Roughly 20 percent of this year’s A.C. Flora seniors graduated from the rigorous International Baccalaureate program, which has grown to be the state’s largest, according to principal Richard McClure.
More than half of Flora’s students are enrolled in IB or Advanced Placement classes, or both. And more than four of five students graduate on time.
The number of IB students has about doubled or more since McClure came to Flora nine years ago, when the IB program was still in its early stages and parents and students were still hesitant to take on its challenges, he said.
And it’s unusual, he said, for a school to have robust programs in both IB and AP as Flora does, offering a wider variety of challenging options to students.
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“I think as students saw other students’ success, (they said), ‘Well I can do this, too,” McClure said. “I believe our school family of parents and students and faculty have all bought in to the concept of student achievement and taking a more rigorous curriculum.”
Flora’s challenging academics are partly what attracted Anil Kircaliali, whose family moved from Turkey two years ago and who chose to attend Flora over other local schools.
“In Turkey, I used to go to an IB school, too, so I get the chance to compare the IB program here to Turkey,” said Kircaliali, who graduated Thursday and will study mechanical engineering at the University of South Carolina Honors College in the fall. “It’s just so much more rigorous and serious here.”
The IB program offers a school-within-a-school environment where students are competitive in an iron-sharpening-iron kind of way.
“Because of the competitive nature of the students and the program, my grades have actually improved,” said Tyler Gray, a two-sport athlete bound for Harvard University. He said he initially shied away from joining the IB program because of what he had heard about its difficulty.
“When your best friends are people who are really competitive about school, and the whole class is competitive about school, you can’t be the one slouch,” Gray said of the IB program.
“So it’s made me a lot more competitive, and that’s why I’m doing well, I guess.”
Annie Williams, another 2015 graduate, traded private schools in favor of a public-school education, embracing the challenge of Flora’s IB curriculum.
“You’re able to stand out and achieve and be proud of your achievements here,” said Williams, who joined the Flora community as a sophomore after 15 years of private schooling. “It ended up being the best decision ever. ... I haven’t had to sacrifice anything.”
Comparing Flora and Dreher
A.C. Flora has traditionally competed in Dreher’s shadow. But a decade of steady strides to success has elevated Flora to share the spotlight as among Richland 1’s and the state’s best schools.
Here’s a look at how the two high schools compare, based in part on the most recent data from 2014 state report cards:
A.C. Flora: 1,316
A.C. Flora: 84.8 percent
Dreher: 83.8 percent
Students enrolled in AP or IB classes
A.C. Flora: 54.3 percent
Dreher: 29.6 percent
Enrolled students successful on AP or IB exams
A.C. Flora: 59.2 percent
Dreher: 73.3 percent
Teachers with advanced degrees
A.C. Flora: 80.2 percent
Dreher: 72.6 percent
Athletic team state championships in 2014-15
A.C. Flora: three (boys’ golf, boys’ soccer, boys’ tennis)
Dreher: one (girls’ soccer)