Creating a College Going Culture In a Minority-Majority School District

Author: Toni Badone, Superintendent, Yuma Union High School District

May 18, 2016

Four years ago, the Class of 2016 walked into the classrooms of Yuma Union High School District as freshmen and began a unique journey.  During the journey, the students of the Class of 2016 made decisions to challenge themselves; to explore leadership opportunities; and to dream their futures.  We celebrate their choices and we congratulate the Class of 2016, our first class of students graduating with four years of Ready Now Yuma. 

Ready Now Yuma started as an initiative partnership between YUHSD and Helios Education Foundation.  It grew out of an intense systemic belief in our students and their unlimited potential.  It has grown into a culture of student success built on four main commitments:

  • First, provide our students with great teachers who are supported with continuous professional development.  Much of the Helios grant has been used to provide collaborative professional development tailored to the needs of our teachers and counselors.  In order to believe in our students, we must believe in the adults in their lives and invest in their learning and continuous development as leaders. 
  • Second, implement a world-class, high expectations curriculum for every student. In the internationally benchmarked Cambridge Curriculum, students learn to examine issues, to read critically, to design experiments to solve problems in science, to ask well thought-out questions and to consider what problem they will want to solve in their adult lives.  
  • Third, provide equity of opportunity.  YUHSD has worked to make sure all students can create their own post high school pathway based on their interests and goals.  Success is determined by the student’s motivation and desire to learn college level and career certificate coursework.  Student success will not be determined by the student’s circumstances, zip code, or previous academic performance.
  • Fourth, support students on the paths they create for themselves. YUHSD provides tutoring, online extended learning programs for core classes, and differentiated instruction as fundamental practices to ensure student success.  We understand that students are individuals who enter our schools at different levels and with different interests, passions and talents.  But we know that if they want to achieve, we have the staff to assist and guide them to their goals.

Ready Now Yuma is a way of life for our students.  All students are enrolled in high expectations courses beginning freshman year.  The number of freshman passing all their classes has increased by 42% in the last four years.  This increase is significant because passing all freshmen classes is a predictor of high school and college success.  It is up to students if they choose to go to college, but it is up to the adults to make sure they are prepared to succeed if and when they choose college.

With Ready Now Yuma, our students are thriving in a culture of opportunity and they are choosing to pursue excellence.  More students than ever before are choosing to take Advanced Placement courses.  Students are enrolling in college or post-secondary programs at a rate of 65% immediately following graduation, with our five comprehensive high schools rated in the top 25% of high schools in the state.  

In addition, the Class of 2016 has blazed the trail of career readiness with more students enrolled in CTE/JTED courses than ever before.  In fact, over 1,000 of our students were enrolled in both an AP course AND a CTE/JTED course this year, a phenomenon unheard of four years ago, and a rarity occurrence in other high schools in our state and nation.  

Our students are valuing their experiences in the classroom.  When the work is relevant, attendance increases and the number of discipline issues decreases.  Since the 2011-2012 school year, student suspensions have decreased by nearly 50% in our district.  

Ready Now Yuma is about collaboratively learning together.  Yuma Union teachers take teaching and learning to the next level.  With support from Helios Education Foundation, YUHSD provides teachers with expert training and time to collaborate.  The cross-district collaboration is essential to our mobile students’ success and to the confidence our teachers have in their work.  We believe it is our job to ensure our students are READY when they graduate.  

The Class of 2016 began their high school journey with the adults in the district believing in them.  They began their journey with more learning opportunities and choices than any class of students before them.  We celebrate their choices and the initiative they have taken during high school.  The Class of 2016 of Yuma Union High School District is READY.  Ready for the challenges. Ready to embrace the future. Ready to test their limits and go beyond.  The Class of 2016 is READY NOW YUMA.

Category: College and Career Readiness

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