By Andrew Cluley
Washtenaw International High School’s inaugural graduating class includes the first 19 Ann Arbor Public Schools students to graduate from an International Baccalaureate, or IB program. AAPS students comprised more than one quarter of the 70-member class of 2015.
Megan Andrews is one of the 19 graduates from Ann Arbor. Andrews says her time at WIHI was the best four years of her life so far. “A really unique experience building up the school,” she says. “Everyone was accepted and we got the chance to build a community.”
Andrews also credits the more intensive nature of the IB program for helping her decide she wants to go into nursing. She says the more in-depth program and higher level of work has her well prepared to attend Michigan State University in the fall. “I hate chemistry, but I’m ready for it in college because I got to design and perform experiments on my own and then write up reports like I will have to do in college.”
Ann Arbor’s 19 WIHI graduates all are going to college in the fall. They plan on attending 13 different universities or colleges. This includes Boston University, Carleton College, Rochester Institute of Technology, the University of Michigan, University of Pennsylvania, Stanford and Yale.
These grads have been offered $1.975 million in scholarships and grants. Nate Simon even received an Air Force ROTC Type 1 scholarship, which covers tuition, fees, and books at any university in the country. Only about five percent of all Air Force ROTC scholarships are in this most comprehensive category. Simon will be attending Stanford University in the fall.
This impressive academic achievement can in part be credited to the rigorous graduation requirements from WIHI. The program requires five experimental sciences credits compared to the state requirement of three science credits. Two credits beyond the state minimum are required in social studies, and one additional fine arts credit is necessary for graduation. But it’s in world languages where WIHI really sets the bar well above the state requirements. While Michigan only requires two credits, all WIHI grads have at least five credits of a second language. Theory of Knowledge, Extended Essay, Product Team, and IB Credit Electives are also requirements that go beyond state mandates.
The idea for bringing an IB program to Washtenaw County came from the Ann Arbor Public Schools strategic plan. With some uncertainty about demand for the program in Ann Arbor alone, the district focusing on developing Skyline High School, and other districts showing some interest, former AAPS Superintendent Todd Roberts in 2009 invited other Washtenaw Intermediate School District superintendents to form a planning committee to consider a countywide IB program. The committee eventually led to the creation of WIHI, which opened its doors in 2011 in Ypsilanti’s former East Middle School.
Currently Ann Arbor, Lincoln, Milan, Saline, Whitmore Lake, and Ypsilanti schools send students to WIHI. For each student attending WIHI, AAPS sends all of the district’s per-pupil funding, about $9200. That’s about $2,000 more than other districts are contributing per student to the consortium.
The success of WIHI and demand from community members proved to AAPS officials that it was time to meet the district’s strategic demand from years earlier and develop a K-12 IB program. Ann Arbor’s IB program will be housed at Mitchell Elementary School, Scarlett Middle School, and Huron High School. The district has completed the first year of the three-year IB accreditation process, and Mitchell, Scarlett, and Huron have been approved as IB candidate schools.
WIHI graduate Megan Andrews thinks offering the Primary Years Programme for kindergarten through fifth grade and the Middle Years Programme for grades six through 10 in addition to the Diploma Programme for 11th and 12th graders is a great idea. Andrews attended an IB school in Japan so she got to experience all three levels. She says IB is great for younger students. “They are amazing, so interactive, kids get to ask so many questions,” Andrews says.
WIHI’s Class of 2015 Members from Ann Arbor:
- Megan Andrews
- Hiba Asad
- Nicholas Borbely
- John Bradford
- Benjamin Bryant
- Veronica Buschhaus
- Malak Elshafei
- Donald Hearn
- Usmaan Jaffer
- Seth Kronick
- Maria Maguire
- Amanda Maninga
- Brenna McMahon
- Talha Mirza
- Madeline Qi
- Nathaniel Simon
- Daria Stelmak
- Edmund Wackerma
- Katharine Wang
This is very encouraging, but IB programs should be available at ALL AAPS schools–at least all AAPS high schools. I’ve worked with students and now peers from around the nation and world who are IB-prepared, and they are some of the most inquisitive, effective and engaged people I’ve known.
I am so proud of this very first graduating class at WIFI. Former SI Todd Roberts and the AAPS Board of Ed, along with SI Swift were all publicly thanked at the graduation,which was held at Rackam, for their nod to innovation in delivering public education as a countywide consortium. I love that we reached across borders and are a founding districts in this successful, diverse family , that is WIFI. It is a gem of a school.