Your Sturgis story is incomplete

Editor's note: The following letter was received in response to our recent story by Walter Brooks entitled, "Go to Sturgis, save $30k on college".

Your reporting "Go to Sturgis, save $30k on college" is incomplete

By a concerned parent (name withheld to protect his children still in school)

Your reporting  is incomplete.  The same opportunity exists (and has long existed) at schools that offer AP courses.  I took a few AP's in the 1970s, and the acceptance of that program at selective universities was already well-established, while the International Baccalaureate program (IB) was just getting off the ground.  I attended a private school in upstate New York, and back then I had access to 6  Advanced Placement (AP) courses. 

Today, my kids at Barnstable HS now have access to many more than that (for example, beyond the core history/English/calculus/chem/bio/physics, they can take college-level Statistics, Art History, Music Theory and Environmental Science).  In addition, BHS kids can take actual college courses (i.e. not college-equivalent courses) at the Community College, earning simultaneous HS and college credit.

You ask whether local schools could "seize the day" with an IB program... but it is not the only tool, even for top students You ask whether local schools could "seize the day" with an International BIB program.  I agree that a successful IB program would be a wonderful retention tool for a district, but it is not the only tool, nor might it be the best tool, even for the top students. 

The flip side of Sturgis' "IB for All" slogan is something like "IB is all we have to offer".  If an ambitious student at Sturgis wanted to, say, study two modern languages or double up on science classes, the IB certificate would become all but impossible to earn.

At the other end of the academic spectrum, Barnstable schools have actively nurtured programs to ensure the retention and education of kids who might leave schooling altogether (not to go to another school).  The principal describes the school's mission as pursuing excellence as a "comprehensive" school -- everyone who walks through the doors should benefit from being a student.  This level of ambition deserves understanding and recognition.

Sturgis has decided to be a pretty cold place for kids it decides aren't a precise fitIn comparison, while Sturgis conscientiously invests in its program, it has decided to be a pretty cold place for kids it decides aren't a precise fit -- with only a few days' lag time, any student can be replaced with someone else off the waiting list. 

And by the way, keep the state aid coming -- if they open a Freshman slot just a few weeks before midterms, the wait-listed student must move in immediately, walking away from almost a half-year's coursework, and walking into completely different Sturgis courses weeks before different exams.  What if, in the best interest of the student, the student should wait a few weeks for exams to finish, moving at a natural break point in the year?  OK, they will respect that opinion -- and go to the next name on the list, until they find someone who will move right away.

My point here is not to say one school is better than another, but to get across the point that the town public schools have a much harder job to do than charter schools which can and do have consciously limited missions.  A followup issue, once that first point gets acknowledged, is -- within their different missions, how are the various schools rising to their potential?  Is each school really doing right by all of its students?

Two points about grade consolidation:

  1. Mashpee is already operating with grades 7-12 in their HS.  Not sure if any cause-and-effect can be determined between that configuration and the district's educational results, though.
  2. One interesting side effect of bringing 8th-graders into Barnstable HS has been to reduce the exodus of students from Barnstable at the end of 8th grade.  That has always been a natural time to consider transferring to other high schools.  Apparently, having the concrete experience of an 8th-grade year inside the high school has made those students less interested in leaving.

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