Few things make a parent prouder than to see a child or grandchild recognized as one of the top performers among his peers, be it for academics, athletics, artistic prowess, citizenship, or any of a host of other laudable achievements.
It is in that spirit that Bartowans can take special pride in the fact that the International Baccalaureate program at Bartow High School was ranked second nationally this month by Newsweek in its annual ranking of American schools.
Though BHS IB often has been recognized as one of the outstanding IB programs in the state and the nation, this latest distinction reaches a new level.
In 2009, BHS IB was ranked seventh in the top 100 “Gold Medal High Schools” by U.S. News and World Report.
BHS IB students have led the state on several occasions in the Florida Writes testing and in the FCAT tests in reading, math, and science.
Everyone familiar with the BHS IB program knows it is good, but it takes an outsider’s appraisal to evaluate how good it is compared to its peers in the nation.
IB is an internationally recognized program for educational excellence that had only limited local recognition outside of the academic community when the Polk County School Board established the program at BHS in 1993.
The first freshman class was enrolled in the 1995-96 school year, graduating as the charter class in 1999.
The IB concept is not for the academically faint of heart. Admission standards are high, and expectations are even higher. But with a dedicated, supportive faculty, they are attainable.
Students must take four years of a foreign language: Spanish, French, German, Japanese, Chinese, Arabic, or Russian.
But IB is not a collection of nerds.
Freshmen and sophomores must complete 20 hours of community service, and upperclassmen must complete 150 hours in the areas of “creativity, action, and service.”
Students enrolled in IB are dual-enrolled in Bartow High School, and participate in sports, band, and a host of other extracurricular activities.
In fact, the existence of both IB and Summerlin Academy — each a “school within a school” — on the BHS campus is a concept that sometimes has educational and organizational authorities shaking their heads in disbelief.
Cumbersome on the face of it, the concept works, and as Newsweek’s ranking clearly shows, it works exceedingly well.
It is impressive, though hardly surprising, that 100 percent of BHS IB students graduate from high school and are accepted to college.
Its 228 students took a total of 551 Advanced Placement tests and 582 IB tests, both measures of academic dedication.
Much of the credit for BHS IB’s success rests with the only principal the program has ever had, Dr. Ed Vetter, and his faculty of gifted educators who challenge their students to reach such remarkable academic levels.
But like those kids whose photos are carried by proud parents and grandparents, it is the IB students themselves who make us especially proud.