Tulare Western students most college ready in county

Tulare Western High School graduates 62% of students with completed A-G requirements allowing them to apply to any four year University of California

TULARE – As more and more schools begin to direct their efforts toward college and career readiness, Tulare Western High School leads the county in students who have met A-G requirements at a comprehensive site.

When it comes to students who completed A-G requirements for the 2021/2022 school year, Tulare Western High School came out on top of all the comprehensive high schools in the county according to superintendent Lucy Van Scyoc. A-G requirements are what allow students the opportunity to apply to a four year University of California. Tulare Western’s counseling department has worked to educate students on the importance of completing the necessary college ready requirements according to Leandra Garcia, assistant principal of counseling at Tulare Western.

 “The goal is that every student will graduate with some kind of post-secondary plan,” Garcia said. “We’ve worked at our vision, our mission and our [reason] why this is important.”

Tulare Western’s hard work has paid off, as 62% of students who graduated in 2022 completed their A-G requirements with a C or better according to DataQuest, a public education data analysis program. However, there were other non-comprehensive high schools around the county that had higher rates of A-G graduates.

Garcia has worked at Tulare Western for the majority of her career. She said when she began as the assistant principal nine years ago, the percentage of students who graduated with completed A-G requirements was 37%. Along with her team, they decided to make more of an effort to educate students and their families on the importance of being college ready, even as a freshman.

Garcia begins by asking freshmen what their plan is for after high school so her and her staff can plan each student’s classes accordingly. For example she said if a student wants to be a doctor and apply to UCLA, the set of classes that student would need to take are more rigorous than others.  The counseling staff is working to keep their practices consistent throughout the department as well.

“We need to make sure that we plan all those classes accordingly. It’s really meeting with a student on a regular basis and following up with them,” Garcia said. “When we’re meeting with [students], we want to be consistent.”

On the other hand, if a student has not thought about a pathway after high school it allows them to begin thinking about it. Gacia said the majority of their students are hispanic and have parents who may not know as much about the educational system. She said when she was in high school, no one talked to her about college and she does not want that to happen to anyone else. As a result, Garcia and the counseling staff have taken it upon themselves to treat their students like family and fill that gap. 

“When we’re meeting with our students, it’s like we’re meeting with our sister or our niece, our neighbor, our child or grandchild, and we want to give them as much information on how to get to college, if that’s what they choose to do,” Garcia said.

One way Tulare Western was able to incentivise students is through providing students with a different colored cap at their graduation ceremony. Those students who completed their A-G requirements with a C or better wear a white cap versus the traditional blue or red. 

“We knew that we had to incentivize [completing the A-G requirements], because the students wanted to be recognized,” Garcia said. “So as a team we came up with ways of doing that, and the white cap [was one of them].”

This year, thanks to the Tulare Joint Union High School District school board, Tulare Western was able to hire two additional counselors for their students. There is now a ratio of around 200 students to one counselor which helps tremendously with their vision. Tulare Western principal Tou Lor said he sees the counselors around campus talking to students on a first name basis which is an important factor when building relationships.

“One of the coolest things that I’ve noticed about our counseling staff is [they are] more about one on one connection,” Lor said. “It’s not that the kids don’t know who their counselors are, they do. And a lot of that goes back down to [the counselors] taking the effort to meet with their kids individually, and keeping the kids informed about their academic progress.”

The addition of more counselors to other school sites is to help lighten the load for the preexisting counselors. This year the district implemented a Response To Intervention (RTI) class to help students who may need extra help in certain areas. The class allows students to receive help during the school day and helps them bring their grades up to a C or better. 

“We are identifying kids that are already beginning to struggle as a freshman, and we’re putting them in [the class]. They are getting extra support so they can pass the class, which is really neat,” Garcia said.

The RTI class works together with helping students complete A-G requirements as well as pass their classes to graduate. Garcia said Tulare Western has again been focusing on their freshmen and sophomore in particular. This way it allows them to see the importance of passing classes and changing their mindset according to Garcia. 

According to Kevin Covert, assistant superintendent of curriculum, technology and assessment with the high school district, it has been helpful to have feedback from educational partners, and student and parent groups on what they need. That is where the district determined the need for more counselors for their students. 

“[We have heard in past years] sometimes it’s hard to get in to see your counselor and sometimes we need more college and career counseling and stuff like that,” Covert said. “Our board has been super supportive in providing us with those resources. So we did add additional counselors to all of our sites this year.”

Other non-comprehensive high schools around the county had higher rates of A-G graduates. Harmony Magnet Academy in Strathmore graduated 82.9% of its graduates with completed A-G requirements. And behind them but not far from Tulare Western was Summit Charter Academy in Porterville with 64.4% of its graduates.

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