LACONIA – As part of his graduation speech Saturday morning, Principal Jim McCollum noted that the Class of 2015 helped reshape Laconia High School.
While McCollum was speaking of their enthusiasm and spirit, more importantly, he was speaking about their academic achievements.
"Three years ago, we had just five Advanced Placement courses," McCollum said. "Now we have 10 AP classes and have tripled the number of students taking them."
Advanced Placement classes are considered the most rigorous classes that can be offered in high school and, in Laconia's case, are weighted on a 5.0 scale. McCollum said yesterday that 88 students in the school took AP classes this past year and more than 100 students have enrolled in them for next year.
McCollum also said that three years ago, the Class of 2015 had five Running Start programs -- a cooperative agreement with Lakes Region Community College whereby a student can pay $150 per class and get full college credit for taking it.
Now, he said, there are 14 Running Start classes available to Laconia High School students, meaning an ambitious student who works really hard can save thousands of dollars by taking Running Start classes and getting credit for them when they enter college.
"Starting next year, we'll literally be sending kids to college," McCollum said. "We literally have the ability to have our kids walk with a high school diploma and an associates degree," he said.
He said it's about rigor and what educators want students to know.
"High school is supposed to be fun," said McCollum, noting there is more to the high school experience than just academics. "But it's also about hard work, just like a profession or professional research."
McCollum also noted that writing proficiencies set by standards mandated by the now defunct No Child Left Behind Act have gone from 33 percent reading at a proficient or better level to 66 percent proficiency or above standard.
"These kids and their parents deserve a ton of credit," said McCollum. "They didn't shy away from going for more rigor."
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