Guest column: Rigorous balance at Basalt High School | AspenTimes.com

Guest column: Rigorous balance at Basalt High School

Peter Mueller
Guest column

On Dec. 17, I watched in awe as Basalt High School's boys and girls basketball teams took on their downvalley rivals, the Roaring Fork Rams. The Longhorns thrilled in their ability to pick apart a Roaring Fork team that was not quite ready for an electric full-court press driven by the Rivera twins, Pablo and Pedro, or for the Longhorns' perimeter passing that invariably left our big man Michael Glen open at the post to quickly pivot and lay it in for two. Equally pleasing for the Basalt fans who had waited years to see their women's team emerge as an equal competitor, senior Rubi Araiza caught a quick pass, squared her feet and shoulders and launched a flat arched three at the buzzer that sent the game into overtime.

In contrast to the temporary thrill of victory, success in the academic realm lasts a lifetime. Basalt High School recently reviewed its results in Advanced Placement with the parent, student and faculty School Accountability Committee. Five years ago, 20 of the school's students were enrolled in Advanced Placement classes. By 2015, that number has grown to 73 students, or approximately one-third of our 11th- and 12th-grade students. Last year, more than half of these students scored a 3 or better (many colleges accept scores of 3, 4 or 5 for college credit) on one of five Advanced Placement classes offered at Basalt High School. Our success here is better than the national average. For students who did not fare as well, studies show that they will have a much a greater shot at success when they enroll in a similar class in college because they have adapted to the increased rigor. The expansion of our Advanced Placement offerings and the number of students choosing them bode well for how our seniors will do when they head off to college.

Basalt High School, like other high schools in the Roaring Fork Valley, encourages students to take the most rigorous classes to prepare them for their futures. But we also counsel students to find a balance in their academic program. Two or three Advanced Placement classes each year in 11th and 12th grade provide ample opportunity for rigor. These classes also can be mixed with Colorado Mountain College courses, four of which are offered right in the high school. The real beauty of a small school like Basalt is that students can take these most challenging classes, be thoughtfully engaged in other classes and have the opportunity to pursue an artistic or athletic interest. Like the significant increase in students accessing Advanced Placement classes, we have seen similar growth in the number of students staying after school to participate in extracurricular activities.

As this year's eighth-graders prepare to head up Southside Drive, they will be encouraged to take advantage of Basalt High School's diverse academic offerings. Our Advanced Placement offerings have grown substantially in recent years and will allow the students to pursue, in depth, the subjects in which they are most interested and continue to lead active and artistic lives. We value opportunity and growth in all areas of our high school program. How else would a 5-foot-4 senior girl end up draining the 3-pointer to send it into overtime?

Peter Mueller is principal of Basalt High School.

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