Arrow High School in the Charter Oak Unified and Sierra High School in the Azusa Unified school districts were recognized for providing programs and comprehensive services to students who may have otherwise been at risk of not graduating, the CDE said in a written statement.
Sierra High School, 1134 N. Barranca Ave., has been a Model Continuation School since 2005, said Principal Mari Bordona.
“This staff knows that they’re a model school. They work very hard to serve the students of Azusa Unified,” Bordona said.
Continuation schools sometimes receive reputations as places for bad students, but when such schools receive Model Continuation School distinctions it can send a strong message to the community. Such a distinction is the equivalent to a Distinguished School status for other campuses, Bordona said.
According to Sierra High School’s mission, staff and teachers help each student build good relationships, develop skills, knowledge and cultivate independent thinking in a safe environment. Amongst the school’s biggest priorities is to improve reading, writing and math skills.
Bordona attributes a lot of Sierra’s successes to its small school setting, its student-teacher ratio of 20 to 1 and the school’s slightly shorter daily schedule.
“Our students are the same at any other school,” said Barbara Klaus, science and math teacher at Sierra. “There’s a stigma that continuation students are the bad kids and they’re not. They’re really gifted.”
To be considered for a Model Continuation School distinction, the school must apply to the CDE, which then sends a validation visitation group to observe the school, thoroughly reviews the school’s performance and interviews students and staff. Each continuation school must be accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. Parents and students must also submit written letters supporting their school’s effective programs.
Arrow High School last received th Model Continuation School distinction about 20 years ago, said Charter Oak Unified Superintendent Mike Hendricks.
Principal Lisa Raigosa, who first became principal of Arrow High School six years ago, worked with her staff to update the rapidly changing continuation school model to bring the high school to current standards.
Staff have been implementing more course offerings, including common core math standards, in addition to other rigorous instruction.
“The key thing for the [validation visitation group] was the rigor of the program, where our standards align, teaching direct instruction and our project-based learning,” Raigosa said.
According to their mission statement, Arrow High School, 1505 S. Sunflower Ave., strives to provide a challenging learning experience for all students to take charge of their education to initiate personal growth. The school provides standards-based instruction for students to develop academic skills and meet graduation requirements.
Arrow also boasts a small community, which helps students receive individualized learning.
Arrow’s staff also implements Individualized Learning Plans for students, which helps map a student’s course through school, past and present, to determine what they need to achieve next.
Students at Arrow have also gone beyond the classroom and began volunteering at Shepherd’s Pantry, a Glendora non-profit which provides emergency food and clothing to needy families, by organizing food and clothing drives on campus.
“These kids are getting a quality education. These kids are ready to go to a community college and we’re pushing it a little, because we have new online classes for students that want ‘A through G’ credits,” Raigosa said, which are courses required for entry into the UC and CSU systems.
“They have a unique group of outstanding teachers and an outstanding principal that knows how to address the unique learners at the Sunflower campus and Arrow High School,” Hendricks said.
“These outstanding schools provide teaching approaches that better serve their students and give them every chance to flourish,” said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson. “Our goal is to ensure that every student receives a high-quality education and, upon graduation, that every student has a plan for the future and the skills necessary to succeed.”
The Model Continuation School distinction is granted for three years.
Sierra and Arrow high schools will be recognized at the 2015 CCEA State Conference this May in San Francisco.