Advance to the head of the state

November 6, 2018 GMT

MICHIGAN CITY — When it comes to courses that challenge students, and students who are up the challenge, Michigan City High School is at the head of class.

On Friday, MCHS was named Indiana’s 2018 AP School of the Year by the AP-TIP-IN (AP Teacher Investment Program of Indiana) at Notre Dame.

“We are very honored,” principal Candy Van Buskirk said after returning from the award presentation, which she attended with Supt. Barbara Eason-Watkins and associate principal Jeremy Lugbill. “It’s great that our teachers and students have the opportunity to be supported through the AP-TIP grant.”

Lugbill accepted the award and said, “Wow!”

The designated administrator for AP-TIP at MCHS, he said, “We are humbled and privileged to be part of this incredible program. At Michigan City it’s been easy to get behind this program, because your goals are the same as ours – excellence for everybody.

“Your goal is increasing access to AP classes and we believe in that. It is extremely important to us. And your goal is increased exam scores and that is important to us. It’s not all about the scores, it’s about the content, but it all plays a part in preparing students.”

MCHS was competing against Lowell and Mooresville high schools for the award, which was based on a number of factors, according to Karen Morris, AP TIP-IN program director.

They included support and participation from teachers; new courses or significant enrollment growth in existing courses; meeting or exceeding a goal of 95 percent of students who take classes also taking exams; and increased success on exams.

“Michigan City more than doubled enrollment in the first year of the grant (2017-18) and nearly tripled the number of students with passing scores,” Morris said.

Van Buskirk said she knew MCHS had a chance to win.

“We were hoping,” she said. “But we looked at the data on all three schools, and all had increased enrollment and scores. When we heard our name up there we were more than excited.”

“We had AP classes before, but in the last two years we’ve seen tremendous success in the number of students taking AP classes, taking AP exams and passing AP exams,” Lugbill said last month when MCHS was nominated.

The numbers included a 53 percent increase in the number of AP exams taken (360 in 2016-17 to 552 in 2017-18); and a 50 percent increase in the number of students taking exams (186 in 2016-17 to 280 in 2017-18). The number of students posting qualifying scores increased by 95 percent over that period, Lugbill said.

“There’s been an absolutely amazing increase in enrollment and scores the last couple of years,” Van Buskirk said. “It’s phenomenal to see.”

She said the best part for her is to see the students’ enthusiasm.

“It’s exciting to see students get excited about the program. When something is successful you want to be a part of it, so they see the students ahead of them succeeding and they want in. They want the challenge and the rigors of AP classes, and they want to succeed. When they see others succeed, it makes it easier to accept the challenge.”

MCHS won a three-year grant before the 2017-18 school year, which has helped increase access to and performance in AP classes, Van Buskirk said.

“The grants were used for more teacher training, for hosting student conferences,” and just this week, for $100 awards for students for each AP exam they passed.

“We passed out the checks this week and the students were thrilled. It’s just another incentive to raise their scores. A financial incentives make it just a little more inviting – one student got $400.”

When the grant runs out after the 2019-20 school year, Van Buskirk said MCHS will “look for community partners to continue funding the programs. The data is there so they should be able to see the value in it.”