Ferris Bueller vs. Eagle County
After consulting with the admissions offices of several major universities, I discovered that this high school, herein referred to as FBHS (for Ferris Bueller’s High School), is considered one of the nation’s premier secondary schools.
With this in mind I thought it might be interesting to compare the Eagle Valley’s high schools in 10 key areas with what is arguably one of America’s best.
Intangibles such as the attitude and commitment of the educators prohibit a completely scientific comparison; nevertheless, you may find the following illuminating.
1. Is there a zero tolerance policy for drugs, alcohol and weapons (i.e. if the student is caught with any one of the above, he or she is immediately expelled from school.) FBHS – yes; Vail Christian H.S. – yes; VMS views involvement with drugs/alcohol as an issue that would warrant further understanding (i.e. discussions with students involved and parents) and the possibility of convening the disciplinary committee. Past responses have included one or a combination of the following: community service, counseling, suspension, and expulsion; Battle Mountain, Eagle Valley, and Red Canyon high schools are zero tolerance regarding weapons only; drugs and alcohol are grounds for suspension – these guidelines come from the state.
2. The student-teacher ratio. FBHS 24:1; VCHS 7:1; VMS 5:1; BMHS 16:1; EVHS 16:1; RCHS 10:1.
3. The student-counselor ratio. FBHS 280:1; VCHS 66:1; VMS has an adviser system with a 16:1 ratio; BMHS 350:1; EVHS 250:1; RCHS has one certified counselor on staff and all teachers serve as mentors, for a ratio of 12:1.
4. Full-time college counselor. FBHS has one full-time college counselor in addition to two social workers and an on-staff psychiatrist for 1,874 students; VCHS no, their guidance counselor doubles as a college counselor; VMS has one full time college counselor, and in addition the headmaster and assistant headmaster also assist with college counseling; BMHS and EVHS no, their guidance counselors also double as college counselors; RCHS no.
5. Do the schools allocate a specific number of dollars for teachers to attend professional conferences? FBHS $10,000 per department. VCHS no, but they offer their faculty a continuing education allowance. VMS yes, and they also require teachers to enroll in professional development programs every two years, exact dollar budget is unknown. BMHS, EVHS and RCHS work under the same guidelines for professional conferences. The dollars available for such events are part of developmental budget requests and are allocated by departments based on individual needs.
6. Does the high school offer Advanced Placement classes? FBHS offers 24 classes for 1,874 students (a ratio of one AP class per 78 students); VCHS offers two, French and calculus (a ratio of one AP class for 33 students); VMS offers six AP courses, (a ratio of one AP class for 12 students); BMHS will offer 10 Advanced Placement classes in 2002-03, (a ratio of one AP class per 66 students), and in addition BMHS offers nine AP/dual credit college level courses in conjunction with Colorado Mountain College; EVHS offers nine Advanced Placement classes, (a ratio of one AP class per 61 students,); RCHS, with under 70 students, does not offer AP classes but will design a curriculum if a student wants one, which ties in nicely with the RCHS concept of being an “alternative school” where students are encouraged and guided in taking more responsibility for their own educations.
7. Do the schools offer honors classes for every department? FBHS yes. VCHS no honors classes per se, but they offer dual credit classes in conjunction with Concordia University in Irvine, Calif. (these credits are accepted at any college in the country). VMS is college preparatory, so they offer “honors distinction” in each course. BMHS has honors classes in the English Department and has dual credit courses in conjunction with CMC. EVHS offers honors classes in the core studies, English, math, science and social studies, along with the dual credit classes. RCHS honors programs are administered as accelerated for students who want to advance through a course faster than the norm.
8. Percentage of faculty with master’s degrees or above. FBHS 60 percent. BMHS 66 percent. EVHS 50 percent. RCHS 80 percent. VCHS, five of the 10 have a master’s or higher and two are working on their masters; in addition, VCHS videos many of their classes and afterward the teachers meet with the principal and master teacher to review the content and delivery of the class. VMS, 25 percent. They also conduct a new teachers’ seminar weekly throughout the year for all teachers new to VMS. In that seminar they discuss school culture, pedagogy and philosophy. Participants are required to make presentations and conduct seminars. They occasionally use video to record and evaluate teaching methods.
9. How much does the school spend per year to educate each student? FBHS $12,000; VCHS $13,000; VMS $10,000. BMHS, EVHS and RCHS all spend about $6,000 per student.
10. Percentage of students who go on to higher education. FBHS 97 percent. VCHS last year had 17 of 17 graduates go on to higher education. VMS, 100 percent, a graduation requirement is acceptance to a four-year college and the majority of their students go to their first choice college. BMHS 88 percent. EVHS, 75 percent; in addition EVHS considers itself a “comprehensive high school,” i.e. they feel they are attuned to the culture of the community because they know that not all students will go on to higher education and so they offer two shop classes in addition to a biotech lab and a broadcasting facility. RCHS 10 out of 19, or just over 50 percent.
It’s important to note that there was not a single source for the above information, but nevertheless every administrator I spoke with was more than helpful in providing information to me. I think you’ll agree that on balance, the valley’s high schools compare rather favorably to Ferris Bueller’s.
Butch Mazzuca of Singletree writes a weekly column for the Daily.