First Class Graduating at Grand Island High Will Be Quite Unusual - February 1966
Examing class rings are officers of first senior class (left) Steve Dreyer, J. Scott Herlan, Nina Braddell (Goss) and Jayne Pless - Click photo for a larger view.
Editor's Note: This article by Sue Fruchtbaum was published in the Buffalo Evening News on Wednesday, February 9, 1966.
Grand Island High School graduates its first class this June.
And in some ways it is an almost unique class for Western New York.
First of all, the 140-member class is bigger now than when it entered the high school, 125 strong. More students transferred in than transferred out. But, more unusual, is the fact that practically no one has dropped out.
Of the 800 students who have attended Grand Island Junior-Senior High School during the past three years, only 10 have quit school, a dropout rate of just over 1%. Most American secondary schools average 25% to 40%.
Why have the young people stayed? Dr. Clyde O. Eidens, the high school principal, thinks there are five reasons.
First is the make-up of the community. "The typical adult on Grand Island has had 12.4 years of schooling," he says, "and those who are educated promote education with their children."
Second is the school's method of grouping students to help them get the most out of their school work.
Most high schools today group their brightest students together for honors classes and their slowest for classes that move ahead more slowly.
Programs Are Varied
However, the student who is bright in mathematics is not always good in English and social studies nor is the English student necessarily good in math and science.
So in Grand Island High School students are grouped by their ability in each subject. A student may be in an honors class in just one or two of his subjects or in all four or five.
This not only gives more students a chance at special instruction but shuffles up the students so the same ones are not in class together all day long.
Dr. Eidens' third reason is the variety of programs offered at Grand Island which includes seven and a half, instead of five, periods a week of English language and reading instruction for those seventh and eighth graders who have fallen behind, about 30% of the group.
Other Classes Planned
The academically talented seventh and eighth graders are kept excited about school by foreign-language instruction for about two and a half periods a week.
Seventh graders and their parents have a voice in deciding whether each child takes Spanish or French.
Within a few years, Dr. Eidens hopes to add an extra two and a half periods of language arts of some type for all seventh and eighth graders, perhaps speech, composition and/or literature.
Juniors and seniors may choose supplemental electives in creative writing and dramatics, in economic theory, Russian or Latin American history and development, in social psychology, in probability and statistics and in analytic geometry.
By next year, French 5 and second-year physics, chemistry and/or biology will be added.
Some Study at Center
Students can major in science, foreign language, mathematics, business, industrial arts, home economics, music or art. Others can elect one or more courses in these fields. Nine students are taking vocational work for part of each day at the Harkness Center in Cheektowaga.
Quality teaching is Dr. Eidens' fourth reason for the school's freedom from dropouts.
For example: From 1963-65, over 750 applicants for teaching positions were interviewed to fill 51 vacancies, a ratio of approximately 15 applicants to each job.
A quality school board that almost never turns down requests for funds to improve the program and unimaginative, alert supervising principal, Miss Veronica Connor, make up his fifth reason. "There is a tradition of good education on
Grand Island," he says.
Coping With Newness
But the school with few financial or drop-out problems has a problem that no other Western New York high school faces this year.
The colleges receiving applications from Grand Island's Class of 1966 have never seen a graduate of the school in action and they don't know how he will do.
The school has not been caught unprepared, however. Every transcript of a senior sent to a college is accompanied by a school "profile" listing the courses, the grade spread, the faculty background and material about the community.
In addition, the school's guidance counselors have been visiting colleges east of the Mississippi to meet admissions counselors for the past three years.
Those interviewing prospective teachers on college campuses have also carried the message to admissions offices that Grand Island High is going to be heard from.