Arizona Department of Education

AIMS Intervention and Dropout Prevention Program TOOLKIT

Exemplary Program

Coconino County Regional Accommodation School District # 99 (CCRASD, 2007 Profile)

Contact information

Ponderosa High School

Annie Hess, Principal

Stephanie Wells, Transition Counselor

Coconino County Regional Accommodation School District #99

http://www.coconino.az.gov/schools.aspx?id=538

2384 Steve's Blvd.

Flagstaff, AZ 86004

928-679-8056

swells@coconino.az.gov

ahess@coconino.az.gov

Tse' Yatto' High School

Lee Fleming, Principal

Susan Shields, Transition Counselor

Coconino County Regional Accommodation School District #99

PO Box 3477

Page, AZ 86040

sshields@coconino.az.gov

lfleming@coconino.az.gov

Description

Ponderosa High School and Tse' Yatto' High School (referred to in this report in conjunction with Ponderosa) are regional accommodation schools under the direction of the Coconino County School Superintendent. The program provides an alternative path to a high school diploma to students who would otherwise be unlikely to continue their high school education. The AIMS Intervention program was implemented by utilizing services and programs currently in place and by developing new activities and services to meet the program goals. Small classes, team-teaching, extended connection to a teacher/coach, positive behavior models, and strategies for developing successful coping skills, self-advocacy and academic challenge are the key components of the program.

CCRASD serves approximately 120 students from the greater Coconino county area who are highly at risk of dropping out of school, have already dropped out, are in Juvenile Detention programs, or who are homeless. Ponderosa High School operates in four linked classrooms and a common area built into the Coconino County School Superintendent's office. A sister school, Tse'yaato' High School, operates in Page, AZ, with the same floor plan.

An "accommodation school" is a school that is operated through the county board of supervisors and the county school superintendent and that serves a military reservation or territory that is not included within the boundaries of a school district. [A.R.S. § 15-101(1)(a)]. Also, a school that provides educational services to homeless children or alternative education programs as provided in A.R.S. § 15-308(B) may also be an "accommodation school." [A.R.S. § 15-101(1)(b)].

Number of students: 50-60 at each site

Age: 17-22 years old

Grade levels: 9 – 12

Average class size: Varies by class

This is a full-time, complete and comprehensive high school program. The Intervention and Drop-out Prevention (IDP) grant funds certain activities within the program.

Classes meet at Ponderosa High School from 8:00 to 12:55 p.m. and at Tse' Yatto' High School 8:00am to 2:55pm, Monday through Friday, for a max of 2 credits per class. Classes run on a 90-minute block schedule. The schedule at Ponderosa High School was changed last year after teachers realized students were not returning to class after lunch. Many students also work or provide family care, so a compressed school schedule helps them better meet their other obligations. Tse' Yatto' runs with Page Unified School District bus schedule to accommodate students who live on the reservation.

All students must be at least 17 years old and have minimum of 10 credits with some exceptions. Students are enrolled in the classes needed for graduation; most times students are missing core requirements.


Program design


Goals


  • Instruct Arizona standards-based core curriculum, resulting in quality student performance.
  • Instruction based on applied, experiential, hands-on, integrated strategies, which make connections between the disciplines, schools, community and professions.
  • Learning environment respectful of diverse student needs, abilities, aptitudes, and learning styles.
  • Transition Services offer job-placement, summer internship, apprenticeship, and career counseling and awareness. Counselors/Teachers encourage continued education at a community college or vocational school.

Philosophy

  • Provide students with an opportunity to complete their high school education in a non-traditional setting to become productive and successful citizens of their communities.
  • Offer students who have dropped out of school, or who may be in danger of not graduating from high school, a chance to earn a high school diploma.

Value Statements

  • Rigorous curriculum aligned with the Arizona Academic Standards
  • Commitment to the belief that all students can learn and that it is our responsibility to ensure every student reaches his/her maximum potential
  • We believe all students are of value and need guidance to find and develop the positive qualities they posses
  • We strive to be non-judgmental and provide a structured and supportive environment that fosters success and self-confidence
  • We strive to develop creative approaches to learning which will enable students to experience success and create satisfying futures
  • We understand students do encounter life circumstances which present barriers to their success, in those time we provide student counseling and Time-For-Time service learning to make up missed class time.
  • Staff development and teachings are based on effective best practices

Personal Expectations

  • High standards for behavior, attendance, and performance with an emphasis on individual accountability and responsibility
  • Character education emphasizing personal development
  • Mentoring program designed to encourage students to focus on their education and personal values

Criteria for success


  • Redirection of students to productive and successful learning environments
  • Re-engagement with learning and the community as a result of a more responsive and flexible environment
  • Reduction in drop-out rates
  • Reduction in student truancy
  • Higher graduation rates

Distribution of activities

40% Improvement in academic achievement

15% AIMS test-taking skills or practice testing

40% Workplace skills preparation

5% Instruction on leadership and civic duty (e.g., service learning)

What contributes most to student success?

Program Structure

  • Smaller enrollment

  • Low student/teacher ratio

  • Flexible schedule that allows students to work at their own pace

  • An informal, personal relationship between teachers and students and a family atmosphere

  • Committed, professional educators who counsel, mentor, and tutor their students

  • Staff who maintain and model an orderly learning atmosphere through fair and respectful treatment of students

Inspiration

In the last year, 11 of the students who graduated were the first in their family to graduate. "The most effective strategy we use is to inspire them to finish and to think beyond high school."

Transition and counseling services

Compared to students in a regular district, the Ponderosa students need extensive support and transition services to pursue employment or post-secondary education. The Transition Counselor meets with current and graduated students on a regular basis to identify their interests, needs, skills, and progress.

The counselors provide career and post-secondary high school guidance and help students get the resources they need to address basic survival needs and life challenges that have kept them from finishing high school. The counselors act as resource brokers, connecting students to legal services, child-care, transportation, housing, and other services. They also liaison with county detention and parole services.

Differentiated and real-world learning

Students tend to be more successful with instruction that addresses their individual learning styles and that are connected to their lives and interests. All teachers emphasize hands-on, experiential learning and explicitly teach literacy strategies in every class. Staff pays particular attention to helping students read different kinds of texts-not only textbooks and literature, but also contracts, credit agreements, car warranties, and job applications. Small class sizes allow for one-on-one instruction and support for special needs learners.

Respect for diversity

Each staff member emphasized that students succeed because the staff has the time, resources, and skills to address their diverse strengths as well as areas of need. A number of students are highly intelligent, but did not do well in a traditional high school because they felt they did not fit in, or they are considered gifted in some academic areas but have special needs in others.

Students

Background

Approximately 60 students attend each site from school districts in Coconino County and the Navajo Nation. Students may have special needs, have dropped out of high school previously, be homeless, or be in juvenile or adult detention/parole. Typically, students are 19 years old with about 10 of the required credits for graduation or have repeatedly failed to pass the AIMS. Teachers report that many of the students in CCRASD are extremely intelligent but do not learn well in traditional classrooms.

The average age of students is 19. Currently, 3 students are homeless. A percentage of students are serving sentences, are on probation, or are concurrently in outpatient treatment programs for substance abuse. As one teacher said, "For a lot of our kids, their safest environment is here at school."

About 95% of their graduates continue into the work force or into post-secondary training. But as the Principal, Annie Hess, emphasizes, "For many students at Ponderosa, the staff with whom they build relationships may be the first positive, adult role models in their lives."

Recruitment

The program serves student in the county and Navajo Nation who are not able to have their needs accommodated by local district schools. Students may attend up to age 21 or 22 if they have a Special Education Disability (SPED).

Criteria for selection are determined by both academic and socio-economic needs. The principal looks for students' commitment to the program and to themselves-students are not forced to attend, but are allowed a maximum of 10 absences per semester.

Attendance is mandatory for those on probation. Students who fail to meet minimum requirements or rules know that they can start over and get another chance.

Setting goals

In the initial intake interview with a student, the counselor asks, "Why are you here? What are your goals?" If the student does not know, the counselor has him or her take interest and aptitude surveys, emphasizing that developing interests and goals is a life-long process of self-care: "This is what you do for yourself."

As one teacher says, "The definition of success for each student is different. The student has to be involved in choosing and owning it."

Taking responsibility for learning


Students must agree to enroll as full-time students for the semester, participate in academic and behavioral programs, display "good faith effort" in achieving credits (minimum of 2 earned per semester), participate in recommended remediation and tutoring programs, agree to participate in follow-up activities, and provide contact information for at least one year following graduation.

Staff and teachers help students develop life skills as well as academic knowledge-they teach options for how to handle all of life's different situations. "From the beginning, students know what they need to do for credit recovery, and additional credit attainment....They are counseled by all-and they are given respect for the tasks ahead of them. Second chances? Absolutely, even third, fourth, and fifth chances. Staff members are willing to explain the system to students' to ensure their success within the program, how they must act in order to survive within the system, and how they will succeed." Students and staff engage in self-reflection through journaling, open discussions in classes and one-on-one discussions.

Each teacher finds ways to include students in the design of curriculum and activities so that the course meets their needs. Students who fail classes or drop out are given several chances to take responsibility for their actions and make up the work. Staff understands the circumstances of their students' lives and will negotiate accommodations for students who show a willingness to try.

Staff acknowledge that a key challenge for them is: "How much help do you give, and how much responsibility do you expect students to take?" The answer is different for each individual.

Motivation and incentives

Motivating students is one of the biggest challenges staff feel they face. One teacher says: "We give them options that inspire hope, and give them a chance." Another said: "They know that they matter to us, that we care and that we will stay invested in them even if they make a mistake." Students are continually reminded by all staff that if they keep coming to school and do the work, they will graduate. Staff response to the survey emphasizes the importance of building personal relationships in order to motivate each individual.

"The ultimate goal is, of course, the diploma. The strategies are constant monitoring, staff who truly care and are approachable, making instruction meaningful, letting kids have some buy-in into the class and how it will be run, and [providing] ‘reality checks' for both instructors and students."


Perspectives

M- is a 17-year old student who will graduate a year early this spring. "I came by choice because I wanted a smaller school, smaller classes, and more 1-on-1 time with teachers. The teachers are all friendly, know you on a 1-to-1 basis. They know your situation, know your weaknesses, how to help you deal with them and get through school. The students here are more mature because they want to graduate." M- plans to go to college to study nursing. She has already earned college credits through the dual-enrollment program and will take online courses until her child is older and she can return to school.

A- is an 18-year-old senior who came to the program this past year. "At [my other school] I got labeled as a trouble-maker, and then they were always after me. My mom had heard about this school, so I interviewed and they took me. I used to get low grades, but I'm doing a lot better here. I like feeling that I can actually accomplish something-that's what this school gives you. Everyone is behind me, telling me I can do it. I'll be the first in my family to graduate high school. I like knowing that if I need help after graduation I can come back."

M-is a 21-year-old special education student on probation, a senior who will graduate this spring. For him, both the teachers and the students at the school made the difference. "The kids are different here. There's not that many of us. Everyone talks with everyone-you don't have to worry about that popularity stuff. If there's a conflict, the teachers help deal with it right away. I don't know what they do, but they solve it. They tell us we don't have the option-everyone talks to everyone here. The teachers tell you, we will not let you fail. The teachers will really work with me, they care about whether I learn and help me find different ways to learn."

C- dropped out of high school for two years. He said: "We all take breaks in life, I took mine early. I had fun, but I found out two years of messing around didn't get me anywhere. So I came back here, got 11 free college credits." He is taking the Certified Nurse Assistant program and plans to continue on to college and become an RN.

Institutional support

Planning and decision making

All decisions at the school (except for legal issues) are made collaboratively by the teachers, who meet every two weeks to communicate progress, brainstorm, and plan. "We are fortunate that our principal and our county superintendent want the best possible-meaning they are willing to share power and try things!"

The Principal supports and reinforces school policies while also working behind the scenes to develop a personal relationship with each student and to coordinate resources with other community agencies.

"The priority has to be in the best interest of the student, regardless of your priority or lesson of the day. If you can't meet a student's needs, send them to someone else."

Additional funding sources

Coconino County Superintendent of School Forest Fees

Staff and staff effectiveness

Administrators: 2

Teachers (certified): 6

Counselors: 2

Other staff: 2

Professional development

All staff at CCRASD participate in, and help provide, continual professional development. Each teacher has developed an area of interest, such as integrating curriculum. One teacher has acted as a mentor to other teachers to connect them to statewide online courses (ASSET) and other professional development opportunities. Staff appreciate that the principal actively involves them in planning professional development goals and activities.

This past year focused on reading in the content areas. Teachers report that content-area literacy coaching and strategies for addressing special needs has contributed to their effectiveness with students. Another focus area is use of instructional technology-not only computers and the Internet, but also Smart Boards, student feedback devices ("clickers") for increasing participation in class.

One staff member reported that what makes a difference is "Coaching and mentoring from familiar staff, not someone just ‘assigned.' Our principal participates in professional development alongside of us."

Program evaluation

Gathering and maintaining up-to-date student data is a key component of the program's evaluation plan. As the 2006 report states: "Such data collection and documentation was essential for determining student status and eligibility requirements, but most importantly, in providing the most beneficial and/or useful resources to meet student needs." By implementing the SMART database system, staff could better track student credit data and place students in the right classes needed for graduation. As a result of the data tracking and analysis system, the program's graduation rate improved from 16% in the fall of 2005 to 45% in the spring of 2006.

The success of the program is measured by the success of the students in receiving their high school diploma, passing AIMS and transitioning into a career or educational training/school.

Program environment

Attendance

Attendance is one of the largest challenges staff at both sites face. Most students are "hanging on by their fingernails" for basic survival needs and lack of attendance is considered an indicator that a students' life needs are not being met. Letters are sent home, but also each staff member relies on their personal relationship with students to find out what is behind the absence.

Teachers attribute attendance both to the strength of the relationships they have with students and to the official reward system. "[It takes] caring, genuine caring. Lots of nudging whenever a student isolates. [Giving them] chances to get different transportation to school, calling and waking them up (my favorite!). An atmosphere where we expect them to be present."

Students must apply in advance for an absence and have teachers sign off if they want to be excused. Students are made aware of how the number of missed days affects their credits.

The school throws a pizza party for those students who have perfect attendance and completed work. Students who have perfect attendance for 16 weeks (a semester) receive a $50 gift certificate, and a local company donated a car to be awarded to a student who has perfect attendance for the year.

Safety and discipline

The school is located within the county educational services building. Four classrooms open to a common area with kitchen, tables, and computer stations. Small groups of students step out of the classroom to work on projects, or to work at computer stations set up along the walls. The open space invites students to get to know each other and the staff. "Students see who's walking through, have the chance to work together at the tables in the commons, and have ownership in how the building looks. There are no ‘secret' areas."

Support and caring

"Staff are nurtured, and in return, nurture the students. Constant ‘social' monitoring occurs-reminding the kids about the social context and how they can successfully navigate complex societal issues in the ‘real world.' Staff is always explaining, and relating experiences to real life. Staff is honest and will tell a student when they've messed up. Then, staff is willing to help students clean up what they have done." Both staff and administrators emphasized that teachers need to make a full commitment to the job and the students-they are always accessible as long as the building is open.

"The administration is phenomenal-the principal lets us do what is right for these kids and never second-guesses us. We may not all be on the same page on the same day, but we are trusted to make decisions that are in the best interest of the kids in our classes."

"Staff and students are close-knit. Our environment is close-knit, and encourages relationships to form. Part of what we do is create a place where students can let down their guard, and where outside influences are monitored, and staff shares what they know among themselves."

Student-teacher relationships

The small school size allows teachers to know every student and for students to know each other. As one teacher said: "We can hold them accountable. We know their stories." Another staff member said: "I'm here because when I went back to teaching school, this was the only environment I wanted to work in-this population intrigues me." Teachers described how some graduates come back to the school each week-they are proud to say what they are doing, and they want the teachers to be proud of them.

"The highest compliment [from the students] I've ever received-is that I'm ‘real.' Kids know they can ask me-and if I don't know the answer, I'll help them figure it out. The biggest thing? I like kids. I have an extraordinary respect for those who are trudging along in bad experiences and yet they come to school. That's a celebration in and of itself."

Teachers are conscious of how much socializing and modeling the students need in order to understand how to have relationships with others. The students observe the relationships teachers have with each other (informal, kidding around, but always with respect).

One teacher said: "Every one of us ‘owns' a bunch of kids-we don't choose them, they choose us!"

Parent and family involvement

Attendance/Transition Counselors use typical strategies to reach parents-calling home if the student is missing, inviting them to open house meetings (with food), and mailing home progress reports. Many of the students are legally of age, and others are homeless, so the focus is on developing a connection with each student. Reminding them that they are adults and open communication is a crucial skill to learn that should be practiced with teachers and other classmates.

Partnerships and linkages

Due to its status as an accommodation school, each site networks and coordinates with several state and local agencies, including the county Department of Justice. All staff reaches out to and maintains relationships with agencies in the community who can provide social, legal, health, or family services.

As the program moves into its fourth year of funding, the community and public awareness of the program has increased due to continued communication and partnerships with businesses, educational services, community leaders, and organizations. This has opened avenues of networking and increased prospects for students to participate in service learning. The program is still working on putting into place a sustainable structure that will reinforce, support, and encourage volunteer and community service activities for students.

Prevention and social services

The AIMS IDP grant funded the creation of a transition/prevention counselor position at each site. The counselors work individually with students on academic, vocational, and post-secondary plans. Counselors also help students' access services in the community-legal services, food banks, family care arrangements, transportation assistance, and health resources. Part of the job of every staff member, not just counselors, is to build personal relationships and a sense of trust with students so they will communicate the services they need.

Academics

AIMS Intervention

AIMS remediation is addressed both in and out of the classroom. All staff work to ensure that students and their families know about the AIMS test and its importance.

The principal, Annie Hess, notes that Ponderosa students are held to the same standards as any high school student in Arizona. They must pass the AIMS and show Annual Yearly Progress. All teachers work collaboratively to ensure each class reinforces the Arizona Standards and core skills in literacy and mathematics. Once a year, the staff reviews curricula and student scores to identify areas that need more attention.

The teachers emphasized that they must teach students higher-order thinking, and not just focus on skills, to pass AIMS.

Each teacher and the counselor provide direct tutoring and teach strategies for test taking. In addition, some students attend tutoring sessions after school, provided in collaboration with student volunteers from NAU. The Tse'Yaato' program also partnered with the Page Public Library and their literacy program for a summer tutoring program.

Curriculum

Curriculum, activities, and projects are designed to provide real-world applications of classroom learning, opportunities for student expression, and a context for collaboration. The program staff and administrators inspire each student to develop and achieve a vision of graduating from school and leading a productive life. Program curriculum, activities, and projects are designed to provide real-world applications of classroom learning, opportunity for students' self-expression, and a context for classroom collaboration. In this way, the curriculum supports both social and academic goals.

The school provides typical high school classes, including history/social studies, language arts, mathematics, and science, as well as a vocational career track program in health professions in collaboration with Coconino Community College (see Vocational/Workplace, below). The small staff enables teachers to plan together and team-teach; students appreciate working with the same concept, such as loans, in math class and again in civics. One teacher has taken the lead to develop an integrated curriculum across subjects, embedded in project work.

All the teachers emphasized the need to develop the students' basic literacy skills of reading and writing across the content areas.

Instructional strategies

Individual learning plans, one-on-one instruction, and project-based learning were cited by all staff as successful for their students-both in regular and special education classes. Assignments are designed for grade level or above, with an emphasis on projects and current events. At the same time, instruction focuses on building basic skills (reading, writing, mathematics). ELL and special education strategies are applied in each class.

Assessment strategies

Students are assessed the same as regular high school students and must pass the AIMS to graduate. Teachers focus on whether students understand and can use the information from classes in project-based learning and real-world applications. Teachers work with each student to build a shared vision of "success" for that individual and then help him or her take steps and keep track of progress. Several of the elective courses lead to internships or job experiences that provide students real-world feedback on their understanding.

Most classes use variations of performance assessments that are based on student improvement, particularly in following assignments, monitoring, and completing their work. Dual-credit courses with Coconino Community College use a portfolio assessment.

One teacher reports: "[We use] assessment directly connected to the standards which our kids are learning, assessment that not only ties to the immediate class, but illustrates the use for the particular learning-how does this tie to real-world applications? Students can articulate what the learning was, is about, and how it will be used in the future."

Resources

 

Technology

All teachers at Ponderosa emphasize access to and use of computers. "Our kids are often low SES and haven't the ability to have consistent computer access at wherever they stay. We use our laptops daily and teach the kids how to search, evaluate, and use information. They take great pride in showing stuff they find to us."

Vocational, leadership, workplace, and life skills

Community service and service learning

Each teacher establishes his or her own community service projects within the course curriculum. For example, the science teacher has worked with students to design and build a community garden to grow their own food. She involves students in the grant writing process and in identifying future projects. Also, the school as a whole runs projects such as baking cookies for the food kitchen and conducting book drives. Students recognize the importance of doing service: "The kids are really good about doing the work. They don't complain, they understand how it is embedded into the school culture and curriculum." Community service projects are often limited, however, by access to transportation.

Students have leadership opportunities through Student Council and student activity committees. Students helped run barbeques to promote school community and to celebrate their achievement with friends and family.

Mentoring

 

Vocation/Career

One of the two counselors works with students to develop career interests and ideas. This includes providing information, taking students to work sites, conducting on-the-job training, and aptitude testing. Ponderosa High participates in the Arizona Tech Prep program, a dual-enrollment agreement with Coconino Community College (www.coconino.edu/techprep). Over 80% of all students enrolled in 2006 received career/aptitude testing to help them identify their current skills and interests. One-on-one and small group interaction between students and local business leaders increased students' understanding of the employment world, how to get a job, and employer expectations. Students developed increased understanding of the relevance of school for their future life/work options and how their behavior and decisions affect their future.

Students can earn credit in two courses: Health Professions and Certified Nursing Assistant training. The counselor and teachers also provide intensive mentoring to students regarding their future life plans and possible careers. As much as possible, the counselor tries to bring in speakers and employers from the community to supplement the academic curriculum, for example, bringing in a surveyor who connected to geometry concepts. The school also runs an internship program.

Ponderosa collaborates with CAVIAT (Coconino Association for Vocational Industry and Technology), which provides funds to train students on the job.

Transitional services

Placement in higher education

The Community Transition Program consists of four interrelated features:

Individualized planning focused on post-school goals and self determination

Individualized instruction in academic course work, vocational aptitudes, and independent living skills.

Final placements located for each student upon graduation

Follow-up support given by the Transition Counselor, through collaborating agencies, for 12 months after graduation.

The site counselor meets with students at least once per month. In these sessions, she and students set short and long-term academic goals, assess skills and interests, and design individual transition plans. About 90% of students who graduate Transition pursue employment rather than post-secondary education. Staff is working to encourage more students to attend the local community college. Last year they brought in financial aid specialists from post-secondary institutions to talk with students about financial aid options, the FAFSA, college recruitment, and admissions information.

Placement in jobs

About 25% of all students take a life skills/job skills class taught by the history teacher. The counselor helps students' access resources and arranges for internships and on-the-job training opportunities. Speakers are invited according to the interests of students in a class. The counselor also provides career assessment and aptitude testing and teaches students how to prepare resumes and job applications and how to practice interviewing strategies. Guest speakers from local businesses visit the school to inform students about employment opportunities in the community, provide career development, and guide career exploration. Students also attend job fairs in partnership with local agencies/ organizations. All students have the opportunity to earn 1-2 elective credits through enrolling in an On-the-Job-Training course.

Site visit information

 

Elisabeth Roberts from LeCroy & Milligan Associates conducted a daylong site visit at the Ponderosa High School (Coconino County Regional Accommodation High School) on May 10, 2007. Data for this site profile comes from a combination of field notes, interviews, document review, and online surveys.

Staff interviewed

Annie Hess, Principal

Stephanie Wells, Transition Counselor

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