Creating a school community that is welcoming and caring, as well as academically challenging and supportive, requires a broad package of policies and practices. Centaurus focuses in particular on strong supports for entering ninth graders, embracing them with a thoughtful set of social and academic supports, hands-on learning, and extracurricular opportunities.
Schools serving communities with extensive diversity are often tempted to provide stratified opportunities. Centaurus has instead sought to ensure meaningful access for all its students to a broad and engaging set of classes of other opportunities. Students who arrive at the school with academic needs or language needs are quickly brought within one or more supportive programs.
The school’s growing AVID program serves students who show clear potential for college success but who could easily fall off that path. Their families are often economically disadvantaged, with parents who are not college graduates. Many incoming students not brought into the AVID program instead participate in “July Warriors,” which is a summer enrichment program that focuses on engaging students in reading, math, and science. The program uses interactive, hands-on learning opportunities that culminate with weekly trips and other life experiences that take place outside school. While students are developing these skills, they are building relationships with peers and teachers that will be important over the next four years.
When a school takes opportunity gaps seriously, it puts in place supports and resources to truly close those gaps. At Centaurus, the principal explained their expectations: “If a learning environment is not closing the achievement gap by at least two grade levels in one year, we change the environment for the student and possibly the entire program. We have to know that what we are doing is working, so we constantly evaluate our practices and use multiple forms of data.”