Continuation high schools aren’t usually known for having model students. But there isn’t anything usual about Kaweah High School in Exeter, which is the final stage of earning a “Model Continuation High School” designation.
Kaweah High School (KHS) Principal Darin Pace said Exeter’s continuation high school has made huge gains in attendance and academic achievement over the last two years. In fact, the improvement was so dramatic that the Tulare County Office of Education recommended KHS for the Model Continuation High School program through the California Department of Education.
“This is a commitment of and by our students and staff and the community and the result is higher student achievement,” Pace said.
The Model Continuation High School Recognition Program is a partnership between the California Department of Education (CDE) and the California Continuation Education Association (CCEA). The goal of the partnership is to identify and recognize outstanding programs and creates a resource list of quality programs for school visitations.
Pace said the proof is already in the outcomes. From 2012-2014, enrollment has doubled, 20% of seniors returned to Exeter Union High School and another 25% were eligible to return. With more students spending more time in class, KHS has seen academic growth as well. KHS saw a 36% increase in the number of students who tested proficient on the California Standards Test for Life Science, a 28% increase in Math and a 25% increase in English on the California High School Exit Exam. KHS also had one of the highest pass rates in the Valley on the exit exam as 99% of seniors passed the English portion and 98% passed the Math portion. KHS also had the greatest gain in the Exeter Unified School District on its California English Language Development Test (CELDT), from 560 to 601.40.
KHS has seen the increase by increasing the rigor of courses offered and by enforcing mandatory tutoring for those students falling behind. KHS offers eight direct-instruction A-G college acceptance courses and another 59 courses, including 11 Advanced Placement courses, through its online program, APEX. Students who have a grade of F in a class have to stay after school on Fridays from 12-3 p.m. for tutoring and make-ups. Students are also required to meet a minimum standard of proficiency on their six-week benchmarks. Those who don’t are assigned mandatory tutoring and re-takes until the standard is met. KHS is one of the few continuation high schools that requires a Senior Portfolio and Exit Interview prior to graduation.
“I like to see people achieve and succeed and my staff shares in that philosophy,” Pace said.
KHS also offers a variety of extra-curricular and elective courses, most of which are not usually offered a continuation high school and some of which are not offered at comprehensive high schools. Opportunities include leadership, Associated Student Body, afterschool art program, athletics, agriculture, work training, work experience, job shadowing, Yearbook and SCICON counselor. Students are also eligible to participate in EUHS activities such as Winter Formal and Prom.
“These students may act confident about their academics around others but we have seen them when they are worried about whether or not they can do it,” Pace said. “This is something I think that will give them a confidence boost because they were among the best.”
Pace said the process began in February 2015 when the Exeter Unified School Board authorized him to submit the application. Once the application was filed, it was rated by the California Department of Education. Schools with a high enough rating then get a two-day site visit, which happened at Kaweah High School on Monday and Tuesday of this week. During the site visits, the review team interviewed staff, teachers, students, stakeholders, and others familiar with the school. The recurring response from students when asked about what makes their school special was that “the teachers and staff care about the students.”
“This is great preparation for our WASC accreditation which is up for consideration this year,” Pace said, referring to Western Association of Schools and Colleges, one of the six regional accrediting agencies in the United States, works closely with the Office of Overseas Schools under the U.S. Department of State.
Selected schools retain their title for three years. Awardees are eligible to purchase a Model Continuation High School flag to display at their school and will also be recognized in May at the CCEA State Conference in San Francisco.
Continuation high schools offer students aged 16 years or older an alternative high school diploma program. While most students who attend continuation high schools do so because they are behind in high school credits, others may be in need of a flexible school schedule because they have jobs outside of school, family needs, or other circumstances.
More than 67,000 students attended the state’s 479 continuation high schools in the 2012–13 school year. These alternative programs focus on school-to-career education, individualized instructional strategies, and intensive guidance and counseling.