Challenging, but is it enjoyable?

Is there a way to make Sumner both challenging & enjoyable?

Who Am I?

Hello, my name is Jesus Rodriguez but most people call me Jesse. I am a sophomore and this is my first year here at Sumner Academy. My school was just recently named "the most challenging school" in the state of Kansas, but is this really a good thing?

I finally came to my question while having a discussion between our class and Mrs. McClaine. To her surprise, she learned that many of us did not enjoy being in high school, and this saddened her as she considered high school to be one of the best times of her life. This immediately touched me too because I believe that school should definitely be a memorable time rather then 4 years of constant stress over grades, tests and time-management. It saddened me to see my fellow classmates express themselves the way they did about our school, it also saddened me that being the most challenging isn’t necessarily a good thing, especially if the students feel miserable in the school.

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My question has come to be “is there a way to make Sumner both challenging & enjoyable?” and by doing so, eliminating the constant stress and anxiety that students often speak of in order to consider these high school years as best times as well, as well as implementing curricular changes in order to solve many of my classmates issues with school. I hope to gain new information on how our curriculum here at Sumner works, how does it differ from other schools and how we could implement similar changes that would create a fun and educational environment for us as students. Also I hope to gain solutions to several issues that are connected with the oppression of an enjoyable time here at Sumner in order to better improve our classes.

Daniel M. Solomon Holland's Review on Sumner Academy

"A good school with tons of potential. However, Sumner has a ways to go. I am a senior this year, and my experience with Sumner has been that it focuses more on grades than the quality education of its students. Of course, just like any school, there are good and bad teachers, and good and bad classes. Yet the problems at Sumner extend far past the classroom.

The traditional way of teaching, of taking a class of 30 individuals and teaching to the average student, leaving a third of the class behind and another third bored out of their minds, is not an efficient way of teaching. It is NOT a good school for all learning styles. It only suits the organized, traditional learner.

Yes, Sumner is a vigorous school with strong curriculum. However, according to the Kansas Dept. of Education, Sumner has maintained an average ACT score of 21 or 22 for the past 6 years (which is about the National average), some years falling below the State Average. This is because Sumner has virtually no ACT preparation classes, workshops, tutoring, etc.

There is a no late work policy as well that states any late work will be a "zero" (will receive zero credit). In the world of progressive academics, this is considered ludicrous because a failing grade is being assigned to a paper that the teacher never saw. It could be the most well written, powerful, organized paper in the school, but if it's turned in 5 minutes late, it doesn't matter. The student receives zero credit. This policy does not encourage excellence in the classroom, it encourages obedience and compliance. It is more important to turn in completed work than to turn in quality work.

Furthermore, the school was recently rated in the top 100 high schools in America in terms of College Preparedness. This ranking is assigned by the ratio of students who take higher level classes (IB or AP) to the percentage who graduate.

For Sumner, the ratio is 1:1. Every student is required to take 2 IB classes: IBH English and one other. This forces students to take the IB exams at the end of the year. Exams that are scored across the world. Your score on them determines whether or not you...

Well, nothing really. You receive the scores the summer AFTER you graduate, AFTER you have already been accepted to College. AFTER you receive the last of your scholarship information. The IB scores are only valuable IF you take all IB classes (At least: 3 higher level IB courses, 3 standard level IB courses, and Theory of Knowledge). This is called "Full IB" and will earn you an "IB Diploma" if a student passes all classes AND receives a sum of 24 or greater on their 7 IB tests.

(Tests are scored on a scale of 0-7, 0 being worst and 7 being best. The average score varies from class to class, but a good estimate for Sumner is a 3 or 4 average. This, compared to other IB schools in the area, is somewhat lackluster to their 5 average).

This diploma makes for a nice centerpiece on your office wall, considering it doesn't help with your degree.

Now, don't take this all the wrong way. Sumner is a good school. The students are encouraging towards one another and there's a home for every student, whether it be in theatre or choir, sports or cheer, magic the gathering clubs or art, there's a place for everyone.

There are some simply outstanding teachers who relate well with the students. Everyone 9th-12th grade receives a MacBook Air laptop to use throughout the school year (as does the rest of USD 500). There's tutoring available most days and it's not hard to make good friends.

However, at the same time, Sumner has a ways to go. There is so much potential bottled up in this school. It's just been hard unleashing it. I would encourage everyone to come to Sumner if given the opportunity.

Unless, that is, you have a learning style that is very different from most students. In that case, be prepared, because without an IEP (for "Gifted Students" only) or a 504 Plan (A government disability form), very few teachers will work with you to try and accommodate for your learning style.

The best of luck,


Sumner Academy's Curriculum

During years 9 through 12, students are required to complete

  • 4 additional years of English with at least one year being an International Baccalaureate class,
  • 3 additional math credits beyond Algebra I with the option of taking either a 5th
    credit in mathematics or physics their senior year,
  • 3 additional science classes including biology and chemistry,
  • 3.5 credits in social studies,
  • 1 credit in Etymology
  • 1 credit in Humanities
  • Additional requirements in the areas of computer science, physical education, business and fine arts.

(this excludes the 8th grade year)

Wyandotte High's Curiculum

During years 9 through 12, students are required to complete

  • 4 credits of English,
  • 4 credits of Mathematics (with the minimum culminating course Intermediate College Algebra),
  • 3 credits of Science,
  • 3 credits of Social Science,
  • Additional requirements in the areas of computer science, physical education, business and fine arts in respective SLCs

The answer? Yes, there is a way!

Small Learning Communities (SLCs)

The Smaller Learning Communities (SLC) program awards discretionary grants to local educational agencies (LEAs) to support the implementation of SLCs and activities to improve student academic achievement in large public high schools with enrollments of 1,000 or more students. SLCs include structures such as freshman academies, multi-grade academies organized around career interests or other themes, "houses" in which small groups of students remain together throughout high school, and autonomous schools-within-a-school, as well as personalization strategies, such as student advisories, family advocate systems, and mentoring programs.

Individualized Education Program (IEPs)

The IEP is meant to address each child’s unique learning issues and include specific educational goals. It is a legally binding document. The school must provide everything it promises in the IEP.