School Spotlight: Armstrong High School
The two thousand students who attend Armstrong High School are tackling challenges in academics and extracurricular activities head-on.
The Washington Post says it’s one of the most challenging high schools in the nation and school staff prepare students for academic rigor and success.
Armstrong’s Advanced Placement Classes
While advanced placement classes are not a requirement for all students, staff prepare students for the academic rigor associated with such classes.
“Advanced Placement (AP) classes in general are intended to give a college level understanding of the subject matter that’s being studied,” said Jay Hohenstein, an AP U.S. history teacher at Armstrong High School.
Instead of encouraging students to remember names and dates, students learn themes and how historical narratives contribute to today’s world.
“Students are challenged to do things with content knowledge that they hadn’t been expected to in regular classes. As a result, they develop study skills and methods that really help them when they move to college,” said Hohenstein.
Paul Dotter, the advanced placement coordinator, says last year 775 students took around 1400 tests and that number is expected to increase this year.
“The most exciting thing for us is the advancement of options for ninth grade students,” said Dotter. “The board isn’t always excited about ninth grade students taking AP classes, but we have two classes that are growing at a steady pace.”
Dotter gives the example of a current University of Minnesota student and Armstrong alumni who entered college with enough credits to place him as a second semester sophomore.
“He could graduate early or use that extra year of tuition to work toward a masters program,” said Dotter. “We suggest students explore one AP class over four years of high school, but it’s not a requirement.”
Principal David Dahl is proud that more students are taking and excelling in advanced placement classes, but also that the number of students who take the tests reflect the diversity in the school.
“Since I’ve been here, there has been a real change in the demographics of the building, which reflects the demographics of the community,” said Dahl, who has been in administration at Armstrong for more than 20 years.
“Last year, we gave around 1400 tests, and we are getting close at having the demographics of the students [taking the tests] reflect the demographics of the building.”
Success in Armstrong extracurricular activities
Students are also encouraged to participate in a club, sport, or program and Armstrong High School offers a plethora of options.
“We pretty much have something for everybody and if we don’t have it, we’ll find a way to have it,” said Patti Weldon, activities director.
More than 40 percent of high school students participate in at least one extracurricular activity during the school year. From football and band to nontraditional clubs, like a juggling club, students can learn valuable skills in these organizations.
“There are a lot of statistics of students who are involved in after-school activities excelling more in the classroom. They manage their time better and get more involved in school,” said Patti Weldon, activities director.
The theater and drama program offers one example of how students learn important communication and team building skills while working together on a production.
“We are very proud of the theater program we have here,” said Jenny Lovitt, theater and drama director.
“Students who are a part of a production get really close to other students. I think in this day and age when kids go out to dinner together and sit on their cell phones and communicate with each other in digital ways, this face-to-face communication lets kids explore their emotions and learn how to communicate and be comfortable with that.”
Armstrong’s “Falcon Pride”
You can see new signs and banners around school touting “Falcon Pride.” It’s a new way to show school spirit and share the message that at Armstrong, the school excels and meets challenges together.
“We try to have something for everyone,” said David Dahl, principal. “Armstrong does cater not only to higher academic students, but to all students. We have something for everyone and we do believe the vast majority of students do enjoy attending Armstrong High School.”