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Posted On: 2017-11-02 12:45 PM
By Cara O'Donnell, Edkey® Inc.
When high school students are faced with the prospect of not finishing school, they often seek a "credit recovery" solution where they can attend classes and graduate as quickly as possible. And for many years, one of Phoenix's oldest charter schools was thought to be an example of credit recovery. But no more.
Sequoia Choice Precision School, a high school located at 40th Street and Broadway Road, has rapidly changed not just its focus, but also its students'.
"We're in the process of making a transformation," said principal Jaime Tejada. "We've been here since 1998 and we've served hundreds of students. Now we're academically more rigorous while at the same time facilitating the opportunities for our students who haven't been successful at other schools. This isn't just about recovering credits. It's learning in a different way."
Sequoia Choice Precision recently joined the Edkey® Inc. portfolio of charter schools. Edkey® Inc. operates 18, K-12 charter schools across Arizona. After acquiring Precision Learning Center, leadership had the freedom to modify the mission, along with the name, and ultimately, the student results.
"This school had a great reputation for credit recovery," Tejada said. "Now we're taking that and making it an advantage. We work with students to find out why they haven't been successful, and help them become successful. That's not putting them in a system or filling in the gaps. It's really teaching them in a different way."
A central part of Sequoia Choice Precision's focus is in technology-related study. Students can learn about graphic design, programming, photography and other areas that not only integrate with science and math, but also real-world careers.
"I've seen the culture change," said Naureen Hasan, a math teacher at Sequoia Choice Precision. "It's very rewarding for me, personally, because when I came in the expectation was to get your high school diploma and that's it. Students didn't have aspirations and dreams. Now there's excitement. Students want to be engineers or filmmakers. They want to go into the health industry. They want to focus on STEM-related careers and courses."
Previously, Sequoia Choice Precision offered students instruction in skills and trades such as carpentry. Today, they've modernized the approach. Students can learn tech-related skills that can transfer into jobs. Plus, traditional classroom instruction provides practical skills that students need to succeed.
"It's simple things like note-taking skills and organization," Hasan said. "Math problems can take 10-15 minutes to go through. We teach them how to persevere through to the very end. That gears them toward critical thinking. We want them to become independent learners."
Outside of the classroom, Sequoia Choice Precision students take field trips to companies to learn about technology and careers. Professionals visit the school to give talks about their careers, and how they started. Teachers also take students to local community colleges and ASU to help them realize that college is a possibility.
"We see what their likes and abilities are so they can achieve in college," Hasan said. "These are skills that are needed in the workforce. Before, they thought ASU was a different world that wasn't for them. Now, that fear isn't there. They want to be a part of it."
The end result, Hasan said, is that students are getting valuable skills whether or not they want to go to college. The concept of mere "credit recovery" is gone. Parents and students are choosing Sequoia Choice Precision as their school for freshman year through senior year.
"We are noticing that students are coming because word is spreading, because of the curriculum," Hasan said. "We're changing the culture, we're getting students who are taking ownership for their learning."
Sequoia Choice Precision School is located in Phoenix at 40th Street and Broadway Road. For more information on the school, visit SequoiaPrecision.org.
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