Each year, Newsweek publishes a report, “America’s Best High Schools” after surveying more than 5,00 public schools. This year, four of the top schools are in the state of Florida, two from Texas, and two from Arizona. Newsweek reporter Eliza Shapiro visits Bartow High in Bartow Florida to find a dedicated faculty and a very determined group of students. Bartow is a small town with a population of about 17,500, with a median income of $45,000 (compared to the median income of $70,000 for all the other schools in Newsweek’s list). The International Baccalaureate School (IBS) is essentially a school within a school, drawing from 2,000 students who attend the Bartow High School. IBS was founded in 1996 for just 64 students; today it has 226 students (56% Caucasian, 30% African-american, 23% Asian, 11% Hispanic).
IBS students are high achievers: each year their composite SAT scores rank in the top five in the country; the students take about 582 IB tests and 551 AP tests; 100% graduate in four years and 100% attend college. Students study science, math, English, social studies, and become fluent in a second language. In addition, student choose from electives that include business management, psychology, art, and music. The school is proud of its Theory of Knowledge class. Similar to a college seminar, the class teaches students how to think, not what to think. Community service is also required: freshman and sophomores must complete 20 hours, while upperclassmen must complete 150 hours. They interact with the larger high school through clubs and the sports program.
Each year 260 students from Bartow High School apply for the 70 spots in the IB program. Principal and founder, Edwin Vetter, notes: “We’re looking for high performers that want to continue to be high performers. Each year the IB program raises the bar a little bit higher. The problem with education is not that we aim too high and miss — it’s that we aim too low and hit.”
At bottom, the success of the Bartow IB program should serve as an inspiration for any school in any community; as long as there are committed parents, students, and teachers, the “school within a school” model can be replicated and can thrive. Sherri Delk, an English teacher, is encouraging: “We’re in Bartow, Florida, which is a lovely little town — but it’s a small town. If we can be the kind of school that we are here, than anyone can do it.” And it is exactly that “can-do” spirit that is at the heart of IBS.
The top ten best public high schools in America
1. Carol Martin Gatton Academy of Mathematics and Science in Kentucky (Bowling Green Kentucky)
2. International Baccalaureate School at Bartow High (Bartow, Florida)
3. BASIS Scottsdale (Scottsdale, Arizona)
4. School of Science/Engineering Magnet (Dallas, Texas)
5. The School for the Talented and Gifted Magnet High School (Dallas, Texas)
6. School for Advanced Studies Miami, Florida)
7. BASIS Tucson North (Tucson, Arizona)
8. Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology (Alexandria, Virginia)
9. Suncoast Community High School (Riviera Beach, Florida)
10. Stanton College Preparatory School (Jacksonville, Florida)
For further reading: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/05/06/inside-bartow-high-one-of-america-s-best-high-schools.html