These include careers such as hairdressing, nursing assistant, and information technology worker.
More details about the award and how champions were selected can be found on the Bridge Magazine website at http://www.bridgemi.com/talent-education/bridge-magazines-2017-academic-state-champs.