Center High School, located in the remote and rural San Luis Valley of Colorado, has a 95% minority population, 50% English language learner population, 30% migrant student population. Ninety percent of its students are economically disadvantaged..
The Center school district recognized that opportunities to learn for their students required more than conventional academic supports. Student needs are thus addressed through extra learning time and enrichment opportunities after school and during the summer, as well as during the school day; through a strong focus on healthy choices, supportive interactions, and anti-bullying programs; through support staff such as a homeless coordinator, a nurse, and counselors; and through partnerships with links to community health organizations. Additional academic needs, given the school’s remote and poor location, are addressed through concurrent college enrollment and through digital and virtual learning resources.
These policies and practices are fairly recent, and the reforms appear to be paying off. The Center High School graduation rate has increased from only 33% in the late 1990s, to over 90% today. The dropout rate has been lowered from double digits to where it hovers just below 2%. While only 20% Center High School graduates in 2004 were engaged in some type of post-secondary education within two years after graduation, that figure had increased to 78% in 2013.
Though many odds have been stacked against them, Center High School students enjoy a safe and healthy learning environment. This includes opportunities to explore future career pathways through a comprehensive Individual Career and Academic Planning (ICAP) process, opportunities to take college level academic and vocational coursework while still in high school, a wide array of enriching curricular offerings in many areas of interest, and a major focus on the health and well being of each and every student.
The school has smartly focused on creating a strong support system for its faculty and staff. Mentoring, participating in the state’s Boettcher Rural Teacher program, a collaborative decision-making environment, professional learning communities, compensation for extra time, regular observations by administration, and the school’s Teacher Building Leadership Team are all part of that effort.