Something exciting is happening in Yuma, Arizona, and it doesn’t have a thing to do with lettuce. Yuma, typically known for its agricultural sector, is now making its mark for innovations in educational achievement.
In 2011, The Helios Education Foundation partnered with Yuma Union High School District (YUHSD) to launch the Ready Now Yuma initiative. This year’s graduating class from YUHSD is the first class of students to complete four years of instruction under the Ready Now Yuma initiative. What they’ve done should inspire school districts all across Arizona.
In four years, their number of Advanced Placement (AP) tests given increased from 1,909 to 2,283 and the percent of students passing those exams with a 3 score or higher rose from 25 to 32 percent. That’s around 730 more kids excelling on AP exams.
Approximately 81 percent of YUHSD AP test takers are minority students, which mirrors the make up of the student body. An ongoing emphasis on improving AP exam results and creating a more rigorous curriculum for all students were driving factors in YUHSD taking on the Ready Now Yuma project.
At the heart of Ready Now Yuma is a rigorous, high-expectations curriculum paired with a culture that promotes college- and career-readiness. The curriculum is the internationally benchmarked Cambridge International Curriculum and Examinations. It is an inquiry-based teaching model that focuses on development of critical thinking skills and problem solving.
The initiative is structured to ensure that every student is challenged, supported, and prepared for success in college and career. The rigor of the curriculum is balanced by a strong system of student academic supports. This includes an extended learning program that offers after school help from highly qualified teachers, as well as web-based tools that students can access on campus. The goal is to provide real-time assistance for students who may be struggling, rather than remediation after they have failed a particular subject or test.
Ready Now Yuma also emphasizes the development of a professional learning community, which includes professional development and collaboration days for teachers. This allows educators to learn from one another about what is most successful in the classroom and to build on those successes.
Most importantly, Ready Now Yuma is making a world-class education available to every student regardless of past academic performance or future aspirations. Students find the curriculum challenging, but they are engaged and most of all – prepared – for the possibilities of the future.
One graduating senior summarized the benefits of the Ready Now Yuma curriculum on the Helios website: “It’s all about asking the important questions that make your head hurt,” she said, “not just memorizing facts but applying them in discussion to real life; not just learning what it is, but why it matters.”
To learn more about Ready Now Yuma and the partnership between the Helios Education Foundation and YUHSD, visit: www.readynowyuma.org.