Maricopa, Arizona, October 10, 2017 – Fewer than one-fifth of high schools earned an “A” grade in the Arizona State Board of Education’s new ranking system, which was made public earlier this month. Now, a new initiative in several districts is aimed at helping more schools “make the grade” in 2018.
Under the letter-grade accountability system, half of each school’s grade is based on student performance on the annual AzMERIT exam. The rest is based on grad rates, and indicators of college and career readiness. That’s why several Arizona districts are working with Graduation Alliance, a national leader in dropout prevention and recovery programs, to get more students back on track for graduation.
“The new statewide A-F accountability system gives weight to high school retention and graduation rates,” said Joel Villegas, associate superintendent for the Pinal County Education Service Agency. “If Graduation Alliance can increase those numbers by re-enrolling students who would otherwise be lost, everybody wins. This aligns perfectly with our countywide efforts to increase postsecondary attainment – and the chance for a better life for all students.”
In Pinal County and all over the state of Arizona, Graduation Alliance is working to reengage students who have left school before reaching graduation, offering those students an opportunity to re-enroll into a program that includes weekly meet-ups with a local advocate, a free laptop computer and 4G internet service, 24-7 tutors and personal academic coaches. To help students become more employable after graduation the program also includes industry recognized credentials and job skill certifications, Villegas said.
Statewide test results have shown gradual improvement since the AzMERIT exams were first given to students in 2015, but only about a third of Arizona students are passing the exams. Worse, there has been virtually no change in the number of 11th graders deemed “minimally proficient” – more than half of the state’s high school juniors are still stuck in the lowest scoring category.
That makes addressing retention and graduation rates even more important for districts, Villegas noted.
The program strives to evaluate each student’s potential pathway to a successful life and career and is intended to help students facing exceptional social and emotional challenges as part of a comprehensive strategy for addressing district-wide student engagement and success.
One of the first implementers of the Graduation Alliance program in Arizona was Maricopa Unified School District. Its superintendent, Dr. Steven Chestnut, is encouraging fellow school leaders to consider the initiative in response to the new ranking system.
“It is an excellent program,” Chestnut said. “Many students have earned regular high school diplomas who would not have been able to graduate.”
About Graduation Alliance
Since 2007, Graduation Alliance has given schools and communities across the nation the resources and support needed to help individuals reach their educational and career goals. In partnership with school districts, local governments, non-profits, workforce development boards and community colleges, Graduation Alliance develops highly effective alternative education and workforce training programs. For more information about Graduation Alliance, visit www.graduationalliance.com.
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