Counterpoint: A quality school always improving

By Dwight Lundstrom

Principal, OHHS

I’m always happy to talk about the academic climate at Oak Harbor High School and our plans for the future.

1 (Concerning SAT scores): Compared to 2,800 like-sized districts nationwide, Oak Harbor High School this year was ranked in the upper one-quarter based on academic results. SAT scores and graduation rates were the primary factors used in the ranking system, which was done by Expansion Management Magazine as a way to help advise corporations considering relocating their businesses.

It’s true that Oak Harbor did not have a good year with SAT results in 2005. One lower year, however, does not make for a trend nor indicate alarming academic deficiencies. Selectively comparing an individual high year with a single low year manipulates data in an effort to highlight the negative.

2 (AP testing): Advanced Placement classes are a true success story at Oak Harbor High School. Remember, just five years ago OHHS had no advanced placement offerings. Today we have 10 courses offering 15 classes and enrolling over 300 students. In 2005, roughly half of the students who took the AP exams qualified for college credit. Although we are working to improve this number, it’s important to remember there is no shame in high school students taking an AP class and then realizing they are not ready to meet college standards. This does not mean they flunk the class, it only means they do not get to skip that class in college. They are, however, better prepared to take that college class in the future.

3 (UW GPA study): Even UW says this study is only useful when considering multiple factors. How many students, for example, are in pre-med or engineering versus those in less demanding fields? The UW admissions office gives much more emphasis to the student transcript, analyzing what classes each student took and whether these included higher levels of math, science, and English versus less demanding electives. The bottom line, however, is the study shows that all OHHS graduates combined, over a 5-year period, have a B-average as freshmen at a high-standard four-year university. We’re always trying to do better, but that’s not bad.

4 (Dropout rate): The official state education office web site reports Oak Harbor High School’s annual dropout rate is 2.7 percent, less than half of the state average. The overall graduation rate is 88 percent, 13 points higher than the state average. Of those 83 percent graduate on time and 5 percent graduate late. All schools report to the state based on specific criteria. On an even playing field, Oak Harbor’s graduation rate is among the best.

5 (WAC): The WAC (Washington Administrative Code) referred to is the second step in a 14-step process for qualifying for state matching funds for construction. It means that architects and designers must meet constructively with teachers, principals, counselors, and others to thoroughly understand the educational needs before coming up with a design. That’s exactly what we did in designing North Whidbey and we will do the same for OHHS. The process is time-consuming and very expensive, which is why pretty much no district does it before voters approve funds.

Conclusion: On most of the dozens of measures of school quality, Oak Harbor High School is not only above average but also moving in the right direction. We have a very good high school that is getting better. Our goal is to become a great high school providing the best education possible for our students.

Editor’s note

Several critics of the Oak Harbor High School renovation bond proposal have submitted points which we invited Principal Dwight Lundstrom to address. The critics informally call themselves Citizens for Quality Education. These concerns (at left) were submitted by Gary Pursel, Sharon Pursel and Joyce King and are responded to at right by Lundstrom.

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