In an urban school district with 24,000 students, it’s expected that each school will have unique strengths and challenges. But when leadership at Scottsdale Unified School District (SUSD) reviewed test scores and other performance, most schools boasted graduation rates hovering around 90 percent, while Coronado High School (CHS) graduation was in the 70s. Similarly, the school wasn’t sending as many students to state universities, while other SUSD schools were in the top five for college-going youth.
An efficacy study showed that Coronado students would benefit from higher expectations. Working with community partners, SUSD has launched a comprehensive program to improve achievement among Coronado students. Thanks to help from Arizona State University and the Scottsdale Charros, the Coronado Success Initiative was implemented in the fall of 2017.
The rigorous program includes tutoring, professional development for teachers, weekend workshops and more. The college knowing and going portion helps students through SAT and ACT prep and FAFSA assistance. Caregivers were given the opportunity to explore postsecondary options through college days and nearly 100 graduated from ASU’s Dream Academy, which specializes in aiding first-generation students, in the first year alone.
To help students envision their potential futures, CHS orchestrated one special day in particular. Freshman students explored career and technical education through a visit to the East Valley Institute of Technology, while sophomores visited SCC, a community college. Juniors visited Arizona State University and seniors were given the opportunity to complete at least one college application.
And to ensure that graduates are prepared for both college and career, the school has added five new CTE classes that cover everything from business and tourism to software development.
For ongoing support, the Coronado Rise Hour was added to the school day. Students can self-select to attend, or be invited, for an additional 30 minutes a day per week of intervention. The supplemental time is the equivalent of two weeks of the school year. It’s a culture shift at the school that is creating what will be a lasting change among both faculty and families.
All of the changes are already having an impact – and it’s an impact that is helping propel efforts of the Arizona Education Progress Meter goals to improve high school graduation and matriculation. AzMERIT scores are moving up and the dropout rate has improved. GPAs have improved and participation in dual enrollment courses is up. Applications for four-year colleges have risen drastically to 93 from 57. There’s still more to do, but things are trending in the right direction and commitment among faculty and students is stronger than ever.
by Kim Hartmann, Sponsoring SUSD Board Member