Kaweah High School is a ‘Model’ of education


sacramento — Continuation high schools aren’t usually known for having model students. But at least two continuation high schools in Tulare County will be known as model schools.

On March 28, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced the designation of 37 “Model Continuation High Schools” for 2016. The schools are being recognized for their innovative teaching approaches that enable students with diverse needs to complete their high school education.

“I commend these schools for their exceptional work in keeping our students on the path to career and college readiness,” Torlakson said. “Thanks to the guidance and support offered, our students leave with a high-quality education and the self-confidence required to build a better future.”

Tulare County can boast two continuation high schools on the 2016 list including Kaweah High School in Exeter and Citrus High School in Porterville. 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.

From 2012-2014, KHS 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.

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.

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.”

Continuation high schools like KHS and Citrus meet the needs of students aged 16 years or older who have not graduated from high school, are at risk of not graduating, and are not exempt from compulsory school attendance. The minimum attendance is 15 hours per week or 180 minutes daily.

Students benefit from the supplemental programs and services offered, such as independent study courses, career counseling, job placement, apprenticeships, and concurrent enrollment in community college.

More than 60,000 students attended the state’s 460 continuation high schools in the 2014–15 school year.

The Model Continuation High School Recognition Program is a partnership between the California Department of Education (CDE) and the California Continuation Education Association (CCEA). A benefit of this joint effort is the establishment of a resource list of quality programs, which can serve as models for other continuation high schools.

The selected schools, which retain their title for three years, will be recognized at the 2016 CCEA State Conference April 29 to May 1, 2016, in Riverside.

For information on continuation education, please visit the www.cde.ca.gov Continuation Education.

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