A class to motivate more students to take honors courses. A program with an international focus. A biotechnology lab. These are among a wide array of educational programs that Tempe High School's staff is working to bring to students this fall.
"We're on the move," said principal Mark Yslas, who added he wants to provide something for every student.
Yslas said he wants to make sure students are choosing Tempe High because of the programs it offers, not simply because they live in the attendance area. And he's working to attract students from other parts of the Valley, too.
With just 1,300 students, the school is one of the smallest in the Tempe Union High School District. Yslas hopes to bring enrollment up to around 1,600 students eventually, which he believes is the perfect size for a high school.
As the district faces budget troubles, Tempe High has found grant money and created local partnerships to fund the new programs.
Earlier this month, the district accepted a $15,000 donation from the Tempe Diablos Charities for the school's new International Baccalaureate program.
The program includes a demanding interdisciplinary curriculum that presents lessons through a global perspective. Requirements for participants include music and second language courses, writing a 4,000-word essay and extensive community service.
The pre-IB program is already up and running, but the school is getting a visit from the international board next month that will determine whether it will be approved for a formal program for the 2009-10 school year.
This year, Tempe High also forged a partnership with South Mountain Community College to get more Hispanic students interested in the biotechnology field. Now, Tempe High is offering dual enrollment options, where any interested student can obtain college credit by taking a high-level biology class on campus.
In addition, the college is training teachers and providing a new lab, equipment and a lab technician.
"Governor (Janet) Napolitano has expressed a desire to have Arizona become a leader in biotechnology," said teacher Scott Greenhalgh, who is helping to coordinate the program. "This will help get more students interested earlier."
Teacher Tanya Moulton wanted to start a Jobs for Arizona's Graduates program at the school earlier this year, but she didn't have the money for it. Then, just weeks before classes started this month, she discovered the Qwest Foundation was giving the school $25,000 to get the program off the ground.
"We offer career pathways and leadership skills to students who have been identified based on barriers in their lives," she said.
The nationwide school-to-career and dropout prevention program helps students set goals and values and gives them experience with leadership roles.
Moulton, who will help students obtain part-time jobs during the year, also keeps up on how they are performing on-the-job and even plans to do some "secret shopping" to check on them, she said.
The program will help some 45 students this year, and Moulton said she's already getting requests from students who ask her to help friends who are talking about dropping out of school.
BEYOND THE LIMITS
Another program aimed at helping students who may otherwise fall under the radar is the brand new Beyond the Limits, program, which pushes students with average grades to succeed in an honors class.
"Traditionally, honors classes are reserved for students who are high-achievers," said assistant principal Kate Glenn. "These are students the teachers have recommended, and they think, with a little extra support, they can be successful in some of our most rigorous classes."
Many of the students have never taken an honors course. In addition to a daily class where they learn study skills, students also get tutoring from Arizona State University interns, Glenn said.