State of the School Address 2016-2017

Thank you to all the students and parents who participated in our annual surveys last spring.  The feedback we get from these surveys is invaluable.  We have taken your input along with what we’ve heard through conversations in our community and would like to share with you our thoughts and plans for the 2016-17 school year.
Things to Celebrate:
     1. Stability/Retention and Positive School Culture
We have virtually no staff turnover from last year.  The national average for schools is roughly 15% and charter schools hover around 20% annual attrition rates.  For us to have all of our staff returning, minus two who are on sabbatical, it means that we can build upon last year and improve our craft.  The morale, based upon the Head of School end of year evaluation and other matrices, is high among staff.  Last year the support for teachers was strong through regular evaluations and accountability.  Teachers feel mentored and are growing professionally.  We also had the highest rate of student retention in our history. Both of these mean that our community is happy with the direction our culture has taken.
     2. “Goldie Locking” the School
One of the goals of the board last year was to determine the correct size of our school.  In the past 350-400 was floated as our break even point. Last year we spent time examining what makes a good school culture, the school size that fosters that culture and then adjusting the budget to fit.  This means that we can continue to have strong adult-student relationships, which is annually one of the aspects of our school we consistently hear is most desirable and appreciated. It means that every person is known well at our school, no slipping through the cracks.
     3. Strides in Foreign Language Program
Last year one of our focuses for growth was our Spanish department reconfiguration.  Our Spanish classes will be the biggest they have been, with 99% of our students opting in rather than opting out of the program.  The department has a unifying vision and philosophy of how to get our students to bilingualism.  We now offer up to Spanish 5 in order to help our students reach their potential and put them in a good position for college entrance.  
     4. Substance Awareness Education and Programming
This past year we made a concerted effort to better educate our community about substance awareness. Our Healthy Kids Colorado Survey, a survey that high school students across the state take which asks students to candidly answer questions about their health and decisions, showed that our students felt as though they were given enough information to make informed decisions. This year we will be digging into the survey results in advisory, presenting at a parent night, and adding some all grade information sessions.   
Areas to Work on:
     1. Bigger, Better Projects
We saw good momentum last year with some amazing projects that pushed our community’s thinking.  From the solar car, to a revamped senior project, to all-school exhibition we had some home runs.  However, as our habits of heart and mind acronym (PAPER – Perspective, Advocacy, Perseverance, Evidence, and Refinement) reminds us, refinement keeps us innovative and focused on serving the needs of our students. Our challenge to truly do project-based learning has been that our core teachers do not see all of the same students and therefore can not really do collaborative, interdisciplinary projects. Through various stakeholder meetings, we came to a solution that involved changing our schedule.  Our new schedule enables us to have pods that travel through core classes together.  It also enables us to give teachers common grade-level planning time to collaborate and improve their practice.  The schedule change also answered our community’s call for more choice in electives.  Students have a better chance at exploring their passions here at school through expanded humanities, science, math, art, and concurrent enrollment classes. By the way did you know that we have two courses offered at AHS, taught by AHS staff, that will give students both college and high school credit?
     2. College Counseling and Preparation
We have continuity in our Life Department (College counseling and Internship coordinator) with both returning for a second year. This means that we can build a program that helps our students plan and prepare for their post-secondary success starting from 9th grade. While we once again had 100% college acceptance and nearly $2 million in college aid, one college counselor does not enable us to have the one-on-one support that our students deserve.  Our ideal is to have seniors in August who are knowledgeable about all things college and beyond, in hand with a college list (reach, target, fallback), letter of recommendations written, and solely concentrating on personal statements (written in senior Humanities), applications, FAFSA, and scholarships. Below are some program highlights:

  • College boot camp at the end of the year for juniors
  • Started our year at FLC to expose students to a college campus
  • Advisors will be integrating college prep the AHS way once a month into advisory
  • We will hold a college and career day in January
  • Continue our college road trip Osprey week
  • Setup every student on Naviance (our college system)
  • Incorporate standardized exam prep into our math and science curriculum
  • Offer support for seniors taking college placement exams.
  • Every senior has a college list with at least one college that they are essentially guaranteed admittance.

Jess and Janae are working hard to put 9-12th career and college systems in place that set our students up for success. Our goal is to help students find the post-secondary option that fits and helps them realize their full potential.  This means emphasizing more than just standardized exams (which we outpaced state and national averages again) but the whole profile that colleges and businesses look at: leadership, volunteering, test scores, GPA, and activities. Our goal is to educate our students and community about the fact that colleges examine all five of these areas when considering students for admission and then help our students fill in gaps in each area.  
The Big Question:

  • How are we fulfilling our core value of personalization while also maintaining strong community and common intellectual mission? How are we providing appropriate challenge and access for all of our students? In what ways are we doing this well and what can we keep doing better?