Washington High Gets GCU’s Help in Beating the Odds
By Jennifer Willis
Washington High School, near Glendale and 23rd avenues, is doing big things and has even bigger plans. With 1,671 students on campus and a large minority population including refugee students from Burma in Southeast Asia, Washington has had to find different ways of making sure that all of its students receive a quality education regardless of background.
That’s where Beat the Odds comes in. The program matches metro Phoenix educational institutions and businesses with schools that have high at-risk populations.
Washington is one of two schools in the Glendale Union High School District being sponsored by GCU this year in Beat the Odds. The other is Cortez High. The program provides extra training and resources for principals to tackle the various challenges they face.
“Students at Washington High beat the odds every single day,” says Carol Lippert, Washington’s principal. “Being a part of the Beat the Odds program is giving us the opportunity to interact with other districts and schools. (We can) bounce ideas off of other people experiencing similar issues and listen to good ideas that we might not be exposed to otherwise.”
Glendale Union’s superintendent, Dr. Jennifer Johnson, agrees.
“The community as a whole benefits when we all work together,” she says. “Working with GCU, in particular, allows us to have access to resources that we don’t have. And we love working with GCU. We haven’t met a College of Education student that we didn’t love. You can send us all of the interns and teaching assistants you want!”
The hard work put in by these administrators and their teachers appears to be paying off. The district has a dropout rate of less than two percent, and 80 percent of graduates go on to some form of higher education.
At Washington, 864 students made the Honor Roll for the fall semester — an impressive number in a district that is home to many English Language Learners.
Read 180, which helps ELL students with reading and writing comprehension, and Ascend, which does much the same for math, are two programs that provide the tools to succeed.
“These programs have been extremely instrumental in decreasing our failure rate,” Lippert says.
Washington also has a school store. The Ram Shack, named after mascot Rami the ram, is run by students in marketing classes as part of a work experience requirement.
The store teaches real-world lessons in customer service and advertising. Accounting students also get experience by cashing out the registers, running reports and performing monthly audits.
Buck Nelson, the Ram Shack supervisor and marketing instructor, says the benefits have been phenomenal.
“I have outside employers tell me all of the time how much more prepared and confident our students are compared to others,” he says. “The skills they are learning by working in the Ram Shack they are able to directly transfer to the real world.”
Lippert says Beat the Odds has implications for the entire district, not just Cortez and Washington.
“All of the principals in the district get together monthly to talk and share ideas,” she says. “GCU may be directly supporting two schools with the Beat the Odds program, but indirectly you are supporting all of us.”
Contact Jennifer Willis at 639.7383 or Jennifer.firstname.lastname@example.org.