Ready Now Yuma Looking Ahead to 2nd Year

2013-06-29 18:28:01

With the first, official implementation year of Ready Now Yuma behind them, Yuma Union High School District administrators and staff are already looking forward to year two.

While school is technically “out for summer,” that is not necessarily the case for YUHSD teachers and students.

In addition to having extended learning opportunities for students during the summer, Ready Now Yuma Director Laura Campbell shared that in the short amount of time that school has been out, a number of teachers have been coming in on their own volition to collaborate with one another to strengthen assessments, lesson plans and hands-on activities and assignments for next year.

These collaborative sessions are in addition to the four-days of professional development teachers already participated in this past school year with instructors across the district in their same content area. The training served 250 teachers, paid for by funds from the Helios Education Foundation $3.9 million grant awarded to the district in 2012.

Associate Superintendent James Sheldahl said that they’re also continually working to systematize teacher induction into the Ready Now Yuma program, not only for the pre-service days for returning teachers but also for new teachers.

“We have turnover every year so we’re going to have to have a system in place for our new teachers coming in on board so they can become familiar with the syllabus, become familiar with the expectations and be put in place with their collaborative team and have that teacher support,” he said.

Campbell said that going into next year, the district will be taking a three-pronged coaching approach to support teachers with their existing instructional coaches and Ready Now Yuma coaches as well as their data and technology coaches, recently approved by the district governing board. Sheldahl noted that the expansion of the data and technology coach position was at the request of the teachers, and it will provide a 3/5 position at each campus through Proposition 301 funds.

With the recent district-wide switch to Cambridge, an internationally bench-marked curriculum aligned to the Common Core standards, Campbell said that the district saw a jump in students participating in end-of-course exams this past school year.

The number of students who chose to take the exams, which help them get a better idea of how they are fairing in terms of college readiness, more than doubled from 836 students in 2012 during the pilot year of Ready Now Yuma to 2,289 students in 2013. Campbell also shared that those students were responsible for completing 5,758 exams in core content areas this year, compared to 2,094 last year.

“What that tells me is that the kids find value in the feedback and input on their progress… contrary to the popular belief about ‘kids these days,’” said Sheldahl.

Community engagement and communications director Frank Nuñez added, “Students self selected to take these tests — it’s not like they’re being told to get a driver’s license in order to drive — these kids are willing to get behind the wheel of their own college readiness.”?Also, with the district’s new online data system which is still in the process of being developed, students will be able to see their own achievement data on tests and other assessments in real time, versus the traditional quarterly progress reports.

“We’re looking to really focus on student achievement data, not to categorize or place or make any sort of judgment on what students can be, it’s a diagnostic,” said Nuñez, noting that the sooner students have the opportunity to find out how they’re doing in a class, the sooner they can make adjustments to focus on areas of deficiency. The same goes for teachers, he said, noting that the sooner they see what students are doing wrong the sooner they can focus their instruction accordingly.

Campbell said that as students gain access to this data system and receive immediate feedback, she believes it will help students take more ownership of their learning.

With the use of the higher level curriculum that is inquiry and performance based, she said that they are aiming for underclassmen to be ready and more prepared to take higher level AP (Advanced Placement) and CTE (Career and Technical Education) courses — ultimately preparing them to be prepared for life after high school.

“What we’re really doing, is framing all of our programs that we had before and we’re clustering them so the kids see how the pieces fit together. We’re setting up pathways early on, articulated pathways, so that kids can see what they would need to take if they’re interested in going into a certain field,” Campbell explained.

Campbell said that they’re working to change the nationwide trend which — in some cases — is turning a student’s senior year into an irrelevant school year, where they take a few classes and go home before lunch. While some students use that time to get a job to support their families and to put themselves through college, she said that they want to give students the option to have more applicable coursework and put the relevancy back in a student’s upperclass years. Through opportunities like internships and career specific training courses, she said their intention is to better prepare them for more gainful employment during their postsecondary pursuits.

“If we see in their senior year that students are staying on to take extra AP courses or Cambridge AS (Advanced Subsidiary) courses or CTE courses, we’ll know that students are looking to make their senior year as rigorous and as challenging especially right before they’re about to cross that threshold to college or career and technical schools,” said Nuñez.

He added that in addition to offering more upper division Cambridge courses, the district also plans to add some new Cambridge arts courses like music, art design and drama.

Campbell concluded that while the district’s Helios grant is providing funds for them to implement the Ready Now Yuma until 2017, that doesn’t mean that will be the end of the program.

“We’re looking through 2017 and beyond,” she said. “We’re looking at changing how we serve the community for the long haul. It’s really about changing the culture of the entire community so that we’re all focused on college and career readiness for all kids in our community.”