Supporting students to achieve a strong education from birth to career is part of building up our community to provide a brighter future. Often, the answers lie within the community and can be reached through the collective wisdom of its members. This motivation inspired Valley of the Sun United Way to create Thriving Together, a collective impact partnership that aims to identify sustainable solutions and best practices that increase student success all the way through their education journey.
In October of 2016, Thriving Together’s post-secondary collaborative action team (CAT) worked with district partner, Phoenix Union High School District (PUHSD), to raise students’ college entrance exam scores - specifically ACT scores since all PUHSD students take it during their senior year. Teachers at two PUHSD schools provided test prep instruction to a group of seniors who had already taken the ACT and scored well, but not well enough to qualify for some of the funding available that they would need to make college a reality. After receiving this instruction, some students took the ACT again in an effort to raise their score.
One such student who took the test again achieved a score of 22, qualifying her for the Obama Scholars Program, which offers free tuition and fees, room and board, and books – worth approximately $25,000 per year for four years. Another student who improved her score from a 20 to 22, received a College Attainment Grant which will cover tuition and fees worth over $10,000 per year.
To follow up and create opportunities to reach more students, one high school offered a second round of ACT test prep in January through April of 2017, preparing an additional 120 juniors to take the ACT in their senior year. These juniors stayedafter school twice a week to receive extra support. Their data will be reviewed in the fall when it becomes available.
In the short time since our first small group test, the effort has grown tremendously. As we look forward to the coming school year, it is estimated that over 1,000 students will be impacted by the ACT preparation work. PUHSD teachers will look at sophomore and juniors’ pre-ACT scores and identify what students need to learn in preparation for their ACT test and then embed those things into classroom instruction.
The goal is that the overall college enrollment numbers will increase as more students attain ACT scores that qualify them for college entrance and additional funding opportunities.
This work is helping to shift the way teachers in Phoenix Union use data to plan lessons so students achieve their best score on the college entrance exam. This approach makes it easy for teachers to identify the focus of their lessons and integrate test prep into their classroom instruction.
This is just one of many efforts we are supporting within the Thriving Together community to ensure children in our community succeed. You can become a part of building a stronger community, too. See what opportunities you can join by emailing ThrivingTogetherAZ@vsuw.org or visiting www.thrivingtogetheraz.org today.