In a candid expression of pride and approval, Waxahachie ISD Superintendent Dr. Jeremy Glenn looked across the boardroom to tell Ken Lynch that his staff at Waxahachie Global High School was "killin' it."
He isn't wrong.
The state-recognized early college and STEM high school, which just concluded its tenth year of educating local youth, was recently awarded a fourth-consecutive bronze medal in the 2017 US News and World Report of best high schools in the country and named a 2016 Honor Roll School by the Educational Results Partnership. There were also a record-high 86 Waxahachie Global High School seniors who graduated with an associate’s degree this May.
“Mr. Lynch, you guys are just killin’ it over there at Global High School […] and we appreciate your leadership,” said Glenn to Lynch as Shelle Blaylock, WISD Assistant Superintendent of Leadership and Academics, showed a slide to the Waxahachie ISD Board of Trustees with Global increasing all of its STAAR scores at a clip of 96 percent or higher.
Even amid the praise, the academic success is nothing new for Lynch or Waxahachie Global High School — it’s just further proof that the approach to education used at Global over its first decade “really works,” said Lynch.
As Blaylock flashed another slide during the WISD Board of Trustees meeting held Monday, June 12, the trustees and those in attendance learned that 100 percent of Global students passed the end-of-course (EOC) Algebra I test. The feat, according to Lynch would not be uncommon for an eighth-grade algebra class, "because those are advanced kids but these are just regular students. They are ninth graders just like what would go to anybody else who were taking algebra one.”
In addition, Global had 99 percent of English I students pass the EOC and all but five students passed the English II EOC (96 percent). Ninety-eight percent of students passed the biology EOC.
Keeping with the percentages, 100 percent of Global graduates are what the TEA deems "college ready," Lynch explained and exactly zero percent of students enrolled have failed to graduate — in each of the 10 years.
For reference, the National Center for Education Statistics reports the average national graduation rate for the 2014-15 school year was around 83 percent, which happened to be its highest since the data was first collected during the 2010-11 session.
"When we first talk to those freshmen I tell them that it seems impossible on day one but the fact that 90 percent of our seniors walk across the stage every year with their associate degree proves that it is possible,” Lynch said. “It is really just up to them and how much work they want to put in."
“[…] I always tell the kids when they come in as freshmen that it is a big change from what they did in junior high but their next hardest year will be their junior year because that is when they really take the majority of those college classes,” he added. “Most of our juniors will be enrolled in five dual-credit courses, so that is 15 or 16 hours depending on if they are taking a science or not. If you were at a real college that would be everything that they would have to do — and that's a full load and in addition to our high school classes.”
In achieving exemplary academic accolades over the years, Lynch credits the community-type atmosphere that the small class sizes afford, as well as a focus on academics without potential distractions from sports, band or drama.
"We have great teachers, and they know everybody because it's such a small school. The students know the teachers. The teachers know the kids and they put forth a lot of hours, and that's not to say that other teachers don't. They really do work to make it kind of a family atmosphere and the kids feel pretty comfortable coming to them for help,” he explained.
Lynch continued by stating if one were to look across the country at other STEM or early college high schools that keep the enrollment numbers low, that person would find “the model works."
“Then when you get the right teachers and then the students come in with the right mindset and get the right culture, it really works,” Lynch said. "The teachers are putting forth the extra effort, and the kids try hard, and that is what leads to all of the recognitions. I think the model, if nothing else over the last 10 years, of us having a small campus, not offering any sports, band or drama, and just concentrating on academics, I think, we have shown that that model works.”
Not to be lost in the banners or medals is the fact that, in Ellis County, there is only one high school that received straight A's on the oft-controversial state-issued A-F Accountability Rating — Waxahachie Global High School.
"It just shows that it can be done," Lynch said. "There are a lot of things that the rating leaves out that are good things that schools do. But the fact that we can do that is an accomplishment."
There is also a common misconception that Lynch made sure to dispel: Global is not a magnet school and does not require any particular level of IQ for acceptance.
“We have some really intelligent students and if you look at our top 10 they are remarkable but the majority of our students or just regular students,” Lynch explained. “We don't discriminate against particular groups and the only students we can't take are those with special education needs that we can't meet here. We have 504 students, those with dyslexia, and all of those types of students that you would find in a regular high school we have here. But, when you have 86 seniors walk across the stage with an associate degree, that is from their own hard work and they have chosen to do that. They have put in their time to make that happen and they show it can't be done."
"This is the best job in the world," said Lynch with a smile as he perked up a little in his chair. "It really is."