The International Academy, or IA, is a high school located in Bloomfield Hills, Oakland County, Michigan, with additional campuses in White Lake Township, Michigan and Troy, Michigan. It is a public, tuition-free school of choice (although selection is by a lottery) for students across Oakland County, with about a dozen school districts (including Bloomfield Hills, Berkley, Birmingham, Farmington, Lake Orion, Oxford, Rochester, Royal Oak, Walled Lake, and West Bloomfield districts) sending students to the central campus alone. Students are required to earn both high school and International Baccalaureate (IB) diplomas. According to IA, 95% of the Class of 2006 earned IB degrees. According to an article from 2004, 88% of enrolled students earn IB degrees. Both statistics demonstrate that IA's diploma attainment is well above both the North American average (78%) and the world average (81%) for diploma attainment.
The school is officially hosted by the Bloomfield Hills School District. It was founded at the initiative of Lambert Okma, now principal, who previously taught economics at Bloomfield Hills Lahser High School. Mr. Okma is one of the main proponents of IB education in the state of Michigan, and it has helped to promote the IB program not only by opening satellite campuses, but also by encouraging other districts to start their own IB programs, with significant success (Bloomfield Hills made its Lone Pine Elementary School and West Hills Middle School/Andover High School official IB schools for the Primary Years and Middle Years programs respectively, and Saginaw Heritage High School is an example of one school which added an IB program after having its juniors sit in on IB classes at the International Academy).
IA was recognized by Newsweek
as the top public school in the nation in 2003, second in 2004, second in 2005, ninth in 2006, seventh in 2007, and twelfth in 2008. Newsweek's standings were based upon the number of IB or AP tests that the school averages per graduating senior. The IA maintains a high standard with this criterion because each senior is required to sit for the IB tests each May as a diploma candidate. Each senior therefore takes at least six IB tests (in addition to the Theory of Knowledge and Extended Essay requirements), giving the school a high average number of IB tests.
According to IA, on standardized tests the Class of 2007 averaged a 624 Verbal average and a 650 Math average for the SAT. The average ACT composite score was a 28.4. In addition, 45 members (33%) of the Class of 2007 were named National Merit Scholars, 32 of whom were named Semifinalists and 13 of whom were named Commended Scholars.
All graduates of the International Academy are expected to complete the full International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme
. All students are enrolled in at least six IB subjects in their junior and senior years. While a few students each year graduate without the Diploma, this is not because they are not taking the full 6 subjects required by the IBO
- but usually because they either fail one or more IB tests, or get a D grade in at least one class and are therefore not eligible to sit for the tests in those subjects. (These students are a rarity, as most students at risk of this choose to leave long before the end of their senior year.) Some students take IBs in their freshman and sophomore years, usually due to an extensive knowledge of math or a foreign language that causes them to place out of all non-IB courses in those subjects. The Environmental Systems IB course is also offered as an elective to tenth-graders wishing to get a feel for a Group 4 course before entering the IB Diploma Programme the following year.
The only Group 1 subject offered is English. Pre-IB courses are English courses in World Literature (9th grade) and American Literature (10th grade), as well as a course in public speaking skills (9th grade). Students who are non-native speakers are still expected to take English as their Language A, so most have a near-native degree of fluency. For those who do not, IA offers an English as a Second Language course.
French, German, Mandarin Chinese, and Spanish are all offered as Group 2 subjects, which the student studies for two years at IA before beginning the IB Language B class in that language. Students are also allowed to take an extra language ab initio in place of a Group 6 subject. In the early years of the school, the current English wing was occupied by the Japanese School of Metropolitan Detroit (currently located at Birmingham Seaholm High School), and so students could choose to take Japanese as an elective in their freshman and sophomore years. This, however, is no longer available as an option.
All students are required to take IB History as their Group 3 subject. IB Economics is also offered as a replacement for a Group 6 subject. To prepare for IB history, freshmen must take a course in world history and geography (known as "world studies") and sophomores take a special American history course which also includes information on the French and Latin American revolutions (known as "American studies"). Freshmen also are required to take a semester-long course in micro-economics.
Because of the large of number of students considering careers in the sciences, as opposed to the arts or humanities, the International Academy offers almost all of the available Group 4 subjects. Students can elect to take Biology, Chemistry, Physics, or Environmental Systems, and students are free to take an extra Group 4 subject in place of a Group 6 subject. This is the option taken by the majority of IA students. To prepare for the IB sciences, students must take a course in biology in 9th grade, one in chemistry in 10th grade, and one semester each of physics in 9th and 10th grade.
Traditionally, Group 5 subjects offered at the International Academy included Mathematical Studies, and Mathematics HL and SL. IA students, upon entrance to the International Academy, are placed on a math tracking system based on a score on a placement test and math classes taken in middle school. Students who have taken Algebra 1 only in middle school are offered the option of eventually studying Mathematical Studies or Mathematics SL, whereas students who have taken both Algebra 1 and Geometry are given the option of Mathematics HL as well. Due to a large number of students in the classes of 2009 and 2010 entering the school with an unusually advanced knowledge of mathematics, the IA has now added an IB Further Mathematics course for very advanced students.
The International Academy offers two Group 6 subjects: Music and Visual Arts. The Visual Arts course is highly selective; students usually must demonstrate a great deal of talent at art, and must have taken art courses in 9th and 10th grade, in order to be allowed to select the course. The Music course is not selective, yet IA students tend to perform very well, possibly due to IA's large number of acclaimed music ensembles, including two concert bands; two jazz bands; string, full, and chamber orchestras; and three choirs: "Moring Choir, "Singers", and an A Cappella ensemble. The International Academy Orchestra has received first division ratings at the State level from the Michigan School Band and Orchestra Association in the past, and the International Academy Jazz Band I recently received a first division rating and an invitation to the Detroit International Jazz Festival. About 60% of the student body participates in one of the musical ensembles at the IA, a very high figure for an academics-focused school. The IA also has an active theatre department, but it operates as an after-school club, and IB Theatre is not offered as a sixth IB course.
In addition, the school offers the Theory of Knowledge course as mandated by the IBO. This one-year course is divided into one semester each during grades 11 and 12.
It is not uncommon for IA students to take seven IB subjects, and there are a substantial number of students who choose this option every year. In the past, students have taken as many as eight IBs. However, there is now a GPA restriction to those who want to take more then six IB subjects.
Students also take non-IB courses as well. In addition to the academic and arts courses required in freshman and sophomore year in preparation for IB, juniors are required to take Government as required by the state of Michigan's high school educational standards. Sophomores also are required to take a semester-long physical education course, called "Adventure Challenge," a non-traditional gym course that focuses more on teamwork than on competition and traditional sports. As well as the school's numerous musical ensembles, the IA also offers a number of "product teams," usually student-directed classes that often focus on community service or athletics, as well as school publications such as the yearbook and student newspaper. While many of these product team classes require little work from the majority of students, and for most students are viewed as "blow-off classes" or study periods, a few of these classes, such as yearbook, can be as demanding as any other non-IB class at IA.
Students are selected by lottery among the applicants. In 2004, the school enrollment was 576. International Academy has an extended school year (205 days) and an extended school day. At the end of the school day at 2:35 (or 2:40 for the West Campus), many students go home, but most opt to stay to participate in after-school clubs, extra classes (jazz band or full orchestra), or meet with teachers for extra help. Students may participate in co-curricular activities at their home schools using this time at the end of the school day. Students typically only participate in activities at their home high schools that the International Academy does not offer, including sports
teams and marching bands
Some of the extracurricular activities offered at IA's central campus include FIRST Robotics
; Building with Books; Science
, Biology and Physics Olympiads
; Political Debate Club; Model United Nations
; the Phoenix Theatre Company; Forensics
; various ethnic organizations such as the Indian-American Student Association, the Asian Student Association, and the Black Student Association; religious organizations such as the Christian Student Initiative and the Muslim Student Association; a Gay-Straight-Whatever Alliance
; an active photography club; Future Business Leaders of America
; and various environmental groups. The International Academy also has chapters of various honor societies, including National Honor Society
, French Honor Society
, German Honor Society
, Spanish Honor Society
, and the Quill and Scroll Honor Society
. The western campus has many of the same activities, including a Model UN team and a Christian club, in addition to some activities the central campus does not have such as Future Problem Solving
. Most extracurricular activities at IA West, however, are done in conjunction with the activities offered at Lakeland High School
The 2005-2006 Physics Club is notable for its second-place finish at the University of Michigan
Physics Olympiad. One student (Alexander Chernyak, class of 2006) won a $20,000 scholarship and gold medallion (physics category) at the 2005 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair and 1st place Grand Award (team competition) at the 2006 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair.
The FIRST Robotics team won the title of "National Champion" in the 2003 competition. It qualified for national competition in 2006, winning the 2006 Detroit Regional competition and earning a silver medal in the 2006 Great Lakes Regional. In 2007 the team won West Michigan Regional and came in with a silver at Detroit Regional.
The IA Science Olympiad Team placed 11th in the 2006 Michigan Competition, their first state-competition.
An IA team (Wesley Sudduth, Colin Motley, Tim Su, Kyle Morrison, Caitlin Kearns, and Barbara Baker) won the Michigan region of the 2006 High School Fed Challenge.
The IA Economics Challenge team, continually dominates the state competitions every year, here are their placings since 2004:
2004: States-1st place Regionals-1st place National Championship-1st place
2005: States-1st, 3rd and 5th place Regionals-3rd place
2006: States-1st, 2nd and 4th place Regionals-4th place
2007: States-1st, 3rd, 4th and 5th place Regionals- 4th place
The IA West Future Problem Solving group (Carolyn Diaz, Emily McMahan, Nikki Bender, and Chanel Roberts) placed third place in the Middle Division at the 2007 State Bowl.
IA has also won a number of musical awards, including students selected for the Michigan Youth Honors Band and Honors Orchestra for the Michigan Young Arts Festival in May of each year. In 2007, one student was selected for the band, three for the orchestra, and an ensemble was selected to play at the festival. The International Academy also had a student selected as one of the top young composers in Michigan by the Michigan Music Educators Association, for its 2007 conference in Grand Rapids.
Although the IA often classifies itself as an international school
, and its name implies that it is one, it is atypical of international schools in that the majority of the students at IA come from the surrounding community. The IA does have a number of international students - about 10 to 15 percent of the student body attended a school overseas previous to coming to the IA - but their families must move to one of the sending districts before coming to the IA. The IA does not have boarding students. Despite these differences, the IA gives preference to international students (classified as students who have lived in the US for less than one year), as well as students coming from other IB schools (in the United States or elsewhere). Even many of those students who attended area schools before coming to IA were born overseas, speak English as a second language, or could be otherwise classified as Third Culture Kids
, and the school is particularly known for having a large number of Asian-American
students (mainly from China
, the Indian subcontinent
, and the Middle East
). IA is known for its strong sense of internationalism, and students report that they feel as though they are exposed to a wide variety of cultures and viewpoints by being at the IA. (This is less true of the Western campus, where the school is primarily white
, English-speaking, and American-born, and therefore has less of an international atmosphere than the Central campus. The Eastern campus has a similar diversity to the Central campus since most students come from Troy, which is one of the most diverse Michigan cities and the one with the highest Asian-American popuation.)
The International Academy has no school-sponsored sports. When the IA was founded in 1996, it agreed not to sponsor sports teams when sending districts voiced concern that they would lose some of their star athletes to the IA. Students who wish to participate in sports or marching band must do so through their sending district. The school does have small, student-founded intramural sports activities, such as an annual Paintball
tournament. In the past, students have started their own competitive teams, including soccer
teams called "IA Fire" and the "IA Gladiators" as well as an Ultimate Frisbee
club called "UFIA" (Ultimate Frisbee International Academy). The latter name was chosen for its acronym
, which has another meaning popularized by the website Fark.com
. In the 2007-2008 school year, UFIA was replaced with UFO, or the Ultimate Frisbee Organization. In addition, beginning in the 2006-2007 school year, IA had a competitive boys' basketball team, organized by students. The IA is allowed to have teams that compete against other schools so long as they are completely student-run, with no funding from the school. About one-third of the school participates in competitive sports or marching band at their home high schools.
The International Academy has a myrid of clubs that are sponsered by atleast one staff member. These clubs include nationially reconised clubs (such as Team 469 Robotic Club which competited nationally at FIRST
)and student created clubs. These clubs are usually after school and may have a small,once-a-year, member fee for club t-shirts or future fund raising.
The International Academy's Central Campus is housed in the former site of Elizabeth Taylor Traub Elementary School. Though additions extending into the former playground have significantly increased its size, as the school now has over 700 students, the building can seem overpopulated. Many teachers occupy several different rooms throughout the day to schedule sufficient classes. The building suffers from masonry issues, several leaks in the roof, heating and cooling issues, and a distinct shortage of hot water.
However, there are some good features of the IA's facilities as well. The Central Campus's classrooms are organized by subjects into different hallways: the 100 hallways house the foreign language, music, and Theory of Knowledge classrooms; the 200 hallway houses the math and science classrooms; the 300 hallway houses the social studies classrooms, as well as the art room; and the 400 wing houses the English classrooms. This makes it relatively easy for students to figure out where each class is, especially in such a small school. The school also has an all-purpose room, called the International Student Center (ISC), where school assemblies, Adventure Challenge classes, school plays, and large social events such as dances are held. This is also where students eat lunch every day. However, the ISC is relatively small; it is about the size of a typical elementary school gymnasium. Larger events are usually held at other schools, such as Lahser High School
(where orchestra, band, and choir concerts are held) and Lake Orion High School
(where the IA graduation ceremony is held).
The International Academy currently has a satellite campus, the International Academy West. A satellite campus had been considered as early as 2003. This school first held classes in August 2006, and its first graduating class will be the Class of 2010. The IA West campus is located inside Lakeland High School
of Huron Valley Schools
. The sending districts include Huron Valley, Pontiac
, South Lyon
, and Novi
. Their experience is similar to that of students on the Central Campus, with the exception of fewer math (students will only be allowed to take Mathematical Studies
and Mathematics SL
in their junior and senior years, due to less advanced math curricula in western Oakland County middle schools) and foreign language (Spanish
only) options. Unlike the Central Campus, Lakeland's recent remodeling promises to prevent building problems similar to those of the Central Campus. Like at the Central Campus, students play sports through their sending districts. Fine arts classes, which include band, choir, and visual arts, are also facilitated through Lakeland High School (though IB Group 6 subjects
use IA West teachers), as well as freshman-level economics
. With more press and acclaim awarded toward the IB program and the two International Academies, the IA West is meeting with considerable success, and Huron Valley Schools has opened up 10 spots for students in districts outside the International Academy consortium, including students living outside of Oakland County
, for the Class of 2011 onward.
IA has set up an Eastern campus in Troy
, in the former Baker Middle School
building. Classes were first held in the 2008-2009 school year. Like the other two campuses, the school will be beginning with one freshman class and add another each year, so the first class will be the Class of 2012. This district will be open to students in Troy as well as those outside of Oakland County, including students in Macomb
, and Genesee
counties. Currently, there are students from as far away as Flint and Canton that make the morning commute. While this means that Troy will not be sending any classes after the Class of 2011 to the Central campus, Troy students currently attending the Central campus will be allowed to remain there, since they will be too old to attend the Eastern campus. The Eastern campus's student body will be about the same size as the Central campus and students will likely have access to the same classes as students at the Central campus, as they are offered the same four language options (French, Spanish, German and Mandarin) as the members of the IA Central Class of 2012. The Eastern campus also plans to offer the same fine arts options as the Central campus. As the Troy School District is known for having a very strong math program - with many of its most advanced middle school students taking classes at the high school level - it is likely to also offer the same math classes as IA Central. The Troy School District is a strong supporter of the IB Programme and has already started Primary Years
and Middle Years
programs in some of its elementary and middle schools.
In 2006, a group of IA students were caught hacking into the Zangle computer systems and changing their grades. Six students were expelled and twelve suspended.
Since then, student laptop computers have not been allowed in the school unless with special permission as of 2008.