What makes Andersen Jr. High an A+ School?
Located near the heart of Chandler, Arizona, Andersen Junior High School represents the best of everything that our city has to offer. Our student and staff population represent a world of ethnic and racial groups, a diversity of languages and cultures, and a community of learners from every walk of life. John M. Andersen made a difference to this community when he donated his land to build our school, and we are committed to carry on his legacy by working to make a difference in the lives of our students and in our community at large. We strive to help our students take control of their own academic success, to become a source of strength to their families, and to benefit the general welfare of their own community.
We set high expectations for our students to achieve, but we are fortunate to have the facilities that our students require in order to master those goals. Our classrooms are all equipped with LCD projectors and document cameras. Andersen Junior High School has one fully functional computer lab and one STEM lab. In addition, all teachers have access to multiple COWS (computers on wheels). Our library is stocked with approximately 25,000 titles that span a wide range of fiction and nonfiction titles, which students are able to access from 7:30 am to 4:10 pm each school day. Our library is also supplied with computers that students may use to complete their assignments. Our science teachers have formed professional partnerships with companies, including Intel, and with the higher academic communities at Arizona State University and Northern Arizona University. Our social studies teachers have accepted the challenge to educate our school in ethical problem solving and our student government has led the school to find opportunities to serve those less fortunate in our area.
We set worthwhile goals for ourselves because we have confidence in our ability to achieve those goals. Our students have been recognized in a variety of academic and athletic competitions. Our athletic teams have been East Valley Champions time and again. Our Knowledge Bowl team has won several competitions. Our school has been recognized for success in the Geography Bee and in the Scripps Howard Spelling Bee at the district and regional competitions. Our elective teachers have found opportunities to showcase work by our student artists. Their work has been shown in a local gallery, on our school website, and on the website of a nationally recognized artist. Finally, our teachers, staff, and administrators have been recognized for professional excellence by our district administration and by Chandler city leaders.
In planning for the future, we are mindful that we need to seek continuous improvement to our plans for student success. Past examples of this improvement include several programs that are unique to this school or are programs that we created and piloted that other schools in our district have implemented on their campuses. These programs include: single gender classrooms, FHACT (Friday Homework Activity Club Time), our late work policy, our grading policies, and our Study Skills classes. To assist students in academic progress, we have also added Read 180, My Reading Coach, and AVID to our academic offerings. To reach additional students, we will be implementing the Middle Years Programme, a middle school program created by the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program. The programs we have implemented have already proven successful. We anticipate that our future efforts will also produce student success because we are committed to excellence at Andersen Junior High School, and we will stay the course that we have set to make a difference in the lives of our individual students.
Vision and Mission Statement
Entrance into junior high school occurs during a tricky age for many students. They are standing on the cusp of maturity and are often unsure about the manner in which to enter this next stage of their lives. They have progressed beyond the need for the sheltering environments of elementary education, and they are entering into the preparatory environments of secondary education that are designed to help students realize their future dreams and goals. These students are just entering adolescence and they are experiencing a heady rush of change. Their physical surroundings are new. Their learning communities are larger. Their schedules have changed. They have multiple core and elective teachers rather than one familiar classroom teacher. Their friendships are changing as they meet new people and strive to find their personal niche in the larger school culture. They are able to exercise more personal choice about enrollment in electives and extracurricular activities, sports, and clubs.
Students also experience a flood of new responsibilities to balance their newfound freedoms. They are expected to shoulder more responsibility for their own academic success. Many parents view junior high as a fledging period and allow their students to set their own study schedules and to communicate personal academic struggles and progress with them. Adolescent students are often eager to embrace these new circumstances, but they struggle to comprehend the accompanying feelings of vulnerability and confusion that are incumbent to this phase of their lives.
To assist our students through their individual periods of flux and to motivate them to persevere despite the challenges they may face, Andersen Junior High School has developed the following mission statement.
We are a diverse family of learners dedicated to providing support and opportunity for all students to master grade level CUSD curriculum and state standards regardless of previous academic performance, family circumstances, socioeconomic status, race or gender. Our staff plans collaboratively to create standards-based instruction and to provide students a quality education in a safe and nurturing environment. We foster the development of positive social and emotional behaviors in all students and staff to “make a difference” in all that we do.
This mission statement influences our philosophy and our classroom pedagogy, and it provides the impetus to seek new programs that will promote growth in our students and at our school.
learning centered schools criteria
A. Student Focus and Support
The goal of every school, administrator, teacher, and support staff personnel should be to identify the needs of their student population and do everything within their collective power to meet those needs. Schools should be solely focused on students and must be prepared to provide support for those students as they obtain the education necessary to build and strengthen their families, communities, and ultimately, their nation. Today’s students are the leaders, laborers, innovators, and economic lifeblood of the future. No school can waste time and effort by focusing on anything other than their students.
At least, this is the lofty ideal that nearly every school espouses. In reality, all schools would like to claim that students are their primary focus, but only a few schools truly rise above all others to create an environment where students can grow, thrive, and succeed. Andersen Junior High School has succeeded at this lofty goal. During the 21 years since the school’s investiture, we have grown and evolved. Every program we have implemented, every textbook we have adopted, every unit we have created, and every policy we have drafted has been designed with students in mind. We believe that every student can master the standards that they are presented, and all that we do is designed to sustain our students through the rigors that we call becoming educated.
Arizona is a state with a diverse population due to its healthy economy and desert climate. Newcomers from across the country and around the world move to Arizona making it one of the fastest growing states in the nation. As a result, Arizona schools are racially and culturally diverse. Andersen Junior High School certainly fits that pattern. Our students report the following demographic data: 47% White (Non-Hispanic), 39% Hispanic, 7% African American, 6% Asian, and 1% Native American. Our students come from a wide variety of families, cultures, and nations. Students from Vietnam have befriended students from Mexico; students from Korea trade Asian hip-hop CDs with peers from Mexico; a student from Cameroon and his new friend from Mexico share basketball and soccer tips; a wealthy Chinese student lunches daily with a Mexican student from a working class family. We are committed to welcoming all students and encouraging their efforts to succeed.
Our students face a variety of challenges and come to our classrooms with a variety of needs. Approximately 35% of our student population qualifies for the free or reduced breakfast and lunch programs. Our student health office works to ensure that our students receive necessary medical, dental, and vision care if their families require this assistance. Our school nurse dispenses childhood vaccines and booster shots to students who lack them, and our administrators are able to access clothing banks each year to provide clothing, shoes, and coats to students who need these items. Our students know that they need not allow a lack of food, clothing, and school supplies prevent them from obtaining their education. Andersen Junior High School is here to bridge those gaps.
Some students have needs that are readily apparent and easily remedied, but all students have challenges that may not be visible to the casual observer. While some may view these challenges as stumbling blocks, we prefer to regard them as stepping-stones helping us all to reach higher and stretch further. Students with these unique circumstances fall into a variety of categories, and we aim to provide programs and opportunities to meet each individual student’s needs. Students are placed with teachers who care about them and are willing to work for their success. Approximately 14% of our general student population has an Individualized Education Program (IEP). Our Special Education department is staffed with aides, therapists, and highly qualified teachers who bring a depth of experience and eternally positive attitudes to their students each day. All students with an identified learning disability or an emotional disability receive services and accommodations in the regular classroom as their least restrictive environment, and they are provided with curricular modifications, personal development and strategies classes, and support from Special Education teachers, aides, and therapists. Additionally, Andersen Junior High School is fortunate to have the option of enrolling students with MIMR into its self-contained classroom or to choose full inclusion in the regular education classroom whenever possible so as to best meet the needs of these special students. The Special Education teachers and staff work with and train teachers and staff at AJHS to ensure that these students receive the best that Andersen has to offer them. All students in the Special Education population are also encouraged to participate in the clubs, teams, and activities that Andersen Junior High School and the City of Chandler Park and Recreation division provide. We are committed to support every student in every healthy avenue they choose to pursue.
We are also fortunate to have a range of programs for our advanced students. Twenty five percent (250 students) of our general population is enrolled in our Honors and our Gifted programs. We offer sections of Honors language arts and mathematics on two of our seventh grade teams and on all of our eighth grade teams. Students are enrolled in our honors classes through a variety of means including self-referral, parent request, teacher referral, or via test placement. Our gifted program is under the umbrella of the CUSD Chandler Academically Talented Students (CATS) program, and gifted students are identified via test placement as administered by district leadership. Teachers who are highly qualified in their subject areas and in teaching gifted students teach these students. In addition to our CATS and Honors programs, we have recently instituted the AVID (Advancement via individual determination) program to reach those students who are capable of succeeding in our Honors program if they receive additional support. AVID also promises to be a positive program for our students. Currently in its first year of implementation at AJHS, our AVID students are passing all their classes including their Honors Language Arts and Mathematics at a rate of 100%. We are also in the process of implementing the Middle Years Programme (MYP) of the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program (IB Program). Our teachers are receiving training, and we will accept enrollment into the Middle Years Programme at the onset of the 2008-2009 school year. We will be the only junior high school in the Chandler Unified School District with MYP, and this program will be open to any student who desires entrance including those students who desire concurrent enrollment in MYP and AVID.
Andersen Junior High School is committed to supporting all students, not just those students with extreme needs. We also have programs to meet the needs of the average students. Every teacher can picture who this student is. This is the student who comes to school every day, puts in their best effort, and returns home to prepare for the next day. These are the students most likely to slip between the cracks, and we are unwilling to allow that to happen. We created these programs after analysis of student data in the 2004-2005 school year revealed that 20-25% of our student body had a failing grade in one or more of their core classes. This was unacceptable. We want all students to succeed, and we have created programs that are designed to assist all students. We offer after-school tutoring each week, Monday through Thursday. Any student may attend, and we provide a district bus to any student who misses their regularly scheduled bus in order to seek this extra help. Our Study Skills class is unique. Designed to help students who are struggling in at least one core class, students are enrolled in Study Skills through two possible avenues. The student may request enrollment or they are enrolled if they begin to experience difficulty in any core class. Our counselors meet with the student and communicate with parents prior to enrollment. Study Skills has helped 70% of students enrolled to pass all their classes within one semester. FHACT (Friday Homework Activity Club Time) is another program that is unique to AJHS. FHACT is held nearly every Friday during the regular school year to allow students to complete work, request additional help from the teacher, retake tests, or to allow teachers to re-teach critical material. As FHACT occurs during regular school hours, the core or elective teacher who has requested their attendance notifies students who need the extra time to work on class work and homework. Failure to attend to that request results in disciplinary action from our administration. Students who are current with their work and passing their classes are rewarded for their hard work and allowed to use this FHACT time to participate in the wide variety of clubs and activities that are sponsored by our teachers and by the City of Chandler Parks and Recreation Division. These programs are successful and are helping our students to achieve success. We have documented a 55% reduction in the number of students with one or more failing grade since the full implementation of these programs in the 2005-2006 school year.
This is not the sum total of programs designed to support our students and empower them to take control of their destinies. Our discipline program, known as the Responsible Thinking Process (RTP), teaches students to think about their behavior choices and to accept personal responsibility for the consequences of poor choices. Students are empowered by the premise that every student wants to be successful at school and every student is able to choose how to behave in the classroom. Students who choose to be disruptive are allowed to remove themselves from the classroom to create a plan that will assist them in making healthy behavior choices in the future. Students are also able to detail consequences for future lapses and decide how they will make up the work they have missed while out of the classroom.
Some schools might be content with these success stories, but we believe we can improve. Our administration observed that many of our students arrived at Andersen with low reading skills and strong feelings of frustration and helplessness when asked to participate in grade level reading assignments. These reading deficiencies were further documented by the district benchmark exams and through Accelerated Reader and STAR, two computer programs designed to measure reading comprehension and vocabulary knowledge. To meet these students’ needs, our administrators researched a variety of remediation options, and choose READ 180 and My Reading Coach to reach these students. My Reading Coach is designed for students with reading levels in the Kindergarten to second grade range, and READ 180 is designed to assist those students whose reading comprehension falls within the third to fifth grade range. All of our MIMR student population, our Pre-emergent English Language Learner (ELL) student population, and some of our learning disabled (LD) population are enrolled in My Reading Coach. Students enrolled in My Reading Coach are reporting gains in their reading levels of up to 2-3 years within one school year. READ 180 was implemented at the beginning of the 2007-2008 school year, so we do not have conclusive data to report, however, research indicates that students will experience similar levels of success with this program.
There is an old saying, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” We believe that student focus and support stretches beyond the classroom and into all realms of a student’s life. We want out students to be healthy, well-rounded youth who are aware that they are part of a larger, holistic society. To this end, we have 16 clubs, 15 athletic teams, and numerous intramural activities provided by the City of Chandler Parks and Recreation division during lunchtime, after school, and during FHACT. These clubs and activities range from collecting recyclable materials on campus to classes on peer mentoring and personal development.
Participation in these clubs, sports, and activities help our students develop new strengths and interests and helps students form new friendships and strengthen former acquaintances. Students want to participate; 473 students are currently involved in our clubs, 432 student athletes play on our seventh and eighth grade teams. Our clubs and athletics have also become a source of pride and school identity. Our students excel. During the last 8 years, our athletic teams have won 38 East Valley Conference Championships. Our Knowledge Bowl has placed first in state competition four times in the last five years. Their most recent first place win occurred during the current school year. The winner of our 2006-2007 school spelling bee continued on to become the Chandler Unified School District Spelling Bee Champion, and went on to compete at the regional competition. This student has returned again this year to defend his title at the upcoming district Spelling Bee. Our students also excel in the Geography Bee; we have had a contestant in the State Geography Bee for six of the last seven years since our school started competition. Our science club is creating airplane gliders out of balsa wood and paper. The best design will be entered in a contest to be held at the Fulton School of Engineering at Arizona State University (ASU) this spring. Our science club members are also building a robotic model and creating programs for it to perform different functions. This robot will also be entered in a competition at ASU later in the year.
These activities encourage students to remain eligible by passing all of their classes and making good decisions about their classroom and campus behavior. Very few of our student athletes are ever ineligible to play because their coaches are also their teachers and mentors. Lessons in the classroom extend into the campus and beyond. We strive to help all our students to succeed on and off the playing field.
B. School Organization and Culture
We are the mighty Jaguars of Andersen Junior High, and we believe that it is important to work hard, play hard, and strive to make a difference in all that we do. Our school operates on a modified year round schedule which means that we have two week breaks between first, second, and third quarters and a six week break after the school year concludes at the end of fourth quarter. We love our breaks; these times give us the chance to rest and recharge, but we also love to return to school when the academic year begins anew. We love to come back to school because we love to see the new seventh grade students when they come for their WEB Orientation. Short for Welcome EveryBody, WEB is a half-day program created as an orientation for incoming seventh grade students, and one of the finest team building activities our school offers to the incoming seventh grade students. WEB leaders are selected from the new eighth grade students based on their own desire to participate and upon teacher recommendation. Being a WEB leader is a coveted position; approximately 10% of our returning students freely sacrifice a portion of their summer break to attend WEB training. These student leaders receive training in leading campus tours, answering student and parent questions in a positive and helpful manner, and in leading team building activities designed to ease the natural fears and jitters that seventh grade students have upon entering junior high.
The WEB Orientation also sets the tone for the remainder of the school year. It reassures new seventh grade students and their parents that they can be successful in this new environment, and WEB reminds the eighth grade students that they are an important and integral part of Andersen Junior High. WEB culminates with a pep assembly led by our school administration. Students enter the gymnasium by walking through a tunnel of cheering, excited teachers. New seventh grade students feel like rock stars. Some students wave to their new teachers, some bow and smile, a few will play air guitar and flash peace signs. The excitement is infectious, and reminds us of all that we love about being teachers. WEB reminds us that we are all a vital part of the AJHS community and that everyone can be successful.
All students are assigned to interdisciplinary teams to promote a sense of community and create pride and unity. Teams have 125 students on average, and are assigned teachers from the four core curriculums of Language Arts, Mathematics, Social Studies, and Science to share the same students. These teams also share a common plan period during which team teachers meet together to discuss methods and cross-curricular activities that will support our students in their individual needs. These teachers also meet regularly to discuss team issues including student progress, student discipline, scheduling of summative assessments and projects, scheduling of parent conferences, and any other team related items. Our interdisciplinary teams create a “school within a school” atmosphere to prevent students from getting lost in the shuffle or risking their individual needs being overlooked.
Creating and promoting the conditions for individual student success drives all that we do at Andersen Junior High School. Our programs reflect this commitment to our students, but we have also structured the organization of this school to foster a culture of holistic excellence. We expect our students to exert all of their effort to succeed and we promise to extend all of our efforts and resources to help them reach their highest potential. As such, we have organized our student teams on campus to reflect best teaching practices, cutting edge research, and the most efficient use of teacher experience and available materials. Each core team specializes in meeting a certain category of student needs and then receives on-going training in order to meet the needs of those students whose profiles fall outside the designated team specialty. The Andersen Junior High School core teams address the needs of the following groups: learning disabilities (LD), emotional disabilities (ED), inclusive English Language Learners (ELL), Sheltered English Immersion, and Gifted (CATS). We have five student teams on each grade level. A core team will occasionally specialize in more than one area in order to make best use of available resources. Our electives teachers serve students at both seventh and eighth grade levels, and we are pleased to offer the following electives: Orchestra, Band, Choir, Oral Expressions, Spanish I & II, Technology & Life Careers (TLC), Physical Education (PE), Art, Strategies, Personal Development, Read 180, KJAG, AVID, and Study Skills.
In addition to organizing our student teams according to students’ academic needs, we have also begun to organize our several teams according to gender. We are the only junior high school in the Phoenix metropolitan area to have single gender classes, and this decision was driven by research that began in December 2004 when our principal distributed an article from Educational Leadership on the effects of single gender classes. The article generated an extensive discussion that resulted in a number of teachers who were interested in piloting single gender classes. The staff and administration continued to research the topic during the 2005-2006 school year and piloted single gender classes in four of our core teams. Student progress was closely monitored to determine the academic impact of single gender classes as compared with the academic progress of several control group classrooms. We determined that single gender classes produce significant academic gains for both male and female students. Seventh grade boys in single gender classes saw academic gains in language arts of 7% compared with 4% growth experienced by boys in mixed gender classes. These same seventh grade boys scored 10.7 percentage points higher than peers in mixed gender classes on their district language arts benchmark exam scores. Academic gains in mathematics and on the math benchmark scores were equally impressive for seventh grade girls enrolled in single gender classes when compared with their peers in mixed gender classes. Seventh grade girls in single gender classes improved their math benchmark scores by 11 percentage points and scored 10% higher than their peers in mixed gender classes on a math comprehension exam administered as a pre and posttest.
As a result, we have increased the number of single gender classes in both seventh and eighth grades. At the beginning of the 2007-2008 school year, approximately 50% of our general student population at AJHS is enrolled in single gender classes for their core subjects. Future student achievement will be studied longitudinally in order to monitor the academic success of single gender classrooms. The development of the single gender classroom is another example that highlights our commitment to stay abreast of current trends in education and to change and implement new programs for the success of our students.
Andersen Junior High School has applied for the A+ award before, and we have accepted the feedback from this committee as an opportunity to grow and improve as a professional learning community. Since this committee last reviewed our application for A+ status, our school has experienced a number of significant policy changes. We examined our previous practices and explored possible avenues to increase student success. This opportunity to reflect on previous efforts has renewed our fervor to make a difference in the lives of our students. We will continue to create opportunities for all students to succeed regardless of their ability levels or their backgrounds. Honors classes, the CATS program, AVID and the MYP (Middle Years Programme) are examples of classes and programs implemented to address the needs of higher-level students. Students with IEPs are placed in programs that address the “least restricted environment” which is the full inclusion classroom for all LD and ED students and for MIMR students whenever possible. Study Skills, FHACT, Read 180 and My Reading Coach are examples of our pledge to all our students that we will not leave them behind or neglect their potential to learn and grow.
All the programs in the world will never motivate student learning if schools do not have the policies to support the efforts of their teachers. In 2004-2005, teachers and administration were concerned about the rising number of students failing classes. The problem was researched during the fourth quarter of that year and Study Skills and FHACT were implemented at the beginning of the 2005-2006 school year. These two programs produced such a significant reduction in the number of students failing classes that we began to examine our policies to determine if changes in these areas would prove successful as well. Our late work policy was the first guideline to fall under scrutiny. We concluded that a student’s ability to master assigned, grade level work was infinitely more important than that student’s ability to finish the work quickly or under certain time constraints. If it takes a student a few days longer to complete an assignment, but he is able to show that he has learned and understands the material, then we have accomplished our goals. We are assessing knowledge, understanding, and higher order thinking. We are not assessing a student’s speed of completion. Beginning in 2005-2006, teachers now accept late work from students without a grade reduction with the exception of major projects and papers turned in more than 10 days late. Teachers may use their discretion to determine if such work should receive a reduced grade as a consequence.
Our grade book policies were the next candidates for change. Faculty and administration discussed the varied weighting practices used across campus. Nearly every teacher weighted their grades and sorted assignments by category for the grade book. By the end of the discussions, it was determined that our school’s grade book policies would consist of the following principles. First, homework cannot constitute more than 20% of a student’s grade. Second, a student who fails a test will be allowed to retake the failed test or to take an alternate test covering the same concepts. We are more concerned about the student mastering the curriculum and being able to demonstrate proficiency and understanding of the concepts and standards than we are with his ability to get it right the first time.
Teachers and schools do not educate students alone; we work in concert with students and their families. Open and established communication facilitates the ease with which we form these relationships of trust. As a school, we have worked hard to build a variety of communication tools. Students are issued an agenda and instructed to use this agenda as a tool to communicate upcoming assignments, projects, and tests with their families. Progress reports are another valuable tool available to communicate with parents and guardians. We are the only school in CUSD to send progress reports home with students two times each quarter. The first grade check occurs at the three-week mark. The second grade check occurs at the six-week mark and final grades are posted at the nine-week mark. Progress reports are not final grades, but they do keep students and parents informed about a student’s academic progress. If the three-week or the six-week progress reports show failing grades or students experiencing difficulty, then our two counselors meet with students to help them to raise their grade, enroll in Study Skills, or attend after school tutoring. Our counselors also contact the parents of those students who are struggling to discuss the same possible options for raising their student’s grades, so that parents are fully involved in the educational partnership.
The PAS conference (Program for the Achievement of Standards) is another communication tool that our principal developed. These conferences are held when students are failing classes. A parent, the student, a counselor and an administrator meet together to discuss what all three parties (parent, student, and school) can do to help the student become successful. A PAS contract is completed and responsibilities for all three entities are listed and agreed to. This contract gives parents concrete actions and items they can follow to help their child raise her grade. The contract clearly states the responsibilities for the student, the teachers, and the school. Over 80% of the students involved in a PAS conference have gone on to pass all their classes. Other communications utilized by our faculty and administrators include STI Home, quarterly team newsletters, parent e-mail lists, and the recent Town Hall meeting at Andersen Junior High School hosted by the Chandler Police Department and local media.
Campus safety and security
Parents and students expect schools to be safeguarded, and have placed their faith with us. We honor that trust and keep faith with our students and their families by working to make our campus safe and secure. Our facilities are well maintained by district personnel who install and service reliable and current security equipment. Our security is further ensured by the presence of our security officer and by the School Resource Officer who is assigned by the Chandler Police Department and funded through a grant program. These men bring a wealth of good humor and experience to help us feel relaxed, safe, and secure despite what events may occur beyond our fences.
Our School Resource Officer (SRO) and counselors come into our classrooms throughout the year to deliver curriculum educating our students about the dangers and consequences of drug abuse, tobacco use, and underage drinking. They also deliver timely lessons teaching students to fend off bullying and to prevent domestic abuse and violence. A number of teachers in 2006-2007 believed that theft and bullying activities were increasing on our campus. Our leadership council discussed their concerns and, as a result, the council modified the student agendas for the 2007-2008 school year to include character development lessons created by the Steven Covey Foundation. The social studies teachers volunteered to add weekly character development lessons to their curriculum. Our social studies teachers have also provided information to the rest of our faculty about these character development lessons so that all teachers are able to support and reinforce character development across our campus.
The Silent Witness program has been in place for ten years at our school empowering students and educating them to stand against crime and violence in their community. Students can come to an administrator or security officer to report acts of theft or vandalism. Students are also able to report the possession of contraband by other students. Credible reports are given a reward of up to $25 and reporting students remain anonymous. Silent witness has proven 100% effective when our administrators and security officers notify students of campus incidents.
During the 2006-2007 school year, our school community was rocked by the sexual assaults of the “Chandler Rapist.” To prevent future assaults and educate our students and their families, our SRO visited every social studies classroom to remind and instruct our students in safety procedures that would keep them and others safe. His quick and effective response to this situation attracted local and national media attention. Subsequently, the Chandler Police Department asked him to develop applicable lesson plans to be shared with other School Resource Officers in the East Valley.
C. Challenging Standards and Curriculum
Once upon a time, students went to school with the expectation that they would receive a reward for exerting academic effort. Fridays were “fun days” with classroom parties, movies, or pajama days. Many of students arrive on our campus expecting this kind of schedule. They are sadly shocked to learn that teachers at Andersen Junior High School believe that mastering grade level curriculum is the best reward a student can receive. Once that bell rings at 8:30 am, we are revved up and ready to teach for the rest of that day. The Chandler Unified School District has set certain expectations for our teachers and our students. These expectations are correlated with, and often exceed, the state standards created by the Arizona Department of Education. The CUSD expectations are translated into a body of curriculum that is designed to teach grade level standards. Teachers receive training upon entering service with Chandler Unified School
District on accessing and using the district’s curriculum to ensure that all our students receive the most thorough education we can offer. The district’s four high schools have tremendous resources available to students to prepare them for the entry into adult society and responsibilities, so our responsibility, as a junior high school that feeds into these high schools, is to ensure that our students have mastered the foundational skills that will allow them to succeed in their final years of public education.
To this end, we approach our responsibilities to instruct our students very seriously. We have no time to waste on doing anything in our classrooms that is not designed to effectively prepare our students to matriculate into the post-secondary training that they desire to follow.
Our class schedules were changed at the start of the 2005-2006 school year from eight 44-minute periods each day to five 70-minute periods. Core teachers meet with their students daily, and elective teachers now see their students on alternating days. These schedule changes were primarily an effort to ameliorate poor math scores on AIMS and reflect our commitment to our students’ academic success.
We are committed to the holistic success of all students, and began the process of full inclusion of all special needs students in the 2005-2006 school year. To date, we have instituted full inclusion for all students with the exception of two special populations, MIMIR, Pre-emergent and Emergent English Language Learners (ELL). Our MIMR students, students with an IQ below 70, are instructed in a self-contained classroom staffed by a certified teacher and two aides. MIMR students are fully included in their elective classes and whenever possible in core classes. All ELL students regardless of their level of language proficiency are enrolled in regular math and science classes. Para educators are assigned to ELL students placed in these classrooms to support the students and to work in collaboration with the classroom teacher to modify instruction and assessment. Pre-emergent and emergent ELL students receive language arts and social studies instruction in a sheltered English immersion classroom. In this sheltered setting, students are in a lower-risk environment, where they are more likely to participate in class, take chances, and realize that it’s OK to make mistakes. Students form very close-knit bonds that traverse all racial, ethnic, and socio-economic boundaries. ELL students are transitioned into regular language arts and social studies classrooms upon achieving Basic status, and the friendships that they forged in the sheltered classroom provide strength and reassurance as they enter the mainstream AJHS community.
Our teachers are well represented on district curriculum cadres because we believe it is in our interest to help create the best possible curricula the district can offer. Our cadre members help to write district performance objectives that align with state standards and they serve on committees that write district level benchmark assessments. Additionally, AJHS staff and administration are involved in district textbook adoption committees.
The district lays the foundation of our curriculum, which we begin to execute at weekly grade level curriculum team meetings using the district curriculum guides and approved texts.
Team members develop common quarterly unit plans that include unified time lines, activities, and assessments. All team members are valued for their input and experience. Common planning allows teachers to extend their resources, share lessons and ideas created from each teacher’s personal strengths, and utilize limited materials efficiently. Operating as a professional learning community, curriculum meetings allow teachers to analyze data resulting from formative and summative assessments and make it possible for teachers to monitor and adjust student instruction. Common planning is so highly valued by administration that release days are given to departments for additional common planning time and development of curriculum and assessments.
All students are given quarterly CUSD benchmark tests, which measure concepts taught during that quarter. We use benchmark data to analyze the effectiveness of instruction and ensure quality of instruction by monitoring student scores from our common assessments. In addition to reflecting on results from the quarterly benchmarks teachers gain professional development through analyzing scores of their common assignments.
Our administration is committed to providing technology and materials to each classroom on campus in order to assist teacher efforts to deliver exemplary instruction. To this end, each classroom on campus is equipped with an LCD projector, document camera, and teacher computer with Internet capabilities. We also have 26 laptops available for teacher use in addition to the teacher computer in each classroom. All language arts and social studies classrooms have multiple student computers. Laser printers are placed in each language arts classroom and connected to surrounding classrooms. To remain on the cutting edge of educational technology, we are in the process of obtaining wireless keyboards, mice, and slates that are similar to airliners. All teachers have received training on the effective use of technology in the classroom. We strive to integrate technology into our classrooms to prepare our students for a future connected to the global community. Our school is committed to its teachers, its students, and to providing the highest quality education in each of its departments.
Language arts encompass the five subjects of reading, writing, speaking, listening, and viewing. We are creating holistic, life-long learners who are able to communicate their thoughts and ideas effectively and persuasively. The skills developed in language arts permeate every subject taught on campus and are utilized in every aspect of life. Our lessons will continue to serve students as they grow and mature to become leaders in their homes and in their communities. Our students need to understand that the skills they learn in our classrooms will allow them to record what has passed, document their current efforts, and brainstorm future innovations.
In order to accomplish our goals, we have worked to refine the material and delivery of class content. We differentiate for students of all abilities through Writer’s Workshop and Accelerated Reader. We use common daily warm-ups that were developed by members of our team as mini lessons in grammar, punctuation, editing, revising, figurative language, summary, vocabulary, and distinguishing fact from inference, Single gender classes allow the department to select gender specific reading materials and writing prompts. In addition to reflecting on results derived from quarterly benchmarks, our team members develop a strong degree of inter-rater reliability by scoring common essay assignments using the 6 traits + one writing rubric and analyzing scores of common assignments. Technology literacy is becoming increasingly important, so students are required to use technology in the classroom. Our teachers have generated tutorial materials to assist students as they create their PowerPoint slide shows, and computer-generated illustrations for their portfolios.
We have a number of gifted and honors language arts classes for students who qualify or who require a greater academic challenge. Parents and students can request placement in honors language arts classes if the student has demonstrated an ability to shoulder the rigor of the honors curriculum. Students also are placed in honors language arts classes and Study Skills upon acceptance into the AVID program. We have increased the number of grade sections of honors language arts from two in 2006-2007 to four sections in 2007-2008. We encourage students to take on new challenges in trying to reach their full potential, and this increase in honors enrollment illustrates our commitment. No student is denied entrance into an honors class, nor will they be denied entrance into MYP when this program is in place.
Social Studies:Andersen Junior High School is a microcosm that models our diverse community as a whole, and our social studies department teaches our students to become ethical, proactive citizens in our school society so that they will, one day, become the responsible citizens and leaders of our community at large. Our teachers deliver a character lesson every week that leads to classroom discussion, goal setting, and individual life application. The Core Values discussed are: courage, responsibility, respect, integrity, and compassion. As the social studies curriculum has broadened, teachers have, as a curricular team, utilized technology in bringing key concepts to students through the use of PowerPoint presen, tations and Web Quests. In the 8th grade, one common assessment per quarter is technology-based, and all students spend a minimum of two days in the computer lab completing the assessment. Social Studies teachers highlight students’ multiple intelligences, allowing for choice in and personalization of assessments when common assessments are planned.
Teachers help students to prepare for summative assessments through study guides that are prepared and reviews that are conducted as additional checks for understanding. Social studies classrooms offer students literacy rich environments. Multiple guest speakers are brought in each year to provide students with primary source information relating to their study of historical topics. The content of the social studies curriculum lends itself to strong differentiation for students of different learning levels: teachers have the ability to customize formative assessments to best meet students’ needs. Involving students in learning simulations such as the Constitutional Convention simulation in the 8th grade, allows students to take ownership of their learning. We have done a model United Nations for five years in a row. All honors and CATS students participated in it and the culminating activity was a full day of caucusing and debate.
The mathematics department at Andersen Junior High School was the first department to use common planning to its full potential. Our goal is, for our cl, asses to score within 10% of each other on all benchmarks. To accomplish this goal, we plan common units with specific lessons, warm-up exercises, activities, and assessments that follow a strict timeline. A visitor can walk into any common grade level math classroom on a given day and hear the same lesson using similar activities, exercises, and practice work in each room. We have also revised our methodology in order to present district curriculum as hands-on activities involving real life problem solving and cooperative learning groups.
As is the case with language arts, we have a number of gifted and honors math classes for students who qualify or who require a greater academic challenge. Placement in these classes and in the AVID and MYP programs is identical to placement in honors language arts classes. The number of sections of 8th grade honors mathematics also increased from two to four in the last academic year. Like the language arts department, we encourage students to take on new challenges in trying to reach their full potential and this increase in honors enrollment illustrates our commitment. No student is denied entrance into an honors class, nor will they be denied entrance into MYP when this program is in place.
The inherent nature of science is change, and the science Department at AJHS prides itself on the continuing renewal of curriculum and the infusion of new information as it becomes available. As described earlier, all teachers play an integral part in designing lessons in which students actively seek to master concepts presented. Our department is not simply highly qualified. We bring a depth of experience and a breadth of knowledge obtained across the spectrum of the scientific arena the sectors of academia and industry. We not only talk the talk, but we have walked the walk. The foundation of our department is anchored upon our teachers’ degrees in biology, chemistry, physics, earth science, systems analysis and operations research, and biomedical engineering, and our students are enriched by the advanced degrees in special education, bilingual education, and administration held within our department. This vast background of expertise that is immensely beneficial when developing engaging lessons to portray science information.
In addition to the technology available in every classroom, our new science textbooks provide links to computer animation on many topics that visually enhance concepts too difficult to demonstrate in another manner. Examples include: earthquakes, volcanoes, phases of the moon, and eclipses. Teachers make extensive use of the Internet and other software to generate graphs and charts for student and teacher use in PowerPoint, Excel, and video clip presentations.
Both 7th and 8th grade science teachers meet together quarterly to ensure that student instruction is articulated between the grade levels. AJHS science teachers also meet with other science teachers from across the district at in-service meetings to disseminate the flow of information throughout the district.
The use of technology is pervasive across campus and has been a major focus of AJHS for the past nine years. We have three computer labs that are open for teachers use for class research projects and desktop publishing of student writing. The labs are used in constant use throughout the school year.
In addition to the educational technology installed in each classroom and in our computer labs, we have three state of the art digital video editing machines for student use. Students enrolled in KJAG, our video announcement class, learn to write scripts, film, edit, and present video productions that are complete with computer generated graphics and music. Although a certified teacher acts as the executive producer of KJAG, students serve as writers, editors, reporters, and on-air talent. This encourages students to consider and explore future careers in broadcasting. Students leaving Andersen Junior and entering Chandler High School can pursue this interest through the high school’s broadcasting program. KJAG students also produce a video showcasing Andersen Junior High School that is shown at feeder schools to incoming sixth grade students and their parents during orientation meetings.
Daily video announcements are filmed and edited in our campus studio, then broadcast over our closed circuit TV system. KJAG is tremendously popular with our student body and has become a forum for student self-expression. In the past two years, any student has been able to appear on KJAG to present a review of a favorite book on “Hales Hotties.” KJAG has also provided a medium that any student could access. Special needs students from the MIMR classroom have been included on KJAG’s staff in one instance as a sport’s reporter and in another as a human-interest report. This student sculpted clay models of specific dinosaurs, then appeared on KJAG to report on facts unique to each species. This special needs student felt particularly validated by his frequent appearances on KJAG because this venue showcased his unique interest and artistic talents. One of last year’s most popular segments was “Mr. Person’s Happy Neighborhood,” an animated short created by a mainstreamed special needs student who created the artwork and did the voiceover work for the segment.
Comprehensive Health and Physical Education:
Students are taught lifetime fitness in P.E. Students learn the importance of exercise to lifelong health and a variety of ways to incorporate exercise into their lives. Students learn the rules for several team sports including football, soccer, softball, basketball, and volleyball. Participation in these sports promotes social skills in addition to life-long fitness. Tennis, badminton, aerobics, and weight lifting are some of the individual sports regularly taught in our curriculum.
Health and nutrition are taught in Science class as well. Both grade levels devote fourth quarter to teaching students about life-long health. Seventh grade focuses on healthy habits in disease prevention, nutrition, sun protection, and abstinence awareness, while eighth grade delves more deeply into the specifics of these topics. For example, seventh grade curriculum discusses food groups and the necessity to eat a balanced diet while eighth grade goes farther by teaching students to read and analyze food labels.
Health is also a major focus of our TLC (Technology and Life careers) classes. TLC (formerly known as: Home Economics and then Family and Consumer Science) is an elective that instructs students in the areas of health, nutrition, and life skills. As our student population has changed over the years, the TLC curriculum has also changed to address the needs of our diverse students. Focusing on topics as widely sweeping as the dangers of drugs, the importance of proper nutrition, childcare, dishonesty, gang involvement, and implementing career exploration are just some of the recent changes we have seen in the evolution of this elective.
Students at Andersen Junior High School are involved in curriculum that addresses the eight standards for workplace skills. Workplace standards are incorporated in every discipline on campus and instruction is embedded within the curricula of each of our departments. We address effective oral, written & listening communication across the curriculum; however our language arts department addresses the performance objectives from standard one. Applying computational skills and data analysis, standard two, fits neatly within the math and science curricula. Standards three and four, critical and creative thinking and working individually and collaboratively, occur in the many times our teachers use Kagan’s principles of cooperative learning. Student simulations and models in TLC exemplify the guiding principles of standards five and eight. Standard six is addressed time and again our social studies and science classes. Our commitment to integrating technology across the curriculum and in each classroom exceeds standard seven. Whenever possible, our teams plan interdisciplinary projects to create a holistic product that assesses standards across multiple disciplines including Workplace Skills. Science Fair is just one example of the many assignments undertaken by AJHS students that integrate numerous workplace skills and core content knowledge thereby preparing students to excel in their future careers. Our art and music departments also incorporate a significant number of these standards.
We have band, orchestra, and choir at A.JHS for both seventh and eighth grade representing approximately 33% of Andersen’s students. Most seventh grade students are placed in the seventh grade ensemble but if their skills are more advanced than is typical of a student this age, they can be placed with in the eighth grade ensemble, Our band and orchestra groups perform three concerts each year. All our musical groups attend local area music festivals where they compete and hear other groups perform. While band and orchestra require students have prior experience on a musical instrument, choir is open to all students regardless of prior choral experience. The choirs perform two concerts and carol at a retirement home during the holiday season. They also perform an annual musical that is widely anticipated in the community. The musical provides all choir students the opportunity to experience acting, singing, and technical stagecraft at a professional venue - something that most students are unable to realize in high school or beyond. The musicals are performed on two separate nights featuring seventh grade students in the lead roles one night and eighth grade students the other. Over the last five years, the choirs have staged the following productions: Oklahoma, The Music Man, Fiddler on the Roof, Annie, and will feature Guys and Dolls this spring. Parental and community support is strong for Andersen’s musical performances, which are held in the community auditorium at the Chandler Center for the Arts.
Oral Expressions was developed to address our students’ growing interest in multimedia genres. Students work on independent films that utilize skills from across the curriculum. Students practice real life sales technique, introductions, training and teaching methods, producing infomercials and becoming aware of the manipulation of advertising.
Students at our school love the art class, as is shown by the enrollment numbers and the lengthy waiting list. We have approximately 500 students enrolled in our semester long art classes. Our art classes combine both two-dimensional and three-dimensional works. Various curricular areas are integrated in the art curriculum. Scientifically, students experiment, observe and record. Mathematically, students understand spatial relations, linear perspective, geometry, and measurement. Students learn art vocabulary derived from many foreign languages. Art lessons reflect our students’ current environment, culture, and the time. Study in the visual arts develops students’ skills of observation as they learn to examine the objects and events of their lives. At the same time, they grow in their ability to describe, interpret, evaluate and respond to work in the visual arts. Students work in various artistic genre, including the traditional fine arts such as drawing, painting, printmaking, sculpture, and communication; design arts focusing on technology such as graphics and product design; architecture and environmental arts such as urban, interior and landscape design; folk art; and works in ceramics and fiber as well as works in paper, wire and various other media. Through examination of their own work and that of other people at various times and in various places, students learn to unravel the essence of artwork and to appraise its purpose and importance. Further, they learn to make choices that enhance communication of their own ideas. Student artwork is displayed prominently on campus, on our school website, at end of year student art show, and on various other art websites. Our art department has also been invited to show student work at a gallery in downtown Chandler for the past four years. This showing highlights our art department’s commitment to create real life connections in the fine arts for our diverse student population.
READ 180 (other program area):
READ 180 is a new program to AJHS to address the issue of adolescent illiteracy on our campus, and teachers are seeing significant results for students enrolled in the program. We have approximately 10% of our population enrolled in the program. READ 180 was designed as an intensive reading intervention program to remediate students whose reading levels fall two to five years below grade level. This program, created at Vanderbilt University after extensive research and longitudinal studies and marketed by Scholastic, has been proven effective in public school settings.
This remediation program is effective by integrating technology and print resources. The program meets the needs of our diverse population through individual differentiation, adaptive and instructional software, relevant literature, and direct instruction in reading, writing, and vocabulary skills. The READ 180 program has tracking capabilities to assist teacher analysis of student gains and to help students set reading goals.
READ 180 is being implemented because we are concerned that a significant portion of our population does not have the functional reading skills necessary for success within our walls or beyond them in the community. This deficiency is unacceptable, and as a school community, we are committed to make a difference in the lives of our students by equipping them with reading skills and empowering them to become life long learners and valued members of our community.
D. Active Teaching and Learning
The most articulate curriculum in the world won’t produce miraculous results in students if active teaching and learning don’t occur. The world offers an overabundance of knowledge for eager learners, but most students are too inexperienced to filter through all the facts, opinions, trivia, and minutia to select the best course of education to pursue. An active teacher is dedicated to selecting and presenting the most relevant concepts in a meaningful approach. We use essential questions to direct engaging activities and drive meaningful learning experiences. When curriculum teams meet to plan quarterly units, each group uses a backwards design method. Summative assessments are drafted first based upon state standards and district performance objectives, formative assessments come next in the process, and daily activities are developed in a format highly engaging to students. Our teachers use a variety of cooperative learning activities, cross-curricular projects, real-life simulations, hands-on problem solving, and multimedia presentations in their classrooms. The following are descriptions of a few activities found at Andersen on a regular basis.
The sheer volume of material that is covered in language arts can easily overwhelm students. The language arts curriculum is also unique as far as students revisit the same topics year after year increasing in the depth and breadth of skill level as time passes. As a result, student proficiency is dependent upon practice and practice exercises are often dull. Brainwarmers resulted from our efforts to make skills practice more interesting. Teachers at our school created these original warm-up activities to provide practice exercises in the following areas: editing, revising, figurative language, summarizing, and discerning fact from inference. Students complete two practice items each day, receive immediate feedback, and make corrections to their work. Students have been writing to actual businesses for many years, but they rarely consider that these businesses have any function other than to answer student letters and send coupons for freebies. Our students write business letters in cooperative groups in a real life business simulation. Students receive instruction on writing a business letter and then are arranged into cooperative groups of three. Each group is assigned a business profile and students must generate ideas to demonstrate ways their business would interact with other businesses and with private members of the community. Each cooperative group is only permitted to communicate with other groups and individuals via the business letters that are written, received, and responded to. Students within the group are all expected to contribute to the letters and are assigned roles to help the business function smoothly.
Writing instruction is differentiated for individual students through the Writer’s Workshop methodology. Students often dread writing because their teachers assign them topics that they care nothing about. Writer’s Workshop allows students to choose their own topics and publish portfolios illustrated with computer graphics. Students are proud to present their writing and their PowerPoint slide shows to their peers because Writer’s Workshop fosters a positive low-risk environment for students to practice writing in different genres. Students are assessed on their ability to use the writing process and on the quality of their finished writing. Growth is measured through introspective reflection in the self-conference and mini reflection components of the writer’s workshop.
The Outsider’s by S.E. Hinton is a classic coming-of-age story that many adolescent readers can relate to, but our students love to study this novel because of the mock trial we hold at the end. What if Johnny Cade hadn’t died? What would the outcome have been at his trial? We explore these questions along with others that cause students to question the nature of self-defense, conflict, friendship and the source of personal identity during our scrutiny of this story. Each student is given a role to play in the mock trial and the teacher serves as the judge. The courtroom is fully stocked with witnesses, teams of attorneys, jury members, reporters, a defendant, and a bailiff.
Math lessons at AJHS are far more that basic computation. Students busy themselves completing projects embedded with basic math skills. Several examples include "Math World," "Mini-Me," and "Hanging at the Mall." "Math World" is a collaborative real-life problem solving game in which students work in teams of four called “colonies.” One student is the Governor, in charge of final decisions and signs documents/letters. Another student is the Treasurer and is responsible to make certain the ledger is accurate, although all members must do the calculations as well. A third student is the Secretary, in charge of letters to other colonies and to ensure the quality of writing. The final role is the Messenger who delivers letters and checks and is the only member allowed to be out of seat. The students are required to purchase from each colony and sell their product (chickens, hogs, etc) to each colony. Each colony starts with one million dollars and must not go bankrupt. Students are required to keep a ledger of all purchases, items sold, fines, and expenses.
Scale could be a dry subject, but not at AJHS. "Mini-Me" is an art project designed to teach scale as students sketch a 2 dimensional proportional scale drawing of themselves. All proportions must be based upon actual measurements. The art aspect of this project illustrates to students that math is alive and well beyond the classroom walls and starts them on the path to the realization that no curricular area stands alone. Ask our students what they're favorite Friday night activity is and you will hear "Hanging at the Mall." Imagine coming to class and hearing the teacher announce, "Today we're going to be hanging at the mall." Students peruse shopping ads from local popular stores and go on a shopping spree. As they shop they learn about percentages, sales tax, and discounts. Another example of active learning involves students applying linear function to a real life situation. Students choose a situation of interest to them and using that idea, students collect and record their own data on a graph and write an equation of their situation.
Students get a special taste of marine biology during an ecology lesson. Students make three-dimensional models of marine organisms and include the organisms’ adaptations. Models are then presented and displayed.
Our annual Science Fair has become a big event on campus during the winter months. All students undertake a science fair project that offers students an excellent opportunity for integration of curriculums. Students use computers to research their topics, record their experiments, draft and edit lab reports, and graph data. Presentation of data using math skills is required. Moreover, social and environmental impacts of a student’s project are presented in the conclusion. We have also forged a professional connection with Intel and Motorola as they send engineers and scientist to judge student projects. Science Fair projects are put on display in February during student-led conferences. Combining our showcase of science fair projects with spring conferences has dramatically increased parental interest in the science fair as a whole.
Students studying Earth science attended a geology demonstration at South Mountain park led by a doctoral student from Arizona State University. This same scientist has formed a professional partnership with one of our science teachers and has been at our campus throughout the first semester of 2007-2008 to teach and lead hands-on activities.
Not to be outdone, the social studies department keeps students busy with a flurry of activities as well. Students are encouraged to celebrate America as they study and discuss the unique freedoms our nation offers. Students work together using scrapbook type techniques to create collages depicting freedoms we share as United States citizens. In Button, button, who's got the button, students write a creative story in which the central character is a button from the Civil War era. The story must contain historically accurate facts as well as any creative yarns they wish to weave. The story shares with the readers the many adventures the button "sees" as it "lives" through the civil war years. Cultural diversity is celebrated with a poster walk as students portray the wealth of influences represented in our nation. Students work in teams to illustrate the phrase "United We Stand." Exploring new horizons is what Junior High is all about and students at AJHS research an invention and create advertisements designed to sell their product. Competition is fierce for these budding entrepreneurs.
Many of our elective classes have waiting lists as students seek to gain entrance into the exciting horizons of exploring new interests. Our talented elective teachers keep busy pre-teen minds and bodies active as they impart a plethora of new skills. Our elective classes are taught almost exclusively with a hands-on approach which research has shown is one of the best practices for students of this age. From musical performances to art shows, daily living skills to physical prowess, greeting the world with a new language or strengthening personal awareness electives offer something for everyone and keep us all on our toes.The teaching practices at Andersen Junior High School reflect current research on cognition, teaching and learning. Teachers consistently use real life simulations, cooperative learning groups based on Kagan’s theories, classroom skill review, lectures, computer research, hands-on individual discovery, and individual and group presentations to create an environment conducive to high student engagement. Differentiated instruction is infused into every curriculum group across campus to promote student success and to permit students to exercise choice in their own education. Instructors teach and emphasize critical thinking strategies in every classroom to every level of student because we believe that every student can succeed given the right support. As mentioned in Sections B & C, we offer a wide selection of student support options. Students must work very hard to fail because we are swift to provide support through study skills, after school tutoring, FHACT, parent conferences, and the revision of our policies concerning homework, late work, and our grade books. Evidence shows that students are learning because the number of students failing classes has decreased by 55 % and we improved AIMS scores to earn the designation of Highly Performing in 2004-2005 and have retained that designation for three years. We expect greatness of our students and they are rising to the occasion to meet and exceed our expectations.
E. Professional Community
There has been much discussion about what organization is in place at AJHS to create a culture of learning and development for students, but we also have worked to make our campus a place for professional growth and development for our faculty and staff. The teachers at AJHS are involved in continuous learning opportunities. Curriculum meetings are held weekly during which quarterly unit plans and common assessments are developed through collaboration. Common assessment results and the sharing of effective pedagogy are discussed in these weekly meetings as well.
Our staff of 60 currently holds 28 advanced degrees, and an additional four teachers are in the process of completing advanced degrees, including one staff member currently on leave of absence completing his PhD in Entomology specializing in ant studies. Degrees represented include: Administration, Educational Leadership, Secondary Education, Ministry & Educational Psychology, Special Education, Curriculum and Instruction, Reading, Technology in the classroom, Elementary Education, Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL), Biomedical Engineering, Elementary Curriculum Design, Bilingual Education, and Adult Education. Our paraprofessionals also bring strength of education to our school as 42% hold college degrees and 25% are certified teachers. In addition to being highly qualified and holding appropriate certification for their teaching area, AJHS staff have augmented their credentials with endorsements and certifications in Guidance Counseling, Administration, Engineering, Gifted Education, Middle School, ELL, 24 track recording and video editing from the Institute of Audio/Video, Reading, Math, and Adult Education.
In our ongoing quest to leave no child behind, AJHS teachers have been busy obtaining additional training and qualifications to meet the needs of our Limited English speaking population. Two of our teachers have Master’s degrees in Bilingual Education and TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages). Six teachers have endorsements in Sheltered English Immersion (SEI), 27 have completed 45 or more hours SEI training, and three teachers have 15 or more hours of SEI training. We also have one SEI trainer on staff certified by the Arizona Department of Education.
Teachers regularly attend conferences to acquire cutting edge research and return to present data and strategies to their colleagues on our campus, throughout our district, and to visitors from other districts as well. The most recent excursions to conferences include a single gender education conference held in October 2006; an AVID conference held during the summer 2007, and a Middle Years Program conference that our staff members are registered to attend in June 2008. New staff members are encouraged to attend the annual Responsible Thinking Process (RTP) conference; however a standing invitation to attend is open to all interested staff members.
AJHS is embracing the guidelines and direction of PLCs (professional learning communities) in several departments across campus. Not only is this useful for professional development but in curriculum design as well. During the 2006-2007 school year, all seventh grade science teachers participated in a district Professional Learning Community (PLC). Committed to refining their teaching practices, these teachers met outside contract time during three intersessions. The first component of the program consisted of content information taught by a professor of Physics from Arizona State University. During the second component of the workshop, teachers learned the principles behind PLCs and their many benefits. When working in a PLC, a lesson is devised by the group, taught by one teacher and observed by all