Three cheers for academic success

It’s a crisp autumn Friday night in Michigan. Children jostle at a ticket booth, waiting impatiently for the chance to claim a spot in the bleachers. A father buys a hot dog, while a mother carries a stadium blanket and a camera. A high school marching band finishes its pre-game show and high-steps off the field. Cheerleaders waive pom-pons and the crowd roars as the teams run onto the field and …

Let’s stop the image right there.

What if the teams being cheered by the crowd weren’t football players, or athletes of any kind? What if the hometown heroes were more comfortable with spiral notebooks than spiral passes?

Let’s imagine a parallel universe, one where academic achievement is honored and applauded like sports; one where the Big Man on Campus is the Smartest Man on Campus; one where old men sit at a diner remembering the glory days of the town’s state champion 8th grade science team.

Busloads of fans will head to Ford Field in Detroit next week for the state high school football championships. Those teams deserve every fervent cheer and glowing newspaper article they get. But if Michigan is going to turn its economy around, it’s not going to be on the football field -- it’s going to be in the classroom.

That’s why Bridge Magazine began the State Academic Championship two weeks ago, with 213 school districts from the four corners of Michigan making the playoffs. Today, we unveil the winners.

Selecting the champs

To crown "Academic State Champions," Bridge Magazine used the following techniques:

* For rankings in 8th grade math, science and reading and 4th grade math, reading and writing, Bridge compared the percentage of students scoring at or above proficiency standards on the Michigan Educational Assessment Program (MEAP) from the 2010-11 school year.

* For college readiness rankings, Bridge compared the percentage of juniors earning proficient scores in the four academic categories of the ACT in 2010-11 school year; Students needed to earn proficient scores in English, math, science and reading to be considered college-ready.

* For graduation rankings, Bridge compared the four-year graduation rates (the percent of freshmen who graduate in four years) for 2010, the most recent year available.

Bridge placed school districts in division by community type and socioeconomic status.

Districts were divided into city, suburban and town/rural by designations made by the National Center for Educational Statistics. Schools were further split by percentage of free lunch, a commonly used indicator of poverty level. Schools were divided as follows:

Below 20 percent free lunch, 20 percent-40 percent free lunch and above 40 percent free lunch. Because there were only three city school districts with below 20 percent free lunch, those schools were included in the affluent suburban division.

The divisions are:

Division 1: City school districts with 20 percent-40 percent free lunch.

Division 2: City school districts with over 40 percent free lunch.

Division 3: City and suburban districts with under 20 percent free lunch.

Division 4: Suburban districts with 20 percent-40 percent free lunch.

Division 5: Suburban districts with over 40 percent free lunch.

Division 6: Rural/town districts with under 20 percent free lunch.

Division 7: Rural/town districts with 20 percent-40 percent free lunch.

Division 8: rural/town districts with over 40 percent free lunch.

Editor's note: Detroit Public Schools, because of its size, did not have a true peer group and was left out of the championships. Bridge will hold a separate championship for schools within Detroit at a later date. 

Using a database created by Public Sector Consultants and the Citizens Research Council, Bridge Magazine is naming state champions in eight academic categories: College readiness (ACT proficiency); graduation rate, 8th grade math, 8th grade science, 8th grade reading, 4th grade math, 4th grade reading and 4th grade writing.

And just like in high school football, we’ve split the state’s schools into eight divisions, based on community type and socioeconomic status. (See our methodology at right.)

Those champions range from expected academic powerhouses such as Bloomfield Hills in Metro Detroit and Forest Hills in Grand Rapids, to poor, rural schools in the Upper Peninsula.

Some of the champions will surprise you. Some will inspire you. All deserve praise, not only under the Friday-night lights, but all week long.

Kicking butt on the Keweenaw

Houghton High School, on the Keweenaw Peninsula in the U.P. doesn’t have much of a football program. The team one won game this year, which is pretty much the norm, according to Principal Kass Simila.

"We just hope to score,” Simila joked.

At Houghton, the high school of Houghton-Portage Township Schools, the hallway heroes aren't gridiron goliaths, but the National Merit Scholars. “We have a couple this year,” Simila said. “One year we had five or six.”

Houghton-Portage is the College Readiness State Academic Champion for Division 6. which covers affluent rural schools.

Among juniors taking the ACT in fall 2010, 51 percent scored at or above proficient levels in English (a score of 18), math (22), science (24) and reading (21). The ACT considers students who are proficient in all categories to be “college ready,” with a good chance of success in college.

With 51 percent of its students scoring at college readiness levels (the state average is 19 percent), Houghton-Portage not only won its division, but had the second highest scores in the state. The overall champion was Bloomfield Hills, with 57 percent of its juniors rated as college-ready.

Houghton-Portage also is Academic State Champion of 8th Grade Math and 8th Grade Science in Division 6.

"My attitude as principal is, sports is supposed to be about fun, team-building and character-building. But winning? We don’t care," Simila explained. Instead, "we kick butt on the ACT."

Houghton benefits from its location down the street from Michigan Tech, a bastion of geekdom near the shores of Lake Superior. High school students often split their class time between the high school and the college.

(MORE COVERAGE: And the winners are ...)

(BRIDGE DATABASE: See how your district is doing)

The district’s studious reputation makes it a magnet for school-of-choice students looking for an academic leg up. “Thirty percent of our kids are school of choice,” Simila said. “We’re all about academics,” she added. “We don’t mess around with some of the stuff most high schools do. There are no dances, no prom. If you’re not a smart student, you don’t feel comfortable here.

Simila noted, “We have high expectations."

Bloomfield Hills spares no effort

The same can be said of Bloomfield Hills Schools, the overall State Champion of College Readiness and Division 3 champ of 8th Grade Reading.

While state records indicate that 59 percent of juniors last year were deemed college-ready by their ACT scores, the figure may be misleading. InternationalAcademy, which draws about 150 high-performing students from across the region, is considered part of Bloomfield Hills Schools in state statistics. While Bloomfield Hills has the biggest share of students at the school, top-notch students from many other districts also attend International Academy.

Located in one of the wealthiest suburbs in the state, Bloomfield Hills Schools has built-in advantages that other districts don’t. The district, as a "Section 20j" school, has received funding per student than the state average, and benefits from a community where parents with college degrees are the norm.

“Our community has always really valued college readiness and college education,” said Superintendent Rob Glass. “It becomes a matter of getting into the best schools and having multiple options as a goal, rather than will I go to college.” The district’s high schools, Andover and Lahser, offer 27 Advanced Placement courses and eight foreign languages, including Arabic and Japanese.



“The culture you develop over time, it breeds its own success,” Glass said. “The important thing is to keep it going.”

The district has worked to maintain small class sizes, and fosters a culture of individualized learning.

“The push for achievement (on standardized tests) … loses sight of the joy of learning in the larger society,” Glass said. “We’re trying to run counter to that. Every student should have a customized experience. They need to connect. We’re not as worried about test scores, frankly, as we are having a rich, deep learning experience. Our parents expect students to come home loving what they’re doing."

Glass added, "A lot of people look at education and say the sky is falling. I think we’re doing a pretty good job.”

College Readiness Champs

Academic State Champions in College Readiness by division are:

Ann Arbor Public Schools, Division 1

Holland Public Schools, Division 2

Bloomfield Hills Schools, Division 3

Marysville Public Schools, Division 4

Comstock Public Schools, Division 5

Houghton-Portage Township Schools, Division 6

Les Cheneaux Community Schools, Division 7

Northport Public Schools, Division 8




Facts matter. Trust matters. Journalism matters.

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Tue, 11/15/2011 - 12:30pm
You have included a GLARING Error regarding Bloomfield's ACT scores. By included the International Academy which is a consortium school consisting of students and teachers from participating districts you have inflated Bloomfield ACT score by nearly 20 points. The ACT percent proficiency for Andover is 42 and for Lasher it is 35. This is a critical mistake when pronouncing such findings. Also, for some of these metrics it would be useful to see total student enrollment, population size can have significant impact on some of these metrics.
Ron French
Tue, 11/15/2011 - 4:39pm
Rob, you make a good point, which we addressed briefly in the story. To be consistent, all our data for ACT proficiency comes from the state; as you know, the state includes International Academy in Bloomfield Hills' numbers. IA's numbers undoubtedly inflate Bloomfield Hills' ACT proficiency. But it's important to remember that International Academy also DECREASES the statistics for Andover and Lasher, because about 45 of International Academy's students would otherwise be attending those schools. Andover's ACT proficiency would be higher than 42 and Lahser higher than 35 if it could claim its IA students in its stats. What would those numbers be? I don't know. The solution would seem to be to allow each district to claim their IA students' data for their own when it comes to test scores.
Thu, 11/17/2011 - 8:58am
Your comments are true, but just to be clear we (Birmingham Public Schools) send teachers and over 40 kids to I A every year; the impact you cite effects us in the same way you highlight the impact on B'hills. In aggregate I'd say our performance on ACT exceeds B'Hills given that fact. In the future (according to the State) the IA scores will revert back to the contributing districts -- this is the result of increased scrutiny of district test scores; it's the right thing to do because we don't want to discourage participation in this type of program. BPS views our participation in the IA as an asset for our kids inclined towards an IB. It's also a great model of what everyone insists districts should do: collaborate, share, and focus on student achievement. Thanks for your work on highlighting the good things that are happening in public education!
Thu, 11/17/2011 - 8:55pm
I'm sorry, but this article and what the principal of Houghton, Kass Simila says makes me upset. I was a student at Houghton High School and also an athlete. How she dares to say that we don't take pride in our athletics is ridiculous. It's true the football team isn't the strongest around, but that's only one team. Houghton has fantastic sports programs and coaches that teach us that winning in the classroom and on the court/field/rink are important. Each year there is a team that makes a run at a state championship. Volleyball just got back from being in the state quarterfinals for the second year in a row, the girls basketball team hasn't lost a district in over a decade that includes many deep tournament runs, down hill skiing won the state championship 2 years ago. I'm not saying that athletics aren't important because they are, but she has it backwards it's Houghton's students participation in sports that makes them the students they are in the classroom. Sports teach them the dicipline and dedication it takes to succeed and they apply it to what they do in the classroom. I learned so many more important things from my coaches and playing than I ever learned in the classroom and I'm sure many of my fellow classmates would say the same. Simila would know that if she ever acctually got to know the studets of her school.
Houghton High S...
Sat, 11/19/2011 - 10:36am
I agree with Natalie 100%. What Kass Simila has to say about our athletes is disgusting! My son's academics are steady because they play sports! Yes, our football program needs improvement and after hearing Simila's comments I guess I don't have to wonder where the improvement should be coming from. We are a school of choice family and the only reason we chose Houghton was for the athletic programs. Im not saying that the academics aren't important but....sports teach kids about life. Something you will never learn from a book. Miss Simila sounds like she doesn't support our athletes and to assume that if you aren't smart you don't feel comfortable in her school, SHAME on you Simila!! I hope she plans on retirement soon!
Sat, 11/19/2011 - 11:05am
Agreed Natalie, you said it very well and my sentiments exactly!
Sat, 11/19/2011 - 6:14pm
I agree completely. I also participated in sports at HHS, Including football. It is disturbing that so much importance is placed solely on book smarts instead of a well rounded education. I was not an academic star in high school and I felt perfectly comfortable at HHS. Kass Simila is delusional if she thinks that sports and winning isn't important. She should ask the students and teachers if they are important to them rather than spouting her own opinion. A well rounded education and common sense is much more important than getting a 31 on your ACT. That is why Michigan education is not the best, the focus is on test taking abilities rather than problem solving skills. I could go on for pages about this stuff, but for the sake of my sanity, I won't. Oh and by the way, I learned more about writing form in one class at MTU than I learned in all of my time in HHS.
Sat, 11/19/2011 - 6:41pm
Natalie, you took the words right out of my mouth. You are one of the shining examples of Houghton High Schools graduates, bringing academics and sports together.
Thu, 11/17/2011 - 11:13pm
***I meant "I'm not saying academics aren't important"*****
Sat, 11/19/2011 - 1:33am
When i went to high school at Houghton High you never saw our principal, Kass Simila at any athletic events or pep rallies.. Always Mr. Klein and he was the one demoted... I would like the school board to explain why the person who took interest in the students was punished yet the one who only cares about the statistics and not the students is still around and getting paid her retirement plus as an independant contractor. I'm thoroughly disgusted with the school board and Kass Simila. I wish I could be at the school board meeting..
Fri, 11/18/2011 - 11:30am
okay Kass Simila couldn't be more wrong about our school (Houghton High School). she claims Houghton is the best but in actuality, its not. she is almost never here to know whats going on, or to even get to know people on a personal basis. The fact she says sports are pretty much worthless is bull. Our athletics are some of the best along with academics. so for her to not give a shit about sports is terrible. shes suppose to support the school in EVERY aspect. The fact of the matter is that this a public school not a private school. so Kass needs to learn to actually do her job, because this school is not for smart people. you will not be uncomfortable if you aren't the smartest. Simila do your job for once. END OF STORY.
Fri, 11/18/2011 - 3:49pm
Houghton high school is a great school, and what the "principal " said or what the writer of this article made it seem like she said is all wrong. Most of our top students are in sports! And I'm not it the top percent of "smart" kids but I NEVER feel uncomfortable
Fri, 11/18/2011 - 5:37pm
What exactly do we attend school for? I am a student athlete attending Houghton High School right now, and I focus on my academics before my sports. High school sports are a PRIVILEGE. We attend school to learn, not to play sports. Obviously my fellow students are also concentrating on their academics, because otherwise this article wouldn't even exist.
Fri, 11/18/2011 - 6:19pm
"If you’re not a smart student, you don’t feel comfortable here," says Principal Kass Simila. The moment I read this, i knew i was in for a laugh and I surely got that. Yes, academics are important in school and it's great that Houghton has achieved such great marks in that area, however; this article is quite demeaning to the area of sports. This is nothing more than an article that is bashing sports. Like Natalie said, sports help make the students in the classroom. Athletes, at Houghton at least, are expected to have a certain grade level they must achieve. Do you think teachers just give them a bye in classes just to play in games? Of courses not. A lot of those athletes are dedicated to academics just so much as they are to their sports. Why focus on just the Houghton's Football program? Yes, they haven't done the best in there, but have you even checked up on your facts? Houghton has a great skiing, volleyball, hockey, track, cross country, and swimming programs. We've excelled in many sports, but you chose football simply because of the bad record and just to support your article. Simply, academics and athletics stand side by side. You can't say that one is above the other because they co-exist together. The true "heroes" of the hall are not the National Merit Scholars nor the athletes, but both together. Everyone has their own specialty or ability that makes them unique whether it be in the academic or athletic field. Maybe next time you write, assuming they let you, you'll see this. Lastly, this article is terribly bias and these "quotes" twisted to the author's liking. Maybe he had some grudge against the athletes at the school he went too. Maybe envy, make jealousy. This article is fulling of demeaning things such as "a bastion of geekdom near the shores of Lake Superior." Oh yeah, one last things. "The team one won game this year" =)
Fri, 11/18/2011 - 6:21pm
Of course, comment needs approval cause you only want the opinions you want to here. My opinion comes from someone who only goes in academics. ^o^
Fri, 11/18/2011 - 8:09pm
IN terms of what HHS Principle Kass Simila is being quoted in this article, I feel it demonstartes a blatant lack of respect for the 'average student' & 'average' student athlete. Then again, perhaps the 'Average' student does not exist at Houghton High School. Ms Simila's comment referring to the lack of sucess on the football as 'we don't care' is an outrageou assumption on her part, such a stretch and exxageration of the truth. Or is it, of you 'Ron French' in composing this story..?? As a Houghton High School Alum, and a parent of 2 sons who attend / attended HHS as 'School of Choice' yes we take the high starndard of acedemicx for granted, the reason we chose for our kids to get their 'publicly funded equal opportunity' education as mandated by the state. We ASSUME our children will get a quality education as the curriculum is mandated by the State. However, this does not mean sucess on the fooltball takes the back seat or is more important then what transpires in the class room. Its called appreciating and learning a real 'work/ life' balance. Managing time and energy , developing a work ethic. However, this 'we don't care' about winning comment is a huge insult to all the past & present HHS Football athletes, and all the athletes who dedicate theirselves in the class rooom and to their sport to be best they can while 'representing the school district'. Do not ever discredit or try to diminish the value of the individual 'School Pride' In my opinion this article did a injustice creating lasting damaging affects to the HHS student body. While it was intended to be a compliment, hats off to the acdemic champions, it also served as a slap in the face to the 'average' students who might not always feel SO SMART!!!! DUMB DUMB writing.
Fri, 11/18/2011 - 8:33pm
I completely agree with you, Natalie. I'm sure all the athletes would agree, too. How a principle can say that the school doesn't care about winning is a joke. Every kid, in every sport in Houghton, is there to win. If they are not, they shouldn't, and wouldn't, be playing. For many kids, that is high on their list of priorities, to make the HS team and from there, go on to play in college. I can't imagine any of the coaches would be too thrilled to hear what she thinks. There wouldn't be such a huge rivalry between Houghton, Hancock, and Calumet if winning didn't matter. I think she is also full of hot air when it comes to dances. It is an outright lie. Houghton has dances. Who is she trying to kid?!
Fri, 11/18/2011 - 9:41pm
Mr. French, your admonishment of the importance of academics, at the expense of choosing to isolate the HHS Varsity Gremlin Football team is in very poor taste. No one would argue that academics aren't important & valued, as they should be, at HHS or any school. But to make the ridiculous comparison to a football game, and the HHS Varsity Football team's poor season in particular - as though by choosing to attend a game & laud the players translates to NOT caring about the academic prowess at the same school, shows lack of judgement on your part, and frankly - very strange writing. Your comparison is simply mean-spirited. It does nothing to showcase the importance of academics. It is so unfortunate that Mrs. Simila contributed to nonsense with her cynical statements, "we just hope to score", "but winning? We don't care." Those statements say more about who she is - and isn't - than they do about HHS. Some of those football players you chose to belittle & denigrate are the very same ones that have heavily contributed to the academic excellence at HHS. They will also be the ones that will be prepared to pursue excellence in all areas of life post-high school. Lastly - "one won...won one"?? Either way... Come on... "Spiral notebooks & spiral passes" was all you had in this article and I think it was the tiny inspiration you must have had for this silly & lacking analogy. And from the comments left by others, you apparently inflated your facts. Academic grade: D-
Fri, 11/18/2011 - 9:46pm
I definitely agree with everything that Natalie has said. I too am a Houghton High alumni and this article and the comments made by my former principal disgust me. I was a student athlete playing two sports a year and received high grades and a high score on the ACT. Sure our football team hasn't won a lot of games the past few years, but our whole school takes such pride in the team, as well as every other team at Houghton High. Last year, Houghton had 5 or 6 Valedictorians, 2 of which I know for a fact were strong athletes. As far has her "we just hope to score" quote, that was very uncalled for. To make fun of the team, who puts in long hours and hard work at practice everyday, is very distasteful. The kids in the picture were not told what this photo would be used for, or what the pose actually stood for (academics trumps athletics) which is unfair and I know those kids would not have posed like that had they known what it was for. I would also like to point out that Hought High DOES, and always has, had Prom, although it is not a school sponsored operation. Also, last year, the school did in fact start having school sponsored dances for homecoming and other things. Simila's quotes make Houghton High sound like a stuck up, snooty place that only accepts the smartest of the smart. This is simply not true. Not everyone at Houghton is an A student, but everyone gets along very well. Everyone knows everyone, which makes for a very friendly and safe environment. It is definitely not a place where anyone feels uncomfortable due to their "lack of academic success". This article makes me ashamed of where I went to high school and I'm very disappointed in my former principal.
Mother of Hough...
Fri, 11/18/2011 - 10:35pm
I am totally offended that Principal Simula would state that Houghton doesn't care about athletics and that athletes are poor students. I have had 5 students play varsity sports that all were A-B students that scored high on ACT's, SAT's, and went on to college and successful careers. I am offended to hear that she thinks that only non-athletes are the smart ones in the school. Her staged photo should create a real uproar in the school by suggesting that the three football students are not smart.... if I were their parents I would ask for her resignation and a public apology by the school. I encourage parents and students alike to flood the school board this coming Monday at their monthly meeting and express their disappointment and demand that she resign.
Jim Bob
Fri, 11/18/2011 - 11:28pm
This article makes me very upset. I am a Houghton alumni. I valued doing well in school and also valued being a hard working athlete. My sister was a top student in her class when she recently graduated from Houghton High School, and she also was played on multiple sports teams. My brother, currently a student at Houghton, is a very smart student, contributing to Houghton's high ACT average with a top score. He also happens to be a very talented athlete, participating in sports in all three seasons, and serving as Captain of multiple teams. Obviously everyone will agree that academics are important, but since when do we pursue academics at the expense of athletics. Those who invest in athletics while balancing the demands of their academic studies, take on added responsibility, learn discipline and teamwork, etc., benefiting in many ways from their involvement in sports. This article is ridiculous. "The team one won game this year, which is pretty much the norm, according to Principal Kass Simila." The writer and publisher of this article should be embarrassed, however even worse, is the arrogance of some of the comments made by the principal, as well as her belittling comments about the football team. "We just hope to score," Simila joked. Nice. Making fun of your own team. That is great leadership. Kick them when they're down instead of attempting to build morale for a team that has been struggling. Utter disrespect for the hard work and dedication of the coaches and players on the football team. Kass Simila should be ashamed of her reckless comments, which most likely will further the lack of respect her former and current students have for her.
Fri, 11/18/2011 - 11:40pm
As a former student athlete at Houghton High School and as a person who has had personal experience involving students who struggle with their studies due to slight LD and other reasons, I find this article to be incredibly insular. Although the principal of HHS does not explicitly state it, to insinuate that student athletes are of somehow lesser academic quality is, quite frankly, a gross over-generalization at best and an insult to student athletes everywhere. Also, there is an understated but obvious line drawn between "student athletics" and the football program, leading one to wonder if there is a bit of a personal vendetta against a particular athletic program. While there may exist a culture that, at times, places too much emphasis on the success of athletics, both at HHS and at schools across the state, this is an extremely inappropriate way to address it. Additionally, although I understand the practicality of the approach, I have struggled with the rather broad-sweeping manner in which standardized test scores are used as a primary benchmark for measuring a student's implied value to society. The statement "if you're not a smart student, you don't feel comfortable here," made by the principal of a public school, at which anyone, intelligent or average, can enroll, is an example of the mindset that this approach can create. I believe that an effort must be made to recognize the full potential of each student, on the premise that each of them can become a happy, contributing member to society, regardless of test scores. The instilling of values such as hard work, the achievement of success in the face of adversity, and the realization of one's personal potential as a member of a whole are, in my opinion, to be valued much more than the above average intelligence of a select portion of the student body. Ironically, student athletics teach many of these values, and so should not be put down in the manner in which they are here. It bothers me to see demonstrated a level of thought shallow enough to make these statements and insinuations and to publish such an article.
Sat, 11/19/2011 - 10:58am
academics are just as important athletics. what happened to the Together Everyone Achieves More TEAM...on the old gym wall...
Chris S.
Sat, 11/19/2011 - 12:53pm
I graduated from houghton, and Simila is a joke. Most of houghton's kids are athletes, and every sport except football, is a strong program. All the championship banners that are hanging in the gym just make her eat her words. Lost all respect for her.
Sat, 11/19/2011 - 10:37pm
Im pretty sure Kass isn't gonna be the favorite around Houghton
Sat, 11/19/2011 - 11:33pm
Is Simila talking about the correct school? The athletes WANT to win. There was a DANCE last night. WAKE UP!!!
Mon, 11/21/2011 - 3:26pm
Just because there are "quotation" marks doesn't make it a quote.I've been interviewed many times and have been misquoted to the point of libel. When called out on this he thinks what he wrote is hilarious and has meant to start this fire. Wow, how many of you have ever talked to Kass? No, this is a journalist hell bent on discrediting Houghton Schools. How can anyone really think that Kass or anyone would say such garbage. The toughest part of an interview is not knowing what and how they'll print. This guy came in with a vendetta and should be fired, and we should be writing to the Bridge, not tearing her down. It's so obvious it's sad to think so many are falling for it. We need to stand behind Kass AND our school and take real action against this journalist.
Mon, 11/21/2011 - 6:09pm
No one should have any sympathy for her. Whether she was misquoted or not, a majority of Houghton alum and currently attending student haven't been too fond of her. She doesn't even try to get to know her students. She basically butchers graduation when it comes to announcing everyone's names. Also from hearing rude comments that she has made IN PERSON aside from this, i have zero doubt in my mind that she said all of this. And just like basically everyone else said, when do you ever even see her? She's either in her office on the phone or on vacation. Congrats to her for losing basically every past and present Houghton student's respect.
Tue, 11/22/2011 - 10:18pm
This article confirms my view of Houghton High School since I moved here 8 years ago!!! What's funny is people are questioning the validity of the "quotes" by Kass Simila......What's even funnier is the public apology that she wrote today said "that she had an ill choice of words"!!! So to me that means that she did say all of those things and now she should be held accountable!!! Way to go Ms. Simila you have made your school district look as snobby and snooty as it can get......What I have to wonder is would Harvard accept a student that was one dimensional? Let me answer that, NO they wouldn't....Schools are meant to develop children as a well rounded person, so if that includes sports, band, quiz bowl, etc.....I would highly suggest that all kids have more than one dimension to them, so that when the books close they can actually solve real world problems that you CAN'T read out of a book. Because at the end of the day it doesn't matter what your score was on the ACT if you can't balance your checkbook or raise your family!!!! As a student athlete I was beyond offended by the whole article. I feel sorry for the "avg" student that attends HHS "if they don't feel comfortable" going to school everyday.... Shame on you for making your students feel substandard!!!
Jim Bob
Wed, 11/23/2011 - 8:37pm
For your information, the journalist, senior editor, and president of Bridge magazine have all been contacted about Mrs. Simila's comments, and each of them are willing to go on the record as saying that Mrs. Simila's quotes were exact and not in any way taken out of context.
Mon, 11/21/2011 - 5:04pm
My goodness, talk about letting emotion get in the way of rationality... Congratulations, Houghton-Portage schools! In this day and age of shrinking budgets and declining UP populations, you've pulled off a coup! Every administrator, teacher and parent (not caught up in an emotional slide into the abyss) should be proud of the kids' achievements. The dedication and perseverance required to do that is rare and most laudable. Keep up the good work!
Mon, 11/21/2011 - 6:46pm
Anybody looking for evidence that public funding of high school athletic programs should end need look no further than at these comments. Apparently even in schools focused on delivering academic excellence the athletic programs produce whiny fools intent on pulling things out of context and screaming foul on the officials. "It was a strike, you idiot!" "The ref is blind, didn't you see off sides?" "The ref is playing favorites!" Whaaa, whaaa, whaaa. Whiners:(
Mon, 11/21/2011 - 9:06pm
From what I understand, this is exactly how Kass feels. Give me a break. There is no way any of her comments can be taken out of context that bad. Little by little, she started taking away from anything to do with athletics, starting with shortening pep assemblies. Not even a first grader could twist her words that bad.
Mon, 11/21/2011 - 11:55pm
Being a former student from HHS I believe that I can make comments on how Kass handles her job as principal. I'm willing to bet that most of my class would stand behind me in saying that she simply does not care about the students. Example: at graduation practice the first thing she says is "i'm sorry if I say your name wrong". Granted, my name is hard to say, I could walk into every other office or classroom at HHS and the teacher would automatically know my name and be able to hold a conversation with me. Our school is small, it is not hard to know every person in it, but you have to make an EFFORT. No effort to get to know the students is made by Kass ever, so I find it impossible to stand behind someone who treats the student body like crap. When you ask if any of us have talked to Kass, that answer is most likely going to be no since she 1. was never there to talk to and 2. never made an effort to talk to students unless you were in trouble. Agreeing with Betty, Kass is no where to be seen at sporting events or pep rallies, not to mention she is rarely seen at school.
Tue, 11/22/2011 - 9:04am
Public schools aren't chartered to provide athletic education. They exist to provide a balanced academic education intended to prepare responsible, intelligent and contributing adults that benefit our society. That's why their performance is gauged by scores on academic tests and not how well any of their teams perform on the field. That's why Mrs. Simila and the rest of the school administrators focus on the performance of students in the class room and not on the field. That's how they ensure maximum funding. That's why this article was (supposedly) written - to celebrate the outstanding academic performance of a school and congratulate the administrator who helped make it possible. Athletics has its place in public schools, but to put this much emphasis on it is just plain wrong-headed. To place scorn on an outstanding administrator like Mrs. Simila based upon a clearly biased portrayal is sadly short sighted. To look at the outstanding accomplishments of that school and then carry on about the principal not attending sporting events is simply ignorant. Please, Mrs. Simila, continue doing exactly what you have been doing. You've put the red-headed, stepchild UP back on the Michigan map and I for one am most appreciative and proud of the school my children have attended!
Wed, 11/23/2011 - 9:09pm
I am quite sure that those of us who are upset about the comments made in the article would all agree that students attend school to receive a thorough education, however, extracurricular activities, including athletics, are a very important part of creating a well rounded individual. Also, the frustration we all have is with the lack of respect Mrs. Simila demonstrated for her students by the demeaning comments she made in regard to a team at Houghton that was struggling. Instead of praising her students for being outstanding academic students as well as hard working athletes, she chose to make cynical comments about a team that has been struggling. It would not matter one bit if it was the football team, the chess team, or the band. Her comments were reckless and distasteful. Our frustration is with the lack of respect shown to an extremely hardworking group of students and their leaders, the coaches. If you cannot understand our frustration then you obviously are simply too far removed from the situation. If your own child, a student at Houghton High school, was one of the top academic students in his/her class and also was a member of an extra curricular team/group, and you saw that his/her efforts were mocked, I am certain you would understand.
Thinking Clearly
Tue, 11/22/2011 - 12:46pm
Let's consider the source here....."Bridge"? "Center for MIchigan"? Who the heck are you and why does ANYONE care what "awards" you decide to bestow on schools? You are important to no one but yourselves, your awards mean nothing credible to anyone and are not worth the paper they are printed on, your research methods are flawed and poor, and your writers are clueless. Kass are clearly in need of a quote generator other than your "shoot from the hip" analysis that accomplished NOTHING but the alienation of your students, staff, and community..... I would surmise that Kass Simila doesn't feel very "comfortable" at Houghton high school herself, as her comments make her look anything other than "smart".
Tue, 11/22/2011 - 5:04pm
People.... The reason everyone at HHS is upset is not because of the comments about sports made by Mrs. Simila. That is just the tip of the iceberg; the straw the broke the camel’s back. The emotions are running high because Kass has displayed years of neglect to the student body and cares only about one thing. Numbers. It’s not difficult to teach smart students and there are some that don’t make the grade at HHS, but if we look good on paper academically, then all must be peaches and cream at HHS. That is simply not the case. FACT: HHS schools look good on paper regarding academics. ANOTHER FACT: HHS just lost their entire technology and computer departments due to budget cuts. Last time I checked, technology and computers are essential for everyone's future. What should have been cut is Art class and Art History should have been blended into the history classes at HHS. Yes the history of Art is important, but lets face it, all drawings of the future are done on computers. So yes, HHS looks good on paper, but the cuts are extreme when neighboring schools are using ipads in the classrooms in this school-of-choice advanced technology state. This cut, supported by Kass Simila, raises the question of what we are doing to prepare our students for college, especially with a technological university right around the corner. FACT: HHS does not have a strong football program. ANOTHER FACT: Whether the program is strong or not, those students who play football should not be ridiculed for dedicating countless hours to their sport of choice. In addition, the football players of HHS are also the same students who are the academic champions of HHS. They are also the same students who go on to play hockey, basketball, track and golf and other successful sports at HHS. There is no geek-jock differentiation at HHS. They are the same students wrapped into one. That is what Mrs. Simila should have said in her quotes; that as a TEAM (Together, Everyone, Achieves, More) athletics and academics make Houghton High School a school-of-choice for so many. Emotions are running high because of this. The reason everyone is so up-in-arms over this is because we are all one and the same people and Mrs. Simila attempted to put a rift in our school between academics and athletics instead of embracing the students for being well-rounded individuals. FACT: Those that are not as smart ARE comfortable at HHS. ANOTHER FACT: Those students who are not as smart are also on the football team, the hockey team, the basketball, golf, track, cross country and volleyball teams, yet they have to meet eligibility each week to play in their sport. Sure they might not be scoring a 31 on their ACT's, but these students are learning about discipline, responsibility and teamwork on and off the playing field, and blend into the student body with those that do score a 31 on their ACT. In closing, for those of you that condone Kass Simila’s comments, I wonder, have you had a student that might not have made the grade at HHS? Have you had a student that was dismissed as just an athlete? Have you had a student that Kass passed in the hallway each and every day at HHS and didn’t know the students name? Just sayin….. To Mrs. Simila: When your pipes freeze this winter and you have to call a plumber, I’m willing to bet that the guy that comes to your house to solve your problem is not the guy that scored a 31 on his ACT. It will more than likely be the guy who was the average HHS student, maybe an athlete, maybe not, but regardless, he feels "comfortable" offering his trade that he chose in life to help those in need, while he goes home every night to his loving family and teaches his children about being a respectful, responsible, ethical, hard-working person. Thank God for the Steve Jobs and the Bill Gates of the world and Thank God for the plumbers who became productive citizens (part of the HHS mission statement.)!
Eugene Golanda
Thu, 09/06/2012 - 10:57am
Thank you for attempting to level the playing field when comparing academic achievements among different school districts. It would be an even more effective comparison, in my opinion, were you to include student mobility rates as a factor. Students who are not the products of the local schools are included in the MEAP scores as well as the students who have really been products of those schools. This is a real disservice. There are schools and school systems that have a very high turnover rate among their student populations. And there are schools and systems that have very low turnover rates. I'd speculate that you might find more than a little difference when taking this factor into consideration. Additionally, you might also consider looking at the effect of attendance on academic achievement. If students don't regularly attend schools, the schools shouldn't be held accountable for the results.