Students in transition find pathways to success at Radford High


Radford High is a standout in this year's College and Career Readiness Indicators report. Its students take and pass Advanced Placement (AP) exams, graduate high school and enroll in college at higher rates than the state. A strong team dynamic among staff and outreach with families are catapulting students to new heights. “The students themselves are promoting and compete in a college-going atmosphere on campus,” said Principal James Sunday.

2017 Radford data

It's fitting that Admiral Arthur W. Radford High School, which is situated a mile from Pearl Harbor, is named for a hard-charging leader who fought in three wars and reached a career pinnacle as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. This school works hard to deliver its students to summits of learning and readiness.

A majority of the students are from military families, so hundreds of children come and go as the families "PCS" (Permanent Change of Station) from one base to another in the U.S. or overseas; many also have a parent who is deployed. These transitions can be disruptive to learning.

Radford High has put supports in place that, in concert, are ensuring escalating numbers of its students are college, career and community ready. Data from this year's College & Career Readiness Indicators (CCRI) report show:

  • Radford's students are taking and earning qualifying marks on more AP exams. Over two years, Radford's passing rate has grown 33 percent versus the state's growth of 25 percent.
  • Radford has one of the highest graduation rates in the state at 94 percent, which is up seven points from 2014. (The state's rate is 82 percent.)
  • Sixty-two percent of Radford's students enroll in college by the fall, a six-point jump from 2014. (The state's rate is 55 percent.)
  • View Radford's CCRI report here.

Radford counselorsPrincipal James Sunday credits the school's counselors with providing the right mix of academic and social/emotional support for students and strong family outreach. Changes to the bell schedule also freed up students to pursue more opportunities to enhance their diplomas and AP coursework.

At Radford, AP is not just for advanced students — the philosophy is that it's for anyone who's motivated. Building that motivation is where Radford's counseling team is succeeding. The work was enabled with a National Math and Science Initiative grant several years ago; Radford has since secured a Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) grant to keep the program going at a high level.

"We promote open enrollment for all AP courses, have increased the number of offerings, and send teachers to the annual AP conference for professional development," Sunday said. "We do a tremendous amount of academic counseling for our students and parents to promote AP enrollment.  We also have an AP parent night to go over requirements and for them to meet and greet the AP teachers."

As Radford college counselor Malia Kau noted, "We do a lot of marketing."

(Pictured: Radford High counselors, from left, Susie Honda, Krislyn Hara, Malia Kau, Pohai Aquino, George Sumida, Sarah Rippee, Lisa Johnstone and Erin Macedonio.)

'We want them ready for college'

Earning a 3, 4 or 5 on an AP exam grants college credit. Depending on the type and number of AP exams passed, students can already have a semester or a year of college completed when they enroll. The fee per exam is $93. When weighed against a year of college tuition, students stand to save thousands of dollars in addition to having a leg-up on finishing their degree.

But AP exams are, in a word, tough. Among Hawaii's Class of 2016, more than 3,600 students took an exam, but just shy of 1,600 earned a qualifying score. Any student can take an AP exam without being enrolled in the corresponding course, but the courses provide the rigor needed to do well on it.

Securing grant funding provided stability for the course offerings, but Radford staff worked hard to get students and families interested. Led by Kau, the Counseling Center at Radford includes alpha counselors Krislyn Hara, George Sumida, Susie Honda and Pohai Aquino, along with student services coordinator (SSC) Lisa Johnstone. All students are assigned an alpha counselor by name to go over academic and enrichment opportunities, while Johnstone coordinates resources to address any barriers to learning.

AP promotion takes place during Registration Week and at the AP Parent Night. In addition, Kau said, "We have closed-circuit TV bulletins in the morning advertising what's available, a curriculum fair with AP booths staffed by the teachers, we have the AP teachers go into the feeder classes — so the AP Calculus teacher would visit the Trigonometry class to promote the AP course."

Principal Sunday with Supt. MatayoshiShifting to a 7-period bell schedule four years ago gave students "more wiggle room to earn their 24-plus credits," Kau added. "It allowed them to take additional classes which improved our AP, CTE programs of study, participation in AVID. It opened opportunities for deeper enrichment."

(Pictured, Principal James Sunday with Supt. Kathryn Matayoshi in his office at Radford High during the Radford Complex Technology Summit in 2016.)

The increased AP course enrollments are strongly correlated with Radford's improvement on the exam. Kau said there's been a shift with families in that time, too.

"The college going culture has kind of changed students' and parents' perceptions. They see it's attainable. Before we would have parents say, 'I would prefer my kid get an A in the regular English class.' Now they want the rigor. 'Put them in AP, we want them ready for college.'"

"We have seen a big decline in families looking just for post-high-school work opportunities," Sunday said. "Parents are really ambitious to have their children attend college once provided accurate information for options, financial information, and requirements."

The school has responded by offering Junior College Planning Nights and college financial aid workshops for parents.

Preparing for, support through transitions

Radford currently educates about 1,300 students — about two-thirds are military affiliated. For newly arrived students, Radford's Transition Center provides a sense of safety. It offers much more than "ready-made friends" — the instructional program includes stress management and learning about the cultural diversity of Hawaii.

The peer-to-peer mentoring at the center cultivates leadership, Kau said. "We have a student, very soft-spoken, not very outgoing. Conversation takes a little while to get going with him. When he moved here, he went to the Transition Center and found it so helpful for getting acclimated and learning about Hawaii, he became a facilitator. So then he was getting in front of crowds and giving presentations. Even he couldn't believe it. He really put himself out there."

College and career promotion and supports are woven throughout a Radford student's high school career, and the supports from the Counseling Center on campus shift into high gear during the final year. All 12th graders are required to have a senior conference at the beginning of the year with their alpha counselor and parents.

"We talk about requirements, the senior contract, go over all the credits to make sure everyone's on track," Kau said.

Any students who are struggling in core courses are offered access to the PSSAS program (Program Services for Secondary Alienated and At-risk Students), whereby they can switch to a different teacher in combination with computer-based credit recovery.

"We catch about 25 to 30 students who might not otherwise make it to the finish line," Kau said.

While this demonstrates why the school's graduation rate is rising, the number of honors diplomas awarded — Academic, CTE, STEM — are also going up. (The more rigorous requirements for these can be seen under Honors Recognition here.) More seniors at Radford are doing the extra work — 26 percent versus the state average of 18 percent — to earn Honors Recognition diplomas. The school has also seen a 15-point jump over two years in the number of students completing CTE programs of study.

For Principal Sunday, it boils down to making resources and information abundantly available for students and families, and introducing a bell schedule that frees up students to pursue more of their interests. Thanks to the strong collaboration of the counseling and teaching teams at Radford, student interests are diversifying and leaning heavily toward post-secondary readiness.

"Our counselors have done an outstanding job of promoting an array of colleges for students to attend from Hawaii to the East Coast," he said. "And teachers have made it a priority to develop relationships with students and talk about college and career options. The students are taking it from there."


A certified commitment
to quality education

The Hawaii DOE several years ago started a push for the accreditation of its schools by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC). Accreditation involves a six-year cycle of quality whereby the school demonstrates the capacity, commitment, and competence to support high-quality student learning and ongoing school improvement, which is used to inform schools' Academic and Financial Plans. 

On May 1, 2017, Radford received the highest WASC accreditation of six years without an on-site visit. View letter.

Radford college & career center

College flags adorn Radford's College & Career Readiness Center. You can follow them on Twitter @radford2college.

About CCRI reportsCCRI reports are an annual collaboration between the Department and the University of Hawaii, coordinated by Hawai'i P-20 Partnerships for Education, to present information on how well Hawaii public school graduates are prepared for college. Hawaii's CCRI reports are continuously recognized by national organizations, including the Education Sector, the Data Quality Campaign, Achieve, and the National Governors Association, as a leading example of collaboration between K-12 and higher education and for providing useful information on college readiness.

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