Why does high school have such a hard time retaining its students?

In 2011, Oxford High School won the nation’s first national Extreme Science Olympiad, and since then, the school has advanced to the championship four more times, winning another competition last month. Since the school began hosting science Olympiads for high schoolers two years ago, it has been one of just 12 in the nation to make the team’s cut. (The New York Times’ investigative reporting team, for its part, has been covering the Olympiad for years.)

The team, though, isn’t the only way that the school is showing off its prowess. The school has organized numerous other competitions, from Lego robotics to inflatable obstacle courses. It’s also made the incredible choice to place a vending machine — called the “bomb trampoline” — on the side of its football field as a place for kids to test themselves, by getting through obstacles designed to pop them out of their shoes.

In February, the school hosted the National Weights and Measures Student Expo, where dozens of schools around the country showcase their science and engineering competitions. Oxford shared its skills with the nation at the Expo and attended after-school games and science events around Washington, where it sent a school contingent of 80 students.

The school is one of the country’s largest — a big reason why so many students leave for state schools (or just for college at all). About a quarter of the students enroll at community colleges in their first year, and another 18 percent finish high school at an academic institution other than a four-year school.

The school’s mission was to create an educational environment where teachers and students could work together to encourage creativity and inquiry. It seems to be working — for its students, teachers and those who have witnessed it firsthand.

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