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Latino Student Success

In Arizona, Helios partnered with Arizona State University researchers to examine ACT scores and National Student Clearinghouse data in order to identify the factors that are most likely to contribute to success among Latino students. Latino students with average ACT scores are more likely to enroll in two-year institutions, but may be less likely to complete a degree. A series of focus groups also showed that while a significant proportion of Latino students are not academically prepared for college, they have the same postsecondary aspirations as White students. Family members—even more than peers—have considerable influence on Latino students’ decisions about college. But because some Latino families lack college experiences, support and guidance from schools is still critical.

Move On When Reading

As part of our focus on Early Grade Success, Helios examined Arizona’s Move on When Reading (MOWR) legislation, which requires 3rd graders to be retained if they don’t score above the lowest category on a state reading test. This study follows one we conducted in 2015 on a similar policy in Florida. In collaboration with WestEd, we learned that Arizona schools and districts faced challenges regarding communication and a lack of clarity about the MOWR policy. Knowledge of the policy also varied among teachers, principals, and district staff. Despite these challenges, however, schools and districts made intentional efforts to prevent retention, even when that part of the policy was on hold. Schools also leveraged funds and resources beyond those provided by the state for having a MOWR plan. Key findings include:

  • Districts and schools made intentional efforts to prevent retention. Those efforts continued even when the retention portion of the policy was on hold.
  • Teacher, principal and district staff knowledge varied across sites.
  • To implement MOWR, districts leveraged financial and material resources beyond those by MOWR literacy plan funds.
  • Schools and districts faced implementation challenges related to communication and lack of clarity regarding policy expectations.
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Ready Now Yuma

In tracking the Foundation’s investment in Ready Now Yuma—a five-year initiative that includes a focus on preparing all students in the Yuma Union High School District (YUHSD) for college and careers—we are seeing increases in graduation and college-going rates. At San Luis High School, for example, the graduation rate has climbed to 88 percent and 77 percent of those graduates enrolled in college. A key outcome of the initiative is to prepare all students for college and careers.

Over the five-year grant period, the Yuma Union High School District (YUHSD) has seen both an overall increase in the high school graduation rate and in its college going rates.

Future Plans Evaluation

Future Plans is an online career and educational planning tool that was developed by Pinellas Education Foundation. It allows students to choose postsecondary pathways that match their aptitudes, values, and interests in careers that are in demand. WestEd, a leading research organization, is currently conducting a three-year evaluation of the implementation, scalability, and outcomes of Future Plans in 18 Pinellas County District high schools in Florida.

  1. Ninety-four percent of Pinellas County District high schools are implementing Future Plans, although actual completion rates of the tool vary by school.
  2. Overall, Future Plans was rated favorably by students. Additionally, initial findings indicate Future Plans is perceived more positively by traditionally underserved college students: A higher proportion of Black and low-income students reported satisfaction with the tool compared with their peers.
  3. When asked what students like most about Future Plans, the response most frequently cited was related to the multiple college and career options provided by the tool. As one student stated, “I liked that it showed me multiple options for what to do after high school. It also showed me different college majors that I never heard of and different colleges to attend.”
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Meeting Arizona’s Attainment Goal: Achieve60AZ

As a partner in the community-owned initiative Achieve60AZ, Helios sought to examine the role of public schools in meeting the Achieve60AZ goals. One critical finding from this work was that the success or failure of the initiative is directly linked to our traditional public schools. As Figure 1 shows below, the vast majority of Arizona students entering college are from traditional Arizona high schools. In 2014-15, for example, 29,807 traditional public students entered college after graduation. This total was more than nine times the number of students entering college from charter schools (3,264) and nearly 44 times the number of students entering from magnet schools.

Maricopa County Community College District EXCEL Evaluation

The EXCEL program, currently taking place at Glendale Community College and Estrella Mountain Community College in Arizona, is focused on propelling first-generation students toward degree completion utilizing a holistic approach to support students through associate’s/certificate completion and transition into baccalaureate degree-granting institutions. In order to assess the implementation and initial outcomes of the EXCEL program, Helios Education Foundation and the Maricopa County Community College initiated an evaluation of the final two years of the three-year program. Preliminary data have indicated the following:

  1. A fall to spring retention rate for EXCEL Cohort One students of 95.3 percent. These students also had a cumulative GPA of 3.03.
  2. Eighty-four percent of EXCEL Cohort One students successfully completed credit hours in the 2015-2016 school year (with grades of A, B, C, or P).
  3. Strong communication and relationships between EXCEL staff and students, an environment conducive to collaboration and openness, and positive reception in the community.
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