Ypsilanti’s Washtenaw International High School ranks 2nd in statewide ACT rankings

wihiWhile I don’t think that you can necessarily judge the quality of a school based on test scores alone, it’s incredibly cool to know that, after just three years in operation, Ypsilanti’s Washtenaw International High School is already the highest performing school in Washtenaw County (relative to ACT scores), and the second highest ranking high school in the entire state of Michigan. As Ann Arbor has plans to open an International Baccalaureate high school of their own in the near future, which will no doubt pull a few of these bright kids back across Carpenter Road, I don’t know how long this supremacy of ours will continue, but it’s nice while it lasts. And it’s just awesome to have an Ypsi school in the press for something so incredibly positive for a change… Congratulations to outgoing Principal Bert Okma, and the staff and students of WIHI. A composite ACT score of 27.3 is an incredible accomplishment.

update: As several angry people on the site of the Ann Arbor News point out, the WIHI student body doesn’t just consist of Ypsi kids. (So please don’t make the mistake of thinking that our local kids are worth a damn.) Furthermore, as students have to apply for admission, and maintain a certain degree of academic achievement in order to stay in the program, it’s not exactly fair to make comparisons with the county’s other public schools, which, for the most part, have open enrollment. With that said, though, I doubt the folks complaining would have been as irate had the school in question been in Ann Arbor, and I don’t recall them in the past qualifying stories about the test scores at Community High, which also doesn’t have open enrollment. Regardless, I have to confess I take some pleasure in the fact that my friends at the Ann Arbor News had to change their story, which was all about the rise in ACT scores across the region, to acknowledge that it was an Ypsi school leading the pack.

Here’s the beginning of the Ann Arbor News story:


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  1. 734
    Posted July 9, 2014 at 8:05 am | Permalink

    Annarbor.com didn’t just not mention that WIHI had the best scores, they reported that Community High led Washtenaw County schools. Here’s a comment left on the Annarbor.com site that includes the initial language from the article.


    “Community High School’s students posted the highest average ACT score of any Washtenaw County high school, improving to 25.4 from 24.9 in 2013.”

    Sorry, not so. Highest average ACT high school score in Washtenaw County belongs to Washtenaw International High School (WIHi) in Ypsilanti. WIHi smoked ’em all, including a2’s vaunted Community High. 2014 averages follow:

    27.3 all subjects

    28 English

    26.5 Math

    28.1 Reading

    26.1 Science

    Good luck next year, a2 public schools. WIHi continues it’s fourth academic year in its already-certified/authorized international baccalaureate degree program, while you begin to offer some IB classes.

  2. EJ
    Posted July 9, 2014 at 8:13 am | Permalink

    The Ann Arbor News interviewed me yesterday and asked if I feel safe in Ypsilanti while i was eating a bowl of kale salad in the alleyway on work break. Channel 7 news Detroit has asked me that before. Safer here than Ann Arbor and Detroit! Geeeeez.

  3. Lynne
    Posted July 9, 2014 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

    The classism in Ann Arbor as they view Ypsilanti always cracks me up sometimes. I always have to sit on my hands to keep from making sarcastic snide comments on Ann Arbor.com whenever they report about a crime that happened in Ann Arbor. Still a part of me wants to say “Oh, I can’t understand why anyone would live in Ann Arbor with that kind of crime” so they can see how stupid they sound when they make similar comments about any sort of crime that happens to occur in Ypsilanti.

  4. Dan
    Posted July 9, 2014 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

    actually Lynne, they just posted an article the other day on there with the crime statistics of the county. Comparing the per capita violent crime stats from the Ypsi Police Department and AAPD, you are about 4 times more likely to be robbed in Ypsi than AA. Comparing all violent crimes, ypsi’s rate is double ann arbor’s.

    also, this entire thread stinks of inferiority.

  5. Jcp2
    Posted July 9, 2014 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

    Wihi is a WISD consortium school physically located in Ypsilanti. About a quarter of the students are from Ann Arbor, a quarter from Saline, a quarter from Ypsilanti Community, including Canton students who use Ypsilanti school of choice to be eligible for Wihi, and the rest from other participating districts, with Lincoln Consolidated being the next largest contingent. Dexter has it’s own IB program and chose not to participate in the consortium.

  6. josh
    Posted July 9, 2014 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

    Dan, and you’re still more likely to die in a car crash on your morning commute than be the victim of a violent crime while spending the day in Ypsi. Humans suck at risk assessment.

  7. Eel
    Posted July 9, 2014 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

    I’d rather stink of inferiority than of douchiness.

  8. kate
    Posted July 9, 2014 at 4:01 pm | Permalink

    The first ranked high school statewide for ACT is the other IB high school that Mr. Okema started.

  9. Dan
    Posted July 9, 2014 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

    josh, your point is irrelevant. one can avoid the statistical probability of death on their morning commute by not commuting. Similarly, one can avoid the statistical probability of violent crimes in a city by not living in said city.

    just because you have a chance to die in a car crash, it doesn’t make sense to ignore all other statistics on being harmed.

    You are much much more likely to die from cancer than from AIDS. does that mean you should ignore the threat of contracting AIDS?

  10. Lynne
    Posted July 9, 2014 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

    Yeah. The crime in Detroit is higher too. I once got into a huge argument with a dude when I was in Hamburg about Detroit. He couldn’t believe that I actually lived there and didn’t know anyone who had been raped or murdered. I still don’t know anyone who was murdered in Detroit or anyone who was raped by a stranger.

    Here is the thing about violent crime too, both in Detroit and Ypsilanti. Most violent crime is not random. The victim is usually familiar with the criminal. Josh sums it up quite well, humans are not good at risk assessment. Heck, look at how many people think pit bulls are dangerous to children even though children are WAY more likely to be harmed by their own parents.

  11. Dan
    Posted July 9, 2014 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

    wow. you two truly proved that humans are not good at risk assessment.

  12. Dan
    Posted July 9, 2014 at 4:38 pm | Permalink

    “hey, my kid might get abused by his father, so why don’t I add a pitbull to the mix”

  13. Frosted Flakes
    Posted July 9, 2014 at 6:48 pm | Permalink

    I read the AnnArbor.com comments last night and I did not find the comments irate and/or somehow belittling to Ypsilanti students. Rather, the arguments by annarbor.com commenters, that may have somehow been misinterpreted in that way seeemed to revolve around the idea that WIHI indirectly fills it’s classroom with students who are more likely to do well on the ACT. (A common argument made against charter schools.) In other words, I did not see the classism–at the expense of Ypsilanti– that others saw in the comments. Sometimes I think that Ypsilanti residents are overly sensitive to classism that is not really there….my two cents…

  14. MichiganParent
    Posted July 9, 2014 at 10:32 pm | Permalink

    While Community also has a lottery system, I would argue that it’s a much more welcoming school to students with IEPs – there is a support system of TCs and an infrastructure for students who receive special education services which does not seem apparent at WiHi. It would be interesting to compare the number of students with IEPs at WiHi versus Community. On perception alone, WiHi does not seem like a school willing or built to take students with a variety of learning differences (or perhaps only mild learning differences). A model of a comprehensive high school that offers IB classes (as opposed to only full diploma) will serve a much broader and diverse spectrum of students.

  15. josh
    Posted July 10, 2014 at 1:46 am | Permalink

    Every time someone has to drive to the grocery store, a restaurant, a work place, or a bar (eek) because they live in “safe” suburbia, they endanger their lives. By living in Ypsi I almost never have to drive. Living in Ypsi is safer than living out in suburbia.

  16. Posted July 10, 2014 at 5:50 am | Permalink

    It’s odd to me that people try to deny that Ypsilanti has a problem with crime. Just because no one on this blog has been the victim of crime, doesn’t mean that others have not.

    I have never been robbed at gunpoint in Nairobi though I have experienced crime in Ann Arbor. That does not indicate that Nairobi is safer than Ann Arbor.

    Actually, denying it is somewhat disrespectful to all the people who have been victims of crime in Ypsilanti. It’s as if their experience do not matter.

  17. anony
    Posted July 10, 2014 at 6:58 am | Permalink

    Congrats to WiHi – I see this as proof of concept that a rigorous curriculum can succeed in Ypsi with Ypsi kids in it. I don’t think A2’s “us too” version will really matter much because it will be too diluted. WiHi is rocking and doing great work.

    I don’t give a rats-ass if they have selective admissions policies. The lump-em-all-together-and-call-it-good game doesn’t produce academic excellence. It never has.

  18. kate
    Posted July 10, 2014 at 8:51 am | Permalink

    They have a lottery for admissions – this year – for next year’s students, is the first year they have needed to use it. Students who apply for admissions must take some tests, however, they are not admitted/refused based on the tests. If they score below a certain level they have to take classes over the summer to prepare for the academics. If they aren’t willing to do this, then they can’t go to WIHI. They are not screened out based on how they do on the tests. WIHI gets all special ed services thru Ypsilanti schools, I believe. So any TC or other services needed would come from there.
    The program is very rigorous, it attracts students and families who want a high powered education. In this regard, it is somewhat self selecting.

  19. maryd
    Posted July 10, 2014 at 8:59 am | Permalink

    Pshaw on all the negativity…I’m happy we have a winning option for kids on the east side and East Middle School has been successfully re-invented.

  20. Lynne
    Posted July 10, 2014 at 10:29 am | Permalink

    “Just because no one on this blog has been the victim of crime, doesn’t mean that others have not.”

    That is a big presumption. I have been the victim of crimes in my life however the only place where I was ever a victim of a violent crime, I was in Ann Arbor, Detroit, or Ferndale. That doesn’t mean that I don’t think Ypsilanti has a crime problem but I know that because of the nature of most crimes (i.e. they are not random and the victims know their attackers), I am pretty much just as safe walking down the street in Ypsilanti as I am in Ann Arbor. Any difference in safety is minor. I mean if your chances of being robbed are 1 in a 1000, and one place has double that crime rate, you’ll find that 2 in 1000 isn’t really all that much more risky than 1 in a 1000.

  21. josh
    Posted July 10, 2014 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

    As a matter of risk assessment, no, their experience does not matter. Which is precisely my point. Just because a suburban lifestyle feels safer than living a few blocks from the Ypsi transit center doesn’t mean it is. No one is denying that Ypsi has higher crime rates. But compared to getting all your meals from the drive thru at McDonalds, it’s not very dangerous.

  22. Kristin
    Posted July 11, 2014 at 9:00 am | Permalink

    How nice to have another option for high school. It wasn’t my cup of tea, but my brother got a great education at Community High School. As an Ypsi-living school-of-choice student in the Ann Arbor district my child isn’t eligible for the Commie lottery, so it looked like if she was looking for a different secondary experience we could only consider private schools. And by “consider” I mean that we would have to try and come up with a lot of money we don’t have to try and pay for it. I like knowing that if she stays academically aggressive that she could choose an IB program. I’ll look forward to watching the program develop in the meantime.

  23. Dan
    Posted July 11, 2014 at 9:33 am | Permalink

    josh, no one is/was comparing the risks of driving and/or eating like shit to the risks of being a victim of violent crime. They are not connected. just because you can or do limit your risk to driving related harm, it doesn’t mean you can’t limit your risk to crime-related harm.

    you’re essentially saying that because you’ve managed to avoid one risk factor, that you can accept to be exposed to another.

    thats ridiculous. if you’re twice as likely to be robbed in ypsi than in aa, why would you just say “fuck it, at least I am not going to die in a car crash today”

  24. Lynne
    Posted July 11, 2014 at 11:25 am | Permalink

    I wonder if Ypsilanti has ever considered a small open classroom school modeled after Ann Arbor Community High School. It seems like there is a demand for that sort of school such that it could help bring in kids from nearby communities as well as serving the kids within the district better.

  25. maryd
    Posted July 11, 2014 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

    @Lynne, I know at one time they were offering HighScope classrooms at George El. in Ypsi. This is a very similar educational approach. It was not sustained. I would have loved such a model when my children were in school. Alas not even Ann Arbor had the wisdom to build another winning High School option like Communty High (as in Skyline). Seems like a no-brainer.

  26. PrincessTinyMeat
    Posted July 12, 2014 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

    This is great news about WiHi, though it’s important to remember tests are a single measure that usually demonstrate memory as opposed to application. They certainly don’t measure creativity, which has all but been quashed from public and charter K-12 schools.

    On another note, WiHi has an enormous playing field – probably four acres or so – that appears to be unused. I run my dog there frequently, but it’s a shame the school doesn’t appear to have more robust outdoor programs in athletics, agriculture, life sciences, etc. It looks like a wasted space.

  27. EOS
    Posted July 12, 2014 at 7:20 pm | Permalink

    Homeschooling is still a better option. Average test scores are nearly 4 standard deviations above the mean.


  28. Lynne
    Posted July 14, 2014 at 9:33 am | Permalink

    Re: Homeschooling. I’ve known more than one family that has taken this route. The thing that really floored me was how long my friends spent doing the home schooling. I think they spent around 20 mins – an hour a day doing schoolwork and then they just let their kids play the rest of the time. To me, it was an excellent example of how much time gets wasted during regular school.

  29. Anomymous Mike
    Posted July 14, 2014 at 9:36 am | Permalink

    Or of how bad your friends are at homeschooling.

  30. Lynne
    Posted July 14, 2014 at 10:52 am | Permalink

    Well Anonymous Mike, how would you judge such a thing? Since all of these kids are well above average in terms of reading and math skills (and in one family, the kids are additionally multilingual), I am assuming that their parents are doing ok. Of course, the best comparison would be to how they would have performed in school but you can’t know that and a lot of the research suggests that if these kids were put into even the worst performing schools, they would likely have good educational outcomes anyways so it may be that these children’s educational success is not based on their parents’ skills as homeschoolers. *shrug*.

  31. Frosted Flakes
    Posted July 15, 2014 at 2:09 am | Permalink


    My elementary school aged children average about an hour of school assigned homework per day. In. addition, judging from the completed paperwork they send home I would guess that my children are doing 2.5 hours of in-school PAPERWORK per school day. By paperwork I mean interacting with a piece of paper with a pencil. I assume their teachers are spending several hours a day preparing their minds (via lecture) to do the PAPERWORK. If your estimates are accurate then your friends are very bad at home schooling. I don’t care if their kids are testing out above average–their kids are not coming close to reaching their full potential if they are doing such a small amount of school work, in my opinion. Let’s put it thjs way–If growing up, LeBron James practiced basketball for only 40 minutes a day he would have still been a good a highschool player but he would have never been good enough to start on a college basketball team…Your friends are being grossly irresponsible (in my opinion)…

  32. EOS
    Posted July 15, 2014 at 4:24 am | Permalink

    The average homeschooled student spends about 3 hours per day, 5 days a week to learn a curriculum that is more encompassing than any public school student. The rest of each day is used for field trips, independent study, volunteer work, household chores or social activities and sports. The student progresses at his own pace without needless repetition of skills already mastered or frequent interruptions for discipline. Many outstanding curriculum packages can be purchased, so each parent doesn’t have to reinvent the wheel. There are online assessments to test progress and expert consultants for advice on additional strategies to master difficult concepts. Those parents who dump their children into public schools and expecct that their children are being taught to their maximum capabilities are being grossly irresponsible (in my opinion).

  33. Frosted Flakes
    Posted July 15, 2014 at 9:23 am | Permalink


    I was not trying to imply that homeschooling in general is a bad thing. I was responding to Lynne’s assertion that she has specific friends that homeschool and only have their kids do 40 minutes of work per day on average. 40 minutes a day is way too little. Like you suggest, three hours a day of focused and non repetitive school work is a reasonable amount. 40 minutes? No.

  34. Lynne
    Posted July 15, 2014 at 9:53 am | Permalink

    I completely disagree that 40 minutes isn’t enough time. I can see first hand that it IS enough time for the children to learn the things they don’t want to learn. They spend the rest of their time learning the things they want to learn because learning is fun. There is no need to provide so much structure to it or at least there are kids who do better without so much structure. In some cases the structure becomes a source of frustration to the point where a natural love of learning gets replaced with an avoidance of learning.

  35. Frosted Flakes
    Posted July 15, 2014 at 10:10 am | Permalink


    I am not pretending to be an authority on this stuff but I will say that your statements are shocking to me. I understand the idea of a child following their interests and being assisted with their education by a teacher but if between the two of them they can not generate more than 40 minutes a day of educational challenging-show-your-results type of work then maybe that child is not the type of curious mind that would benefit from non-structured learning. For goodness sake–how many hours of Math do you think a child do per week? I would love to hear from someone who has studied and PRACTICED educational science. I am not an expert but 40 minutes a day sounds like kind of a light load, right?!?

  36. Lynne
    Posted July 15, 2014 at 10:16 am | Permalink

    Frosted Flakes, I honestly don’t understand why so many people feel that unstructured time is idle time or that kids aren’t learning if they are having fun.

  37. EOS
    Posted July 15, 2014 at 10:34 am | Permalink

    I have to side with Frosted Flakes on this one. The fun should be structured so that essential content is covered.

  38. anonymous
    Posted July 15, 2014 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

    EOS I notice that you haven’t commented on the thread about the 120 young refugees from South America being sent north to Michigan while they await their immigration hearings. As a Christian, I’m sure you don’t have an issue with it, but I’m curious to know what you think about the reactions of the people in Vassar.

  39. Frosted Flakes
    Posted July 15, 2014 at 4:03 pm | Permalink


    A balanced approach is probably best. Insofar as we are becoming more intelligent our minds are always ordering chaos. I just hope that all the talk about the benefits of unstructured learning (in such an extreme way) is not really an alibi for lazy teaching/parenting. 40 minutes a day of structured learning seems extreme. A naturally curious child, who would most benefit from assisted-interest-following would naturally demand from their teacher/parent a lot more than 40 minutes of structured learning (I would think). It would be extremely difficult to assist them in their curiosities I would think….

  40. Lynne
    Posted July 15, 2014 at 5:08 pm | Permalink

    Probably different approaches work differently with different children. In this family, the parents spent around 40 minutes per day working through some curriculum provided to them from the state (California if you are interested). Otherwise, they just let the kids learn on their own. Both kids are HUGE readers to the point where they have to constantly tell their kids to stop reading all of the time.

    They’ve also traveled the world with these kids. One thing about kids is that they just absorb languages without any formal learning. So the kids both speak French (from when they lived in France) and Swiss-German (from when they lived in Switzerland). The eldest also speaks Spanish and the youngest is learning Chinese. These kids are so far ahead of their peers academically that it isn’t even funny. I think they are exactly the sort of kids who find public education soul crushing.

    However, now that they are older, they are engaged in more formal instruction. The 14 year old has enrolled at the local community college and the 10 year old spends her allowance on private Chinese lessons as well as some formal art classes. I was surprised at the 14 year old’s adjustment to a more formal class environment. She needed some guidance about managing her time regarding studying with a test deadline and having due dates for the assignments but she adjusted remarkably quickly, imho.

    I am pretty sure that the 40 minutes a day was not the result of lazy parenting although I don’t see why that matters. The point is that if we could, as a society, start taking a “less is more” approach to our education *and* our work lives, I think we would find that we can get more done with less stress. I get it that 40 minutes a day is an extreme that may not work for many kids but I’ll bet we could 1/2 our school days at public schools and 1/4 them for homeschoolers and get, in many cases, even better results.

  41. jcp2
    Posted July 16, 2014 at 9:15 am | Permalink

    I would submit that children that have opportunities to live in France and Switzerland likely come from a background where they would do well in any learning environment. Unfortunately, they are the exception, not the rule.

  42. Lynne
    Posted July 16, 2014 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

    There is no doubt that there is a lot of evidence that things such as the educational attainment of parents and their socio-economic status are much bigger factors in educational performance than anything else. I submit that for such students, the public school model is a failure and a waste of their time. From my point of view, for students such as this, who are able to quickly master “reading, writing, and arithmetic”, allowing them to follow their own interests in an unstructured environment is more beneficial to them than forcing them to sit in a mind numbing classroom doing busy work.

    Anyways, I like the idea of having lots of different schools of choice, each of which has a different educational philosophy, so that parents can choose what works best for their individual child. One model could spend 40 minutes on formal classroom instruction of “the basics” with the rest of the day spent on other less formal methods of instruction. I went to a private school like this myself. We spent 2 hours rather than 40 minutes on math and writing but with class sizes of around 6. What if we had a school where kids could go for half days with smaller class sizes? We do kids a huge disservice by keeping them in school all day when they would be better off playing outside for a large part of that time.

  43. David Dugger
    Posted July 21, 2014 at 10:16 am | Permalink

    As the Executive Director of the Washtenaw Educational Options Consortium I oversee three programs in the Ypsilanti area: The Early College Alliance at EMU, WIHI and the WAVE (Washtenaw Alliance for Virtual Education, formerly WAY). First I want to congratulate the entire WIHI staff for their accomplishment – we’ve been working on this for nearly 5 years now and to see it come to fruition is most fulfilling. Secondly, I am consistent astounded by the misinformation that swirls around these three programs and encourage anyone who is interested in them to contact the programs to see if they are the right educational options for you, or your children and Mark if you are interested in learning more feel free to contact me directly.

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