I have had the honor and privilege to serve as an administrator at Armstrong High School for the past 24 years … the last 17 years as head principal. I am extremely proud of the progress that Armstrong has made during that time in the areas of academic success by embracing our ever-changing community and budget constraints. We are continually ranked as one of the most academically competitive high schools in the state.
Since I came to Armstrong in 1995, our building has become more diverse and now serve families that speak dozens of languages.
In the spring of 2003, my first year as head principal, we gave 459 Advanced Placement (AP) tests. The enrollment that year at Armstrong was 2,330 students (which was the second-highest enrollment in the history of the building). This year, we offered 21 AP courses and administered 1,251 AP tests and have students submitting AP Studio Arts portfolios.
Our enrollment this past year was 1,951 students. We are all about making the demographics in our AP courses mirror the building demographics. In fact, the gains we have made to support all students have prohibited us from receiving a federal grant to make our AP program more diverse.
As a school, we currently have 44% students of color and 35% students on the free and reduced lunch program. We are an academic institution, first and foremost, and the outstanding staff at Armstrong have continued to put students first with professionalism and passion. I could not be more proud of the academic opportunities we offer our students.
One of the biggest reasons for the increased success of all students is our AVID program, which we implemented in 2005 as a result of a federal Smaller Learning Communities grant. Since the implementation, we have seen a dramatic increase in the academic achievement of students of color, immigrant students and students who are first-generation college-bound students.
The very talented faculty at Armstrong has incorporated the teaching strategies of the AVID program in virtually all classes along with increased academic expectations and increased behavioral expectations.
In 2013, we began conversations in our English department to create a one-track course of study in ninth and 10th grade English. At the time, this conversation included the previous superintendent, Aldo Sicoli, who fully supported this work.
The implementation for this change has resulted in greater achievement for our ninth and 10th grade students and has better prepared them for Advanced Placement classes. We have since detracked our ninth grade science curriculum and increased AP options for ninth graders.
The focus on high expectations for academic success and behavior has had a very positive effect on our school culture. We are experiencing a steady decline in our out-of-school suspension rates over the past several years.
Armstrong High School has been consistently rated as one of the top high schools in the state and I am proud of the increased academic achievement that has been demonstrated by all the students who are taking advantage of the wide range of academic experiences we have to offer.
I can also state with pride that the athletic, arts and other activities that Armstrong offers have consistently performed at high levels and have earned various conference and state championships.
The Armstrong fine arts program is second to none and is well-known across the state for excellence.
Students from all backgrounds and abilities are welcome to participate in all our activities to help enhance their high school experience.
Armstrong High School is a work in progress, as are all schools, and I am excited to see how we will continue to meet future challenges as Armstrong continues to move forward as a school community. It has been my honor to serve at Armstrong as an administrator for the past 24 years. Go Falcons!
David Dahl is the former principal of Armstrong High School and is in a new role as principal of leadership development for Robbinsdale Area Schools.