Thomas Edwards is a 2021 Springfield High School graduate who credits the International Baccalaureate Programme for preparing him for his start at Columbia University. Courtesy of Springfield City School District
Thomas Edwards graduated from Springfield High School in 2021 and earned a perfect score in the International Baccalaureate Programme. Courtesy of Springfield City School District
Springfield High School graduate Thomas Edwards is going into his freshman year of college with a solid head on his shoulders and the world at his feet.
The president of the class of 2021, who told fellow seniors in his speech at graduation that they are the main actors in their own life movies, headed to Columbia University in New York City to study film, international politics, psychology, law and whatever else he decides to tackle each day.
For many, the thought of the first day at an Ivy League school would be daunting and full of anxiety. But Edwards says he’s feeling positive and poised – with credit to his experience in the International Baccalaureate Programme at SHS.
“I feel more confident completing tasks,” Edwards says of his day-to-day life. “I also find myself analyzing things a little bit differently.”
The IB program at SHS is designed to offer challenging coursework to academically motivated students in order to prepare them for the rigors of college.
SHS began offering the program in 2005, and it is the only school in Clark County to offer the IB Program, which is respected by leading universities around the globe.
Edwards, who actually lives in the Clark-Shawnee Local School District, open-enrolled in the Springfield City School District at the beginning of his high school career, in part, because of the opportunities that the IB program offers to SCSD students. The coursework in his freshman year at Columbia will be at a similar level as an IB curriculum – making the transition to college practically seamless.
The IB program is offered in two formats – the IB Course Program or the IB Diploma Program.
As a full IB diploma candidate, Edwards took six IB courses during his junior and senior years, wrote a 4,000 word essay and completed a community service project related to a meaningful cause.
He scored a perfect ‘7’ on the IB English Higher Level exam. This is only the sixth ‘7’ at SHS since 2008.
“I really think my scores are just a perfect reflection of how well the teachers teach but also care about their students’ success,” Edwards says.
But Edwards isn’t the only success story from this year.
SHS had eight full diploma candidates this year, six of whom earned the diploma. This 75 percent pass rate is up from the 50 percent pass rate during the previous two years. It is also the highest pass rate since North and South High schools merged in 2008 to form SHS.
Edwards says the students in the IB program become very close to one another and share a passion for education that helps motivate them to push forward and achieve their goals.
“We go through it all together,” he says.
The class of 2021 results prove even more impressive considering none of the students had ever taken an IB exam previously. The pandemic cancelled exams in 2020.
“Ms. Beth Biester took over the reins of the program during the 2020 school year. Her work continues an established tradition of excellence. The school's achievement continues to improve and showcase SHS as a school with students who can compete and succeed on an international stage,” says SHS Lead Principal Patrick Smith. “The Wildcats continue to rise, living up to their full potential.”
SHS administrators are looking forward to building on the success of the previous year and propelling more students, like Edwards, into their successful futures.
IB Program Coordinator Beth Biester says she’s already setting goals for the new school year to improve communication and coordination between IB teachers.
Biester has also made efforts to dispel community perceptions that IB is only available to gifted or financially advantaged students. SHS absorbs any registration and testing costs for all IB students to allow all students the option to participate without regard to cost.
“I would also like to do more education about IB with the staff members who don’t teach IB courses,” she says. “The people who love the program the most are those who know the most about it, so the key is to get the word out about it!”