"International Baccalaureate at City teaches our kids to be critical thinkers."

When Gretchen and John Mousel were looking for a school for their daughter Katherine, they ended up looking outside of their home district of Rockford to find a place where Katherine would be challenged. They decided to do school of choice, first at Zoo School and then City High Middle School, the top performing school in West Michigan.

“Katherine clearly needed something that would encourage her to set the bar high and would give her a challenge, and she thrives when she’s challenged. So that’s been the perfect spot for her,” said Gretchen.

John, Gretchen, and Katherine, now a junior, all sing the praises of the rigorous International Baccalaureate curriculum at City High Middle School. The curriculum is divided into the middle years programme (7th-10th grades) and diploma years programme (11th-12th grades). There are several classes and projects at City that you won’t find anywhere else in the area. In 10th grade, students complete a personal project of their own choosing outside of school hours. In the 11th and 12th grades, students take a course called essay strategies, which culminates in a 4,000 word extended essay. They also take “EPIC”, a course that teaches the principles of economicology, a term coined by the late Peter Wege. The City curriculum is designed to teach critical thinking and prepare students to be global citizens.

“The curriculum at City is definitely an accelerated curriculum, and it’s difficult. The kids have quite a bit of homework. Their kinds of projects are going to be different maybe than some of the other schools. Again, when we are teaching critical thinking, the kids are working on projects that require them to think outside the box. They have 8 classes in any given semester, so it’s a rigorous schedule and a fair amount of work, but every minute of it pays off,” said Gretchen.

Katherine agrees, “It is a lot of work and it’s something that you have to invest your time into, but there’s a lot of help that you can find, and the other students are really, really nice and will definitely help you if you need help. The teachers are really nice and helpful. It is very challenging academically, but it’s definitely worth the time.”

Katherine is also taking a class dedicated to understanding the ACT, the test that many colleges and universities use as part of their admissions criteria. In just one marking period, she’s seen remarkable results.

“My 3rd hour class is completely dedicated to ACT prep. The first four days of school, we took each section of the ACT to kind of score ourselves based on before we started working on it…My ACT score actually shot up about 5 points,” she said.

She talks about the dedication of the staff and their willingness to work with students and answer questions. Gretchen also has a high regard for the staff at City, who she says she sees frequently supporting students outside the classroom, too, at events like the fall musical and sporting events.

Gretchen elaborates, “The relationship with the staff is strong. The staff is clearly invested in the school. They spend a great amount of time reviewing the data about our students and figuring out what’s working and what’s not.”

The Mousel’s say they are proud to send their daughter to City High Middle School and to be Grand Rapids Public Schools parents.

“I’m proud of GRPS and being a parent in the district because of all the wonderful opportunities that GRPS offers our students… They have all kinds of different opportunities for our students, depending on how our kids are learning and what they are interested in. Everything from Montessori to the International Baccalaureate program to the Centers of Innovation at Central, there’s just so many neat ways that GRPS thinks outside the box and makes it about our kids,” said Gretchen. 


Act now! Apply today! Seats for theme schools and Centers of Innovation are limited and an application is required. Apply online at apply.grps.org, or visit any GRPS school or the Administration Building at 1331 Franklin St SE for a paper application.