Teacher training biggest chunk of funding
The Helios Education Foundation recently awarded the Yuma Union High School District a $3.9 million grant for the Ready Now Yuma program, with the goal of having every graduate prepared to succeed in a college or a career. This series will look at the funding, how it will be used and what the implications are for YUHSD.
It's conventional wisdom among educators that teacher quality is the most important school-based factor in student achievement, if not the most important of all.
So in this vein, professional development will claim the largest portion of the $3.9 million the Helios Education Foundation is giving to Yuma Union High School District.
Professional development will account for $1,682,000 over the five-year lifespan of Ready Now Yuma, the plan to strengthen the curriculum across YUHSD's six schools and graduate students ready for college or career without remediation. This means training teachers in the Cambridge method and co-teaching, and training counselors.
The training will sharpen teachers on the Cambridge method, which aims to narrow in scope but increase in depth a student's understanding of the material. As a project-based curriculum, subjects taught the Cambridge way will have students demonstrating what they've learned through labs, writing and other projects and less about true/false and bubble-filling multiple choice tests – “authentic” learning, said Jamie Sheldahl, associate superintendent at YUHSD and the district point person for Ready Now Yuma. He also said the Cambridge curriculum is in line with the Common Core standards, a nationwide movement to strengthen and standardize the worth of a public school experience and a high school diploma that will be fully implemented in Arizona in 2014.
This coming school year with Ready Now Yuma will see the most expenses.
As a vice president and Program Director for Student, Family and Community Initiatives at Helios, Antonia Franco is a key person for the Ready Now Yuma project.
She said front-end loading the spending makes the funding more sustainable over the life of the grant.
Here's a general sketch of the funding, by category:
• Professional development: $1,682,000 ($494,000 next year)
• Organizational capacity: $1,225,000 ($369,000 next year)
• Student supports: $613,000 ($180,000 next year)
• Evaluation: $190,000 (all next year)
• Marketing and communications: $190,000 (all next year)
The $3.9 million is new money coming into YUHSD, and Sheldahl said no additional maintenance and operations money – the general, taxpayer-funded dollars – will be spent on the project. Eventually, he said, this will be the way YUHSD does business.
Remediation doesn't just cost time
If a student goes to college needing remedial course work in English or math, the cost can vary.
Depending on where they attend college, remediation costs hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars per student.
At Arizona Western College, Yuma's community college, a three-credit course costs $216 just in tuition (class fees and books not included). Some math courses are four credits, bumping the cost to $288. Depending on how far below the English 101 or math standard a student is, that adds up as they close the gap.
At a state university, tuition is billed at a flat rate from seven credits on. That said, if paying per credit at the part-time level up to a seven-credit load, a three credit course can cost approximately $2,000.
With the Cambridge method, the idea is that YUHSD students won't need that remediation.
Hillary Davis can be reached at email@example.com or 539-6857. Find her on Facebook at Facebook.com/YSHillaryDavis or on Twitter at @YSHillaryDavis.