Party celebrates Phoenix High exiting program improvement

By: Patty McAlpin, Reporter
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Phoenix High School staff and students celebrated a phenomenal achievement for the school on Oct. 25 – exiting Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) testing program improvement.

Before cutting the cake, Western Placer Unified School District Assistant Superintendent Mary Boyle congratulated the staff and students on their achievement.

Adequate Yearly Progress is the federal accountability system that calls for annual set percentages targets for students scoring proficient and advanced on Standardized Testing and Reporting Program (STAR) testing.

“You are awesome. You did what only three schools in Sacramento and Placer counties did,” Boyle told the staff and students. “You brought up achievement scores and graduation rates. Many of you faced challenges early on in school to get credits and graduate. I am so proud of you.”  

Phoenix High School is evaluated for Adequate Yearly Progress and the state’s Annual Performance Index (API) under the requirements for an ASAM school – Alternative Schools Accountability Model.

Boyle said the model was adopted because California realized alternative schools required a different measurement for success – partially because they generally serve fewer than 100 students so the validity of the test score trends is difficult to measure, and partially because their students have unique needs.

The state established 15 criteria from which an alternative school must choose three for their accountability measure. Phoenix chose credit completion, suspension rates, student punctuality and graduation rates.

 “Phoenix High School students improved their proficiency rates on state testing and improved credit completion and graduation rates for two consecutive years and thus exited program improvement,” Boyle said.

In 2010/’11 school year, 10 students graduated from Phoenix High School. Twenty-three students graduated for the 2011/’12 school year.

The credit completion rate was 46 percent in 2010/’11 and 73 percent in 2011/’12.

There were 125 students suspended in 2010/’11 and 102 suspended in 2011/’12.

Boyle said because the Phoenix High School population is so small and most students are seniors who do not participate in California Standard Tests, “we generally look at California High School Exit Exam pass rates.

In 2009/’10, 35 percent of students passed the English language arts part of the exam. The math rate was not available. Boyle said this generally means the sample size was too small to give an accurate percentage rate.

In 2010/’11, 45 percent passed the exam’s English language arts part and 58 percent passed the math section.

In 2011/’12, 63 percent passed the English language arts part and 63 percent passed the math section of the exam.

 Phoenix High School English teacher Jennifer Nelson said when Principal Michael Doherty showed her the letter releasing the school from program improvement, she “jumped up and down.”

“The principal had to tell me to calm down I was so excited,” Nelson said.

Doherty said he is proud of the staff and students for setting the goal of exiting program improvement and successfully reaching that goal.

“In order to exit program improvement, we stressed the importance of meeting the weekly credit requirements, having exemplary attendance and graduating from high school. The key was selling the program to the students individually.”