Yosemite High School
Distinguished School Award Application
SECTION II: SCHOOL SYNOPSIS
Yosemite High School is located in the Sierra Nevada foothills in the rural community of Oakhurst, 10 miles from the southern gateway to Yosemite National Park. The campus is on a 100-acre site graced by pines, oaks, and streams with views of the High Sierra. This safe and orderly learning environment is a source of pride for our community. Amid this beautiful setting, the entire school community is involved in a process of positive change. The appearance of our campus is being transformed by a $20 million construction project resulting from the passage of a bond measure in 1998. The project includes a comprehensive library media center, state-of-the-art science labs, classrooms, cafeteria/multi-purpose building, swimming pool, and a performing arts center. The school serves as the focal point of the community, and completion of the project will enhance use for students, parents, and community members. Extended hours in the library–media center provide access for students and community members alike. Access to other facilities as the project is completed will strengthen the role of the community in the school. Amid the clamor of construction, the student body of 1,100 and staff of 95 continue to achieve impressive educational and extracurricular successes, and to work toward meeting the new challenges of standards-based educational programs.
The school has continually raised expectations for all students. An academic focal point is the International Baccalaureate (IB) program that involves 427 students. IB is a world-wide program providing a rigorous, standards-based curriculum. Students who pass externally moderated exams are given college credit by most universities, and full IB diploma graduates are often granted sophomore status upon university admission. YHS is one of only 47 IB schools in California. The number of IB tests taken doubled from 112 in 1999 to 224 in 2000. The number of Golden State Exams (GSE) also increased from 840 in 1999 to 1,051 in 2000, with the number of Golden State Scholars increasing from 170 to 239. Last year’s Academic Performance Index (API) of 744, the second highest high school score in the central California region, represented a 49 point improvement. This can be attributed in part to the challenging IB curriculum, preparation of students for the Golden State Exams, and an emphasis on remediating the skills of low-performing students. The school also provides a comprehensive vocational program which showcases cutting edge technology training in computer networking and multi-media production. Through a Digital High School Grant, the school provides access to current technology for all students.
Students involved in extracurricular competitions have also excelled. The 1999-2000 Academic Decathlon team earned the state championship in its division and has won the county championship for the past seven years. The Mock Trial team has won the county competition for the past 14 years and will be competing at the state level again this year. Drama and music groups, involving well over one-third of the student body, have distinguished themselves with superior ratings at festivals and consistent sellouts at community performances. YHS athletic teams regularly reach California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) section and state playoffs. This fall both the cross country teams were league champions, the football team was a CIF semifinalist, and the volleyball team was the CIF champion and reached the state semifinals.
To meet the challenges of the statewide standards and accountability movement, YHS is undergoing changes in all phases of the educational program. Within the last four years both a new superintendent and principal have been appointed. With this change in leadership has come a strong commitment to a process of continuous school improvement. A Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) Focus on Learning self-study was completed last spring with the school receiving a six-year accreditation. The self-study and resulting action plans have brought a new direction and a sense of urgency to school improvement efforts. A school-wide commitment to a clear vision and sense of purpose has energized staff and increased community awareness of the positive growth occuring in the school. One veteran teacher, who has been here since the school opened 25 years ago, noted that, “I have never seen teacher morale so high.” In a recent survey, a parent commented, “I have strong confidence in the teaching and learning taking place.”
The shared vision of our school community is to prepare our students to confidently face the challenges in their future by learning to make the changes in themselves that complex modern existence requires. We know that we must model this ability to adapt and improve as we continue to make positive changes at Yosemite High School.
STANDARDS, ASSESSMENT, AND ACCOUNTABILITY
1. Vision, Standards, and Accountability: Describe the process used by your school community for developing a common vision of what students should know and be able to do upon graduation. Indicate the roles played by members of the school community. Describe how your school’s improvement plan focuses on standards-based education. Discuss how the school and district examine and use assessment data to increase student achievement and school performance. Describe how results are communicated to the community.
Eight years ago (1992-93) students, staff, parents, and other community members met in a year-long process that led to the initial development of the district vision statement that was adopted by the board and communicated to students, parents, staff, and community through inclusion in the student-parent handbook, display in classrooms, and posting on the district website. The goals of the district vision statement are consistent with the objectives of the High School Exit Exam (HSEE). For example, the vision statement commits the district to preparing students to be effective communicators and problem-solvers, two attributes directly assessed by the HSEE. The vision statement reflects current research, referred to in section III-3.
Though the YHS student population is not as diverse as that of many other California schools (85.2 % non-Hispanic white), disaggregated assessment data indicate that students in under-represented ethnic groups perform at or above the level of the majority student group. The district vision statement and Expected Schoolwide Learning Results (ESLRs) address respect for, and appreciation of, ethnic diversity.
During the 1998-99 school year, YHS completed the process of developing ESLRs and adopting content standards in all areas of the curriculum. The ESLRs and the vision statement were reviewed and revised with involvement of all stakeholder groups. Meetings with the superintendent’s advisory committee, local Rotary and Kiwanis clubs, the School Site Council, and the Student Senate provided a broad range of input resulting in revisions of the ESLRs. The ESLRs were formally adopted by the governing board in the spring of the 1998-99 school year and are aligned with the vision statement and the curriculum. The school has embedded the ESLRs in the curriculum by directly aligning them with district and state standards. The revision of course syllabi, which connect the content standards to classroom instruction, was begun during the 1999-2000 school year, and is an ongoing task. The District has adopted the State content standards in math, science, history/social science, and English, and has aligned them with the ESLRs. In all other subject areas, rigorous local content standards have been adopted. Additional standards in the IB curriculum exceed state content standards. A teacher evaluation process that is defined by the California Standards for the Teaching Profession and focuses on assessing teachers’ performance in helping students achieve content standards has been negotiated and implemented.
Our comprehensive school plan focuses on a process of continuous school improvement and involves all stakeholder groups. It is developed and monitored by the school steering committee, composed of students, parents, and staff, and approved by the School Site Council and the school board. The steering committee conducts an annual review of school-wide achievement data and makes recommendations regarding plan revision. This leads to development of annual school-wide goals for improvement, which are reviewed by the whole staff. This review includes student achievement data, and staff, student, and parent surveys. The current school plan includes goals in the areas of: 1) student achievement of the ESLRs, 2) support for at-risk students achieving the ESLRs, 3) positive school climate, 4) assessment, 5) pathways for all students, 6) technological proficiency, 7) school-wide staff development, and 8) annual school-wide assessment.
The steering committee, deriving its structure and approach to school improvement from the Effective Schools research, is responsible for developing goals and monitoring the improvement process. In the Effective Schools model, “correlate groups,” structured around the seven “correlates” (measures or qualities) of effective schools, drive a continuous school improvement process. These groups connect with a school leadership team that makes decisions regarding school improvement. Seven focus groups meet monthly to address school improvement objectives identified in the school plan. The highest priority of this school improvement process is continued refinement of the standards-based educational program, with focus groups addressing such issues as assessment tools, and curriculum development.
As results of yearly assessments (SAT 9, GSE, IB, Advanced Placement (AP), college placement tests) become available, they are used to shape standards-based instructional programs for students at all ability levels. Student achievement data are reviewed by: teachers, site and district administration, the School Site Council, the steering committee, and the school board. Disaggregated test results are used to develop plans to modify instruction. Students whose test results indicate skills below grade level are identified for Title 1 assistance and provided with targeted instruction or tutoring. After this year’s freshmen take the newly developed HSEE, data from this test will be incorporated into school improvement efforts. Recent SAT 9 scores and the HSEE have already prompted YHS to establish math and reading labs with small class sizes, and to revise the math curriculum in order to address HSEE requirements. Algebra is now a graduation requirement, and changes in curriculum and methodology are focused on helping all students successfully complete basic algebra. Disaggregated data (by ethnicity and gender) from GSE, IB, AP, Scholastic Aptitude Test, and American College Testing (ACT) results shape instructional strategies.
Assessment results are communicated to the community through a variety of means. Our community newspaper regularly publishes student achievement data. There is also a quarterly school newsletter that goes to the homes of all students, and the school website includes assessment data. Yearly test results are mailed to parents and are provided to all students along with their high school transcripts during the yearly registration process for the next year’s classes.
“We’re very happy with the academic standards and teachers at YHS. My son is always excited about what he learns at school and is always challenged. The teachers are wonderful, very caring and hard-working.” Spring 2000 Parent Survey
2. Local Assessment: Describe how local school and classroom assessment information is used to improve student performance and to ensure progress toward school-wide improvement. Describe your methods of assessment and how your assessments are aligned with standards. Show how teachers use assessment information to modify curriculum and instruction. Provide examples of assessments in English/language arts or mathematics. Describe how students are involved in the analysis of their own work. Describe how individual student results are reported to families. Discuss strategies used to follow up on graduates to determine the effectiveness of the program.
In the recently completed (1999-2000) WASC Focus on Learning process, YHS conducted a study of multiple measures of assessment used at both the school and classroom levels. According to surveys conducted as part of the WASC self-study process, the majority of students felt they were given the opportunity to demonstrate learning through activities other than a test, and teachers overwhelmingly indicated that students either consistently or frequently have such opportunities in their courses. Teachers use a variety of performance-based assessments that allow students to demonstrate mastery of content standards in a real- life context. Current practices in the math department serve as examples of the variety of assessment methods used school wide. In every math course, exit exams have been developed which are directly aligned with the district content standards. In addition to course exit exams, teachers use assessment strategies that require students to apply knowledge they have acquired to determine their mastery of the content standards. The following examples illustrate how teachers use multiple measures of assessment to allow students to demonstrate mastery of the content standards. In IB math, students create a statistical model from computer-generated analyses they have done of social trends and conditions (i.e. AIDS, population growth). In geometry courses, students do tessellation projects to demonstrate their understanding of patterns and symmetry as they relate to geometric functions. In an activity that articulates math and science classes, students show their understanding of ratios by calculating the ratios of various body parts and study the relationship of ratios to body mechanics. A number of math courses, including IB courses, require students to keep portfolios that demonstrate their mastery of standards.
The school steering committee and one of the monthly focus groups continue to evaluate assessment tools to determine which methods are most effective and to encourage the development of new, more varied ways of measuring student progress toward meeting content standards and achieving ESLRs. Monthly department meetings include discussion of assessment strategies, development of performance standards, comparison of student work, development of rubrics, and norming of assessment criteria. Since all curricula have been aligned with state or local content standards, student performance on course assessments and projects reflects their progress toward meeting these standards. Teachers use the results of these assessments to modify curriculum and guide day-to-day instruction focused on student mastery of the standards.
Students are encouraged to see their individual courses and learning experiences in a larger context and to take responsibility for their progress toward long-term educational and career goals. Beginning with an interest inventory and career exploration unit in their freshman year, they continue to be involved in activities that encourage self-evaluation, self-direction, and self-assessment. In programs as varied as English and business, students are given rubrics with which to evaluate and revise their work. In fine arts classes students regularly critique both their own and fellow students’ work. In a number of IB courses, the program provides for student analysis of projects and labs according to rubrics supplied by IB. The IB biology program includes lab write-ups that are reviewed in class against IB standards. Students rewrite their work if they determine that they have not met the standards. Some teachers (i.e. French) encourage students to develop the rubric for an assignment.
Students and their families receive printed progress reports by mail every six weeks (six times per year). In addition, on the fourth Friday of every six-week period, teachers are provided with time to call parents of students who are having difficulty in their classes. Counselors and other school staff identify struggling students and encourage parents and students to seek assistance in the form of Student Study Teams, teacher conferences, and other interventions. Special needs students and their parents receive more frequent progress reports and are provided with Individualized Educational Plans (IEPs) that define the student’s specific learning objectives and performance standards.
Currently, the only YHS students who could be defined as English language learners are foreign exchange students from Brazil and Germany. They work with a paraprofessional who is trained in English instruction for non-native speakers. In the past, the school has quickly identified language learners in need of English language development. These students, whose first language has typically been Spanish, have been provided with special assistance by bilingual staff to whom they were assigned for help with assignments in their regular classes and for assistance with English. These bilingual staff members have also provided communication with Spanish-speaking parents of these students whenever the need arises.
YHS counselors conduct a yearly survey of seniors as well as a follow-up survey after graduation to determine how many are enrolled in colleges and universities, working, or involved in other activities. A 1999 survey indicated that 73 % of graduates went on to some form of post-secondary education. Of those, 63% were enrolled in junior college, 11% in a state college, 9% in a private college, 7% at the University of California, and 10% in vocational training. For the past six years a number of recent graduates have returned to address the staff and students prior to our winter break. These former students provide valuable feedback to staff regarding the strengths and weaknesses of their high school preparation. Staff also annually review the results of our graduates’ college placement tests to determine how instruction can be modified to better meet the needs of our college-bound students.
TEACHING AND LEARNING
3. Curriculum and Instructional Practices: Indicate the course requirements for graduation. Discuss how your curriculum is aligned or is being aligned to local and state standards. Describe how your school provides a comprehensive core curriculum that is articulated across grade levels and with feeder middle schools and community colleges where possible. Use examples from English/language arts or mathematics to describe curriculum alignment and articulation. Discuss how all students are provided with a variety of learning experiences. Describe the selection of standards-based instructional materials. Discuss planning underway to align curriculum to standards in order to prepare students for the High School Exit Examination (HSEE).
YHS graduation requirements include: 4 years of English, 2 years of math (including an algebra requirement), 2 years P.E., 1 semester health, 2 years science, 3.5 years social science, 3 years career education, 1 year fine arts/foreign language. To graduate, students must also pass a district writing proficiency test and complete a senior project. Frequently, these projects have a service learning theme.
As stated in responses to items 1 and 2 of this section, course curricula have been aligned with either local or state content standards, and course syllabi and lesson plans reflect these standards and the more general ESLRs. During the 1998-1999 and 1999-2000 school year considerable time was spent by departments in reviewing state content standards and aligning curriculum with these standards. In areas where state standards have not yet been developed, the district has adopted rigorous local standards. For the past two years all departments have been modifying curriculum and instruction to address these content standards, with special emphasis given to completing the process in math and English. This implementation of standards is a work in progress, and as the state continues to issue standards in other curriculum areas, these will be incorporated into instructional planning. Work continues on refining courses of study so that they effectively address content standards and provide for performance assessment. All departments articulate standards, course subject matter, and integrated units across grade levels. This ensures that all students are involved in a core curriculum that leads to achievement of the content standards. The mathematics department serves as an example of this cross-grade and/or cross-course articulation. The math department provides a performance-based progression through the curriculum. Placement tests and performance in prior classes determine advancement through the program. Students must pass standards-based exit exams for all courses.
There is strong articulation with feeder intermediate and grammar schools, particularly in mathematics. Teachers and administrators meet regularly to share instructional and assessment information. High school and middle school teachers observe one another to gain a better understanding of instructional practices. Teachers from both the high school and feeder schools are meeting to revise curriculum collaboratively so that instructional practices at both levels will provide an easier transition into high school. Plans are being made to offer the same two-year algebra sequence at both the feeder schools and the high school so that students can begin this course of study at a feeder school and complete it at the high school. For math placement, students are given a test at the end of their eighth grade year to determine their skill level. As the alignment of curriculum with content standards and the HSEE continues, such placement tools will more closely reflect those standards. Again, as feeder school teachers in subjects other than math and English align curriculum with state content standards, cross-grade articulation of curricula will only improve.
One very effective form of articulation that has been in place for a number of years occurs in early spring when YHS counselors visit every feeder school to help incoming freshmen make decisions about their high school course of study. Through these meetings incoming students, their parents, and teachers are informed of high school programs and provided with recommendations on class choices. A catalogue of high school course descriptions is provided along with explanations of programs such as International Baccalaureate. Some departments, such as music, give performances and presentations at feeder schools during this time to make students aware of opportunities at the high school. The high school student/parent handbook, which contains the district vision statement and ESLRs along with other information, is circulated to new students and their parents. All of this information is posted on the district website. Incoming students and their parents may also schedule appointments with high school counselors during the summer.
The school works closely with colleges and universities, especially our local community college, to assure that our programs provide as many graduates as possible with the skills necessary for success in college. There is collaboration to offer expanded community college courses on the high school campus. The high school also participates in the 2 + 2 Program through which students receive dual college and high school credit for those courses with a curriculum that is defined jointly by the two institutions. Currently 13 courses have been approved through this articulated program. Counselors receive and distribute to staff reports of our graduates’ performance on college placement tests pertaining to English and math placement.
In developing curriculum, administration and staff are continually involved in training and study that reflect current educational practices and research. Throughout the process of aligning curriculum with standards, a variety of research-based sources were utilized, including: Second to None, The New American High School, Standards that Make Sense, and WASC Focus on Learning. Staff also participated in a variety of research-based conferences and workshops including, Focus on Results presented by Mike Schmoker, Designing Standards-Based Performance Assessments sponsored by The Center for Performance Assessment, The Effective Schools Conference, and The Curriculum And Instruction Leadership Symposium at Asilomar, which featured Kati Haycock, Doug Reeves, and Jay McTighe. Several staff members have participated in the California School Leadership Academy.
Staff members in all departments attend conferences and training sessions in their subject areas. This year an emphasis has been placed on preparation for the HSEE. Teachers and administrators have attended workshops which have helped us to plan curricular changes to prepare students for the test. Full day curriculum planning sessions with math and English departments have provided a clear focus on the content standards to be assessed by the HSEE. As a result of this planning, math curriculum has been revised, graduation requirements increased, and math and reading labs established to provide remediation.
Teachers use a wide range of instructional strategies to involve students in varied learning experiences in order to address different learning styles. There is a strong emphasis on oral and written communication across the curriculum. Students complete projects and assignments which require collaborative and independent problem-solving. In many courses, students engage in learning experiences that are connected to the real world and provide a service to the community. In psychology classes, students organize a mock wedding and plan household budgets. Students in the videography classes plan and produce digital video presentations in collaboration with local businesses and public agencies including the California Department of Transportation (CALTRANS), Sierra Ambulance Service, Madera County Sheriff’s Department, and Yosemite National Park. In Cross Age Physical Education Tutoring (CAPET) students teach local elementary school students. Students in Regional Occupational Programs (ROP) in Automotive Technology, Emergency Medical Technician, and Careers in Education participate in community classroom experiences. Science classes engage in environmental projects, PE students run local Special Olympics events, student clubs participate in food drives, Toys for Tots, and serve meals to senior citizens. These types of real-life service learning experiences, which provide connections to the community, are the norm at Yosemite High School.
Cross-curricular instruction and projects, especially in English and social science, involve students in learning experiences that connect these two disciplines to provide a deeper understanding of historical events and societal conditions. Four English and social science teachers have participated in training to develop integrated units. Juniors studying the Viet Nam War era read the novel The Things They Carried (a soldier’s account of Viet Nam experiences) while studying the political controversy surrounding the war. Other English and social science teachers also collaborate to align reading materials and assignments in English with the integrated units in social studies. Students engage in class projects, group work, panel discussions, and a wide range of activities that link the two subjects. There has also been an emphasis in ROP programs on integrating English/Language Arts content standards throughout the vocational education curriculum in order to meet the growing demands for effective communication in the world of work.
Because of the emphasis on aligning curriculum with local and state content standards, new textbooks and other instructional materials must be aligned with these standards. Board policy has been strengthened to provide a clear process for selection of instructional materials. Textbook adoption committees composed of teachers, parents, students, and feeder school teachers make recommendations regarding instructional materials. Criteria for selection includes reading level, organization, age appropriateness, and most importantly, alignment with the content standards.
4. Teacher Professionalism: Describe the processes that support teacher professionalism. Describe the professional development activities that are provided, particularly in English/language arts and mathematics, who participates, and how the activities are selected. Discuss support activities designed for new teachers. Describe the opportunities that are available for teachers to collaborate with other teachers, broaden their knowledge, provide mentoring and other leadership, and participate in decision making.
Facilitating continued positive professional growth for all teachers is a top priority for the Yosemite Joint Union High School District. The district budgets in excess of $75,000 annually to support professional development. Each teacher and administrator is responsible for developing his/her own personal professional development plan. Teacher plans are aligned with the California Standards for the Teaching Profession. This process calls for teachers to specify the kinds of inservice, coursework, or conferences that will help them address student instructional needs identified by student assessments. The district is committed to helping each teacher obtain the kind of training he/she feels is necessary to achieve these objectives. With the expectations of state content standards and the HSEE, the district has made a commitment to providing specific training and curriculum development opportunities for math and English teachers. During the current school year, teachers in both departments have been provided with several days of release time from normal duties to review state content standards and the HSEE, and to do curriculum mapping to align course content with these new state assessment criteria. English, social science, math and science teachers also have had release time to receive technology training.
New teachers are selected through a collaborative process involving students, teachers, administrators and community members. A high priority is placed on hiring qualified teachers who hold credentials in the areas in which they will be teaching. New teachers are provided with training through an orientation program and supported by department chairs, colleagues, and administration. A mentor teacher position has been used to provide direct support for new teachers, and the new Peer Assistance and Review (PAR) program provides for voluntary assistance with a consulting teacher.
Decision-making for all curriculum planning and school improvement is accomplished by consensus. The school steering committee develops an annual schoolwide staff development plan through collaboration of students, parents, teachers, department heads, and administrators. As changes in state programs and advances in technology occur, and as student needs are defined, staff members and administrators discuss training options that will most effectively address these new demands. Time for staff development is provided through three days of inservice at the beginning of the school year--70 minutes every Friday morning--and through release time for individual teachers or departments to participate in curriculum development, workshops, or conferences.
Friday staff development time provides for teachers to meet in collaborative groups to discuss instructional practices, align curriculum, or participate in training. Staff development activities have included: HSEE preparation, performance standards, curriculum mapping, assessment, conflict resolution, peer mediation, suicide prevention, drug recognition, and technology use.
It is the position of the district that all staff members contribute to the education of our students. The entire classified and certified staffs meet together at the beginning of each school year, and a sense of a shared mission is emphasized. New staff members are introduced, annual goals are shared, and a clear focus for the year is established.
Staff members are frequently commended for exceptional work, often with public commendations, letters in their personnel files, articles in the local newspaper, or commendations at board meetings. A teacher and classified staff of the year are recognized annually, and last year one of our teachers was recognized as Madera County Teacher of the Year. One of the school improvement focus groups is exploring additional ways to provide for staff and student recognition.
All staff are encouraged to grow professionally and supported financially in attending conferences and inservice training that will enhance their content knowledge and teaching skills. All staff members participate in schoolwide staff development programs, and more than 80% of the staff participated in out-of-school training last year. Staff members participate in training opportunities at the school site, through the county office of education and state agencies, professional organizations, and at workshops and conferences. Teachers in the IB program regularly attend workshops that keep them current on expectations and instructional practices in these areas and are provided with release time to develop curriculum and deal with some of the special demands of these courses. Every year IB teachers attend summer training sessions, most recently in New Mexico, Vancouver, Canada and other locations. New IB teachers are given priority to receive this training. Staff have participated in the California Writing Project, the California Literature Project, and the California Math Project. Counselors and counseling technicians annually attend UC, CSU, and IB workshops. Office support staff have had on-site technology training. Our health teacher has participated in training for tobacco prevention, peer mediation, and AIDS education. Physical Education teachers have attended the Cal Poly PE Workshop and a workshop on administration of physical fitness tests. Staff members belong to a variety of professional organizations including the National Council of Teachers of English, National Council for the Social Studies, California Language Teachers Association, California School Public Relations Association, and the Association of California School Administrators.
Teachers and other staff members frequently provide training and assistance to one another, both in group settings and individually. In the area of technology, for instance, there have been a number of whole-staff training sessions offered by teachers and administrators with expertise in this area. Especially with technology, teachers also seek out other staff members for troubleshooting assistance. Staff members have trained peers in such areas as suicide prevention, drug awareness, new teacher orientation, child abuse reporting, and conflict resolution.
This fall a PAR team was established and began training through a mentor teacher project. A five-member PAR panel is in place, and five consulting teachers have been selected. Consulting teachers will provide training and support for teachers who request assistance and for those who are referred for assistance through the evaluation process. The purpose of this program is to help all teachers find ways to be successful by receiving positive assistance from qualified peers.
Teachers regularly articulate with feeder schools and community colleges, as explained in section III-3. In addition, vocational education teachers participate in annual articulation meetings with community colleges through the 2 + 2 Program.
5. Library Media Services and Integration of Technology: Describe the library media services that support teaching and learning. Describe your plan for technology use at the school site and the ongoing process of integrating technology into the total school program. Include accommodations to ensure appropriate technical assistance for staff and students.
One of our most exciting recent events at YHS was the opening of a new library-media center in October, 1999. Through the use of school bond funds, an existing building was completely remodeled to house a new library-media center. This facility, which includes a computer lab, a career center, and a tutoring center, is staffed by a credentialed librarian, a library media aide, a career center technician, and a Title 1 paraprofessional. The library is open to students and the community until 6:30 p.m. four evenings per week. In addition, library resources are available on-line for student access 24 hours per day. With funding provided through a three-year Digital High School Grant (DHS), received in 1998, the library has been equipped with over 60 computers, which are available to individual students, classes, and the community. Annual surveys of students, staff, and parents, and observation of classroom activities indicates that technology is used extensively in the learning process. In surveys, 82% of students reported they had adequate access to computers on campus. Technology training is provided by staff, county and state technology trainers, and contracted professionals.
The district technology plan, begun in 1993 and recently integrated with the school plan, is reviewed annually through staff surveys, statistics on computer usage, and other means. Software and equipment are continually updated in response to advances in technology. A Local Area Network (LAN) links all classrooms and computer labs to a central processor through which teachers and students access a variety of resources including the Internet. All classrooms are equipped with technology that is used to enhance instruction and teacher productivity. Teachers use computers, printers, AVerKeys, large screen monitors, video projectors, and other technology to provide instruction to students.
Technology is used to enhance student performance in almost every educational program. For special needs students and those who haven’t met graduation standards in basic skills areas, there are computer labs and personnel available to focus on specific skills needs. A lab for individualized basic skills instruction is used to address the needs of Title I students in math and English. All freshman English classes are involved in an introductory technology unit that teaches students basic information literacy skills that require them to: 1) identify a problem, 2) seek resources, 3) gather information, 4) analyze information, 5) interpret and synthesize information, 6) communicate information, 7) evaluate the process and product. These skills are integrated across all areas of the curriculum.
All computers in the school have access to the Internet and a variety of educational software. An example of one powerful research tool to which all students, staff, and community have access is the on-line ProQuest database which offers access to over 2,000 publications. Students involved in career programs use the Eureka interest inventory, college and career exploration software to research career and educational options. Many classes require extensive computer research and use of technology to enhance or create a finished product. A specific example is the creation of web pages and Power Point presentations by students for History Day competition. Recent developments utilizing current technology include creation of digital photo media and videography courses. DHS grant and ROP funding were used to equip a lab in which these courses are offered. An emphasis in both courses is involvement in service learning projects. Students are creating commercial quality videos for use by CALTRANS, Yosemite National Park, Sierra Ambulance Service, and the Madera County Sheriff’s Department. The videography class also produced a powerful documentary of the “Every 15 Minutes” program, which was presented last year to combat student drunk driving. The district has collaborated with CISCO Systems to offer an internetworking course that provides students with hands-on training that meets industry standards.
Support for effective use of technology is provided through a district technology coordinator, a classified computer technician, and contracted computer system services. Staff development is provided through specific training that occurs during the summer, at Friday morning in-services, through staff release time, and through individual professional development activities. The DHS grant provides for compensation of staff for training done either in a group setting or individually through training modules that are provided by the California Technology Assistance Program (CTAP).
Technology is used to track, monitor, and provide feedback to students and parents regarding student progress. The counseling office provides regular reports regarding graduation requirements, proficiencies, test scores, and other student achievement data. Teachers use computerized grade books to track and monitor student progress and provide feedback to students and parents. In some areas, such as auto mechanics, teachers use technology to track individual student achievement of specific performance standards.
SUPPORT FOR STUDENT LEARNING
6. School Culture: Describe the culture of the school and how it supports student success in achieving standards. Discuss how the school culture values and promotes the importance of preparing students to be lifelong learners. Discuss how the school culture promotes positive character traits and good citizenship. Describe strategies used to ensure that students feel a sense of connection with the school.
The Yosemite High School vision statement and ESLRs define the school culture and educational priorities toward which all members of the school community are striving. The school provides an opportunity for all students to achieve the standards that will lead to graduation from high school. The shared mission of our school community, however, is much broader. The fundamental reason for the existence of all school programs, whether academic or extracurricular, is to provide the means through which students can grow personally and develop life-long interests and commitments.
In terms of life and career planning, there is a progression that is followed by all students relating to exploration of careers and life choices. In their freshman and sophomore years all students participate in a career research unit, which is continued through the junior and senior years. All students maintain a career portfolio in the career center. This portfolio is updated annually through interest inventories, career exploration, college planning, resume writing, and a number of other activities. Students are encouraged to take this portfolio with them upon graduation to use as a resource as they continue their education and/or careers.
The district vision statement, human dignity policy, and school policies and procedures all reflect the values of fairness, respect, and the uniqueness of individuals. These common values are modeled by staff, embedded in school policies and procedures, and expected of all students. To deal with conflicts or misunderstandings that may occur, the school has established a conflict resolution program that involved the entire staff in training through the San Francisco Community Boards program. In addition, this program provided intensive training for four teachers and 20 students who are certified conflict resolution facilitators. It is hoped that over time the core concepts of this program will permeate the entire school community and that all students will come to realize that there are ways other than confrontation to resolve misunderstandings.
All students are encouraged to participate in any course or program in which they have an interest. Students have access to curriculum and programs regardless of gender, ethnicity, or special needs. Participation in programs is consistent with the demographic make-up of the school. Some resource students complete the University of California a-g requirements, women athletes regularly compete on the school wrestling team, and vocational classes have been successful in breaking gender stereotypes.
Counselors, teachers, and other staff members take a personal interest in all students and make every effort to identify students who need encouragement or support. The school sponsors a freshman orientation LINK program that connects each incoming freshman student with an upperclassman. Students are bused to the school where they participate in team-building and orientation activities to ensure their smooth transition into high school. Parents, students, and staff join together in a program that includes a barbeque dinner and tours of the campus. There are a number of mechanisms established to help students succeed academically and deal with personal challenges. Student study teams provide informal interventions or 504 Plans, counseling services are available for students with substance abuse or emotional problems, IEP teams provide assistance to learning handicapped students, and teachers, counselors, coaches, and club advisors form special bonds with individual students that connect them with the school community.
There are many academic programs and extracurricular activities that provide students with positive connections to the school and community. Drama, athletics, choir, band, mock trial, academic decathlon, pep squad, school newspaper, yearbook, Interact Club, Key Club, Future Farmers of America (FFA), Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA), and many other opportunities exist which allow students to experience success in meaningful activities. During the 1999-2000 school year, 66.8% of students were involved in some kind of extracurricular activity, and 78.9% stated that they felt that the school provided sufficient opportunities for them to participate.
Many avenues exist for service learning. A number of clubs and organizations are involved in service projects such as food drives, toy drives, blood drives, and other activities. All school clubs are encouraged to do community service, and this is one of the judging criteria for the annual club of the year award. Students are also involved in service learning projects within instructional programs. The photo media and videography classes have done service learning projects for several school and community groups. The CAPET program involves high school students in PE instruction at a nearby elementary school. Candidates for IB diplomas must perform 150 hours of community service over a two-year period. As a graduation requirement, students complete senior projects that often focus on community service. Senior projects have involved students volunteering in the local nursing home, Valley Children’s Hospital, and in elementary classrooms.
“This program makes you feel like you are doing something positive. It’s great how they look up to you and you can really make a difference in these kids’ lives.”
Student comment about CAPET.
7. Curricular Paths and Academic Guidance: Describe the school’s approach to academic guidance counseling. Discuss how the school prepares students so that they are prepared at graduation to enroll in a college or university, continue their education with a focus on technical preparation, or directly enter the workforce. Describe the resources and opportunities students have to prepare their personal learning plans in order to accomplish their post-high school goals, and how changes in students’academic goals are accommodated. Discuss how families are supported in helping their students make informed decisions about academic options. Describe programs to support students from groups traditionally under-represented in colleges and universities.
The guidance department and teachers work to ensure that all students participate in a curriculum that is meaningful and rigorous. All students develop and annually review their personal educational plan. The planning process begins in the eighth grade when counselors visit feeder schools to discuss high school programs and assure proper placement of students for their freshman year. The counselors and IB coordinator present small-group seminars to all eighth grade students to discuss high school courses and opportunities. Counselors meet individually with all in-coming freshmen to assist them with course selection. Four highly-attended eighth grade parent evenings are conducted to aid parents in planning their student’s course of study. Eighth grade students and their parents may schedule individual appointments with the counseling staff. The guidance department looks at standardized test scores, parent requests, teacher evaluations, and the results of a math placement test to assist them in the placement of students. Each year, students review their personal learning plans and modify them to focus on their post-graduate goals. Current freshmen (the class of 2004) have been advised about the new HSEE, and will be kept informed of their progress toward achieving the skill levels necessary to pass it.
All students are encouraged to enroll in a rigorous course of study. An important school-wide goal is to increase the numbers of students who meet requirements for college admission. According to the survey of 1999 graduates, over 60% had enrolled in a college or university. Approximately 50% of graduates complete the University of California a-g requirements.
Every spring the counseling staff meets with all students to conduct pre-registration seminars. Each student is given a copy of his/her individual transcript, test results, a graduation status report, and information about post-graduate planning (test requirements and dates, admission requirements). A catalogue of course descriptions and course prerequisites is also provided. Students have the opportunity to discuss course options, and then they take the materials home to discuss the next year’s class choices with parents. Students select from among five general career pathways to guide their educational planning and course selection.
Technical preparation programs are offered to students. In addition to ROP courses in drafting, welding, auto mechanics, photo media, and videography, there are also agriculture, business, computer programming and networking courses. Through articulated community college 2 +2 programs, students are able to transition smoothly into post-secondary technical preparation programs. Students are also involved in work experience programs through which they receive on-the-job technical training. A number of courses have a community classroom component through which students combine classroom instruction with on-the-job training in the community.
College preparation and planning services are provided to all students through the counseling office and the career center. Students develop career portfolios and modify their personal learning plans through participation in career fairs, a parent-student college night, post-graduate planning night, financial aid night, and in discussions with visiting college and vocational representatives. Students traditionally under-represented in colleges and universities work with representatives of the University of California Outreach program to help them with college planning. For students in these groups who have not met college admission standards, there are tutoring programs available to help them succeed in the appropriate classes. Qualified students attend special college nights at California State University, Fresno. The school provides transportation to these events and helps students gather necessary documents and materials. Bilingual staff members provide assistance to students and their families as needed.
8. At-Risk and Special Needs Students: Describe the at-risk and special needs student population at your school. Discuss the learning support services and personalized assistance provided to at-risk and special needs students. Describe the processes by which at-risk and special needs students are ensured access to and success in the core curriculum. Discuss the assessment methods used for at-risk and special needs students. Include evidence that learning support services are working.
The school takes steps to identify at-risk and special needs students and to provide appropriate programs or interventions to ensure their success. At-risk students are identified through a review of records, test results, or referral by a parent, teacher, counselor, probation officer, law enforcement, or another social service agency. Special needs students typically fall into the following categories: 1) learning handicapped students who qualify for special education services, 2) students with disabilities which qualify them for section 504 accommodations, 3) at-risk students who are struggling in school due to other circumstances, and 4) gifted and talented students (GATE).
Learning handicapped students are identified through formal assessments, and IEPs are developed or modified to meet their individual learning needs. Students are placed in the least restrictive environment that may include a resource program (RSP), special day class (SDC), or severely emotionally disabled (SED) class. Students in the RSP program are mainstreamed into regular classes at least four periods, and up to six periods, per day. Teachers in regular classes work with RSP teachers and instructional aides to provide appropriate instruction and accommodations in order to achieve full inclusion of special needs students in the curriculum. Students with disabilities are assessed according to differential standards as addressed in their IEP. Examples of accommodations include extended time on tests or use of alternate assessment instruments. Students are provided assistance in instruction primarily through use of instructional aides. All of the 68 RSP students currently enrolled have access to all aspects of school life. They participate in a wide variety of learning experiences including regular academic classes, vocational programs, fine arts, IB classes, and co-curricular activities. SDC and SED students are involved in mainstream classes to the extent that support for their special needs makes that possible.
Students who have disabilities that qualify for accommodations under Section 504 are identified through referral by teachers, parents, or counseling staff. A 504 Plan is written which identifies reasonable accommodations that will allow the student to be successful in all areas of the instructional program. These plans may include specific accommodations for physical impairments or other types of strategies for providing assistance to students with conditions such as ADD or ADHD.
Students who are experiencing difficulty in school but do not qualify for special education services or 504 accommodations are identified as “at-risk.” Lack of attendance, poor grades, disruptive behavior, and emotional or health problems prompt intervention by the school. Intervention usually begins with a parent contact by teacher, counselor or administrator or a student study team (SST). The SST, consisting of parents, teachers, counselors, and the student, frames a plan to help the student be successful. The school can also offer the services of an on-site psychologist, or drug and alcohol counselor. Students who have not met graduation standards in math and English have a variety of resources available to them. A reading lab and a math lab have been established to provide assistance for these students. The labs provide a low student-teacher ratio, access to computers, and other resources for individualized instruction. There is also a Title 1 program available for students who need extra help with basic skills. A paraprofessional or paid student tutors provide instruction to these students during school, at lunch, and after school.
For those students who are not succeeding in regular programs, there are a number of alternative education options available. One program, Mountain View High School, is specifically for freshmen and sophomore students who show early signs of not adapting well to high school. In this alternative program they are placed in a self-contained classroom and provided with individualized instruction until they are able to transition back into the regular program. The district also has a continuation school, independent study, Young Expectant Minors program, and two necessary small school options for students who need non-traditional educational support.
GATE students are provided with accelerated learning opportunities, primarily through the IB program. These include fine arts and technology classes as well as accelerated core curriculum classes. The school has just been approved for a $75,000 AP grant which will afford students even more options. Students in IB or AP programs are assigned to an academic advisor who helps them with the special needs that arise from involvement in these demanding programs.
The only students in our school who could be classified as English Language Learners are 11 foreign exchange students. These students are supervised and assisted by a staff member who has English as a Second Language training.
The district currently has a Healthy Start Collaborative Planning Grant and will apply for an Operational Grant in early 2002. Through this grant, we will establish a Family Resource Center to meet the needs of our students and their families that were identified in a comprehensive needs assessment conducted in the fall of 2000. We envision providing a variety of services ranging from planned activities to mental health services to childcare.
The entire staff is committed to providing opportunities for at-risk and special needs students to be involved in courses and activities that help them succeed. There are many examples of students who were struggling personally or academically before involvement in such programs helped them find a more positive direction. It is our belief that positive involvement in a meaningful activity is the best way for a student to develop a better self-image and become successful.
9. Safe and Healthy Schools and Coordinated Services: Describe how your school ensures a safe and secure learning environment and supports student health. Discuss programs that promote healthy behaviors and programs that keep the school free from drugs, alcohol, tobacco, crime, and violence. Describe how the school culture and staff promote appropriate student behavior to protect the safety of all including collaboration with local law enforcement. Discuss how the school supports the coordination of health and social services for students and families in the community. Describe how the school’s physical condition reflects the learning environment of an exemplary school
Recent survey results indicate that students, parents, and staff feel that “YHS maintains a safe campus.” A Safe Schools Plan is in place, which is annually assessed through California Safe Schools Assessment data. The school has also administered the California Healthy Kids Survey. Several steps taken in the last year were outlined in the school’s 1999-2000 Safe Schools Plan. Through a grant secured by the Madera County Sheriff’s Department, a uniformed officer is on campus full-time. This officer helps in campus supervision, responds to emergencies, counsels students, and teaches an ROP criminology courses. Two campus supervisors were hired to patrol the campus during the school day. They are equipped with radios that enable them to communicate quickly with the school administration. Over the past summer, a campus-wide public address system was installed.
In both the district vision statement and the ESLRs, the school’s commitment to acceptance of diversity is emphasized. It is a fundamental expectation of the staff and community that students will demonstrate respect toward one another and an appreciation of differences. The student handbook clearly defines expectations of students and discusses such issues as appropriate behavior, acceptable dress, and district harassment policies. Issues such as sexual harassment are discussed in a year-long health and safety education course, which all freshmen take, as well as in psychology courses. The health course also addresses a broad spectrum of physical and mental health issues and encourages students to make responsible decisions. A great importance is also placed on drug and alcohol education, nutrition, and other health habits. A sex education unit emphasizes abstinence and awareness about sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV and AIDS. All students also complete a two-year core curriculum in physical education that focuses on life-long physical fitness activities. PE credit is not granted for extracurricular or non-P.E. activities. A three-year grant (Tobacco Use Prevention Education) to discourage tobacco use resulted in special programs to help student tobacco users break their habit, and to inform the general student body about the dangers of tobacco use.
Evidence of the district’s commitment to a safe and orderly environment is this year’s implementation of a conflict resolution program (refer to section III-6). The school has very clearly defined, and consistently applied, consequences for those who choose violent means of dealing with conflicts.
Several agencies cooperate with the counseling department to provide crisis counseling and health services to students. A psychologist employed by the county department of education is available to students upon request, as is a drug and alcohol counselor. For mental health issues there are several services and agencies to which students and their parents can be referred: county mental health department, child protective services, and others. During inservice training, all staff members are made aware of services available to students and encouraged to refer troubled students to these resources. Health services are provided to students through a school nurse from the county department of education. There are also three certified emergency medical technicians on the high school staff.
Very hard-working maintenance and janitorial staffs maintain a clean and orderly campus environment, even in the midst of the large construction project currently underway. All campus facilities are in good repair, and due to the pride students feel in their school, there is rarely graffiti or vandalism.
The school uses funding from two grants to help with school safety. A Safe School Plan Implementation Grant provides two campus supervisors and purchased two-way radios for their use. Funds from the Carl Washington School Safety and Violence Prevention Act of 1999 (AB 1113, AB 658) are also used to help pay salaries for campus supervisors and to provide additional time for a mental health counselor to be on campus.
10. Family Participation and Community Partnerships: Describe the strategies used by your school to engage its families and communities. Describe how members of the school community work together to support student learning, and how families are assisted to be collaborative partners in the education of their children. Describe how the school communicates with families and encourages communication from them, including those who are not fluent in English. Describe school/community partnerships and how community and family resources are used to support student learning, strengthen the curriculum and expand student learning. Discuss opportunities for students to learn about careers and to understand the connection between school and careers.
The high school in a small, rural community is the focus of community life. There is a great deal of participation in, and support for, school activities and programs by all members of the community. The high level of confidence the community has in the school was evidenced by the recent passage of a school construction bond with a 72% majority. In recent surveys, more that 85% of parents expressed satisfaction with the school.
There are many opportunities for parents and other community members to be involved in and contribute to the school. Community members participate on advisory groups and school improvement committees: WASC focus groups, school site council, agriculture, business, ROP, and Title I advisory committees, athletics and arts booster committees, scholarship committees, and many more. Community members are also involved as mentors and evaluators of senior projects, and in student job shadowing. The community was very involved in the “Every 15 Minutes” anti-drunk driving event that was staged last year with local agencies, businesses, and parents volunteering resources and time to this very successful and powerful event. Staff members have participated in workshops on parent involvement and classes such as Families, Communities, and the School in order to more effectively engage parents in support of student learning.
Besides athletic events, drama and music performances, and other activities which many community members attend, YHS hosts a number of activities designed to involve parents in their student’s education and maintain communication with the home and community. Each year begins with a well-attended freshman orientation at which parents are informed about opportunities and services available to their students. In September there is a back-to-school night designed to enable parents to meet teachers and familiarize themselves with their student’s daily routine and the school environment. A post-graduate planning night in the fall of each year provides information about post-high school planning for students: college and university admission requirements, scholarship information, technical school opportunities, and many other areas. Students at all grade levels and their parents are encouraged to attend this event and start planning early for their continued education.
The school uses several means to communicate with families and the community. The principal publishes a quarterly newsletter which contains announcements of school events, lists of academic honor roll students, and other information about school activities. The student newspaper, The Blue Print, is inserted into the local newspaper, which is mailed to most homes in the community. Results of student assessment are regularly published in the local newspaper. A school website provides extensive information about the school, including complete course descriptions, the student/parent handbook, ways to contact staff members, and much more. Parents and community members communicate to the school in a variety of ways including surveys, participation on school committees and advisory groups, and conferences with school staff. The school sponsors an adult education parenting program to help parents develop positive strategies for dealing with their teenage students.
A number of partnerships with community groups and local businesses enhance educational opportunities for students and assists them in continuing their education. Each year, the dollar amount of scholarships given to YHS graduates increases dramatically. Last year over $75,000 in local scholarships were awarded to graduating seniors. Community members and organizations solicit these scholarship funds, and community members serve on a committee that selects award winners. Local businesses sponsor an annual awards banquet to honor class valedictorians.
Community service clubs provide significant support to school programs, helping to finance opportunities for students to travel and participate in state and national competitions including: Academic Decathlon, the Mock Trial team, Odyssey of the Mind, FFA, and others. They also work with students on community service projects. One example is the Interact Club which is supported by local Rotary Clubs. This group of over 70 students organizes a number of community service events each year in collaboration with their sponsoring organizations.
Through ROP courses, the business program, work experience, and other programs, students are involved in experiences that provide them with a knowledge of the working world, service learning opportunities (see III-3 & 6), and vocational training. Business students participate in resume preparation, job interviews, and job shadowing at job sites in the community. Through service learning and work experience, a number of students receive on-the-job training that can lead to future career opportunities.
Yosemite High School is exceedingly proud of the student, staff, and community involvement in the educational process. With this level of support, we look forward to the continued success of our students.