VIDEO: The growth and success of Maui High's AVID program is one of several cited as fueling the school's student success trajectory. Produced by Maui District Television.
About five years ago, Maui High restructured to become a college and career readiness hub. Of course that’s an aim for any high school, but in Maui High’s case, the journey involved these specific steps:
- CTE focused, with freshmen taking two courses to begin learning hard and soft skills aligned to careers;
- A full-time college and career counselor in addition to grade-level counselors;
- Strengthening connections to the Educational Opportunities Center, a federal program to help disadvantaged students go to college that’s housed at UH-Maui College;
- Open enrollment for Advanced Placement courses;
- Strong growth in the Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) program to prepare students for college with skills and success mindsets (see video, above);
Greater communication around the value and benefits of the honors diploma; and
- Making Senior Projects mandatory for graduation. These student passion projects begin with planning during the junior year and culminate in a research paper, a project or product, a portfolio, and a presentation to a panel of adult judges delivered in the senior year. (See what this looks like in this video of 2015 senior projects.)
Along the way, the culture at Maui High became one of encouragement with taking chances — that students should feel confident to try or do something they may not have seen in themselves academically or creatively.
The results of this school-wide effort are reflected in the latest College & Career Readiness Indicators report, an annual look at how Hawai‘i’s public high schools are doing to prepare students for post-secondary life.
For Maui High’s Class of 2017, nearly one in three graduates earned an honors diploma. Sixty percent of students went to college (five points above the state average), and among those who went the year prior, 82 percent were still in college (four points above the state average).
“Maui High’s culture is perseverance and following through, school-wide,” said Bronwyn Tatman, a curriculum coordinator who has taught at Maui High for 12 years. “We prepare our students for college, academically and emotionally, so when they get there they have the skills they need to succeed.”
Commitment to CTE
In Hawai‘i’s public school system, Career & Technical Education belongs to a category of graduation requirements that include World Languages and Fine Arts. Students must take two credits in one of the programs to earn a diploma. Maui High’s directive that all freshmen will take two CTE courses during their first year allows students to complete that requirement early while being exposed to career pathways that may light a spark and keep them in the program. It’s working — 60 percent of students in the Class of 2017 completed a CTE Program of Study, 18 points higher than the state average.
The most popular pathway at Maui High is Arts & Communications. Its ACOM program provides an introduction to visual, fashion, performing, written and media arts, and how they apply to a range of concepts including innovation, legal and ethical issues, and communication. As with any CTE program, it involves project-based learning; Maui High’s ACOM includes real-world assignments — for example, ACOM’s juniors are working with several community organizations to assist with their marketing via graphics, videos, etc.
“They have to set up meetings, do rough drafts, and get approval from the clients,” said Clint Gima, who has taught at Maui High since 1991 and focuses on digital/broadcast media at ACOM. (Below: Cindy Werkmeister from Farrington High observed Maui High's CTE offerings and posted the following to Twitter.)
The focus of the program has evolved to make sure students have the soft skills to help them in an array of college and career options, Gima said. Because of the CTE focus at Maui High, many students stay in a Program of Study long enough for supportive relationships to grow. He noted that rigorous learning in CTE involves “projects that require students to think, be creative, and be challenged while demonstrating skills they’ve learned. That can only happen when students have a positive relationship with a teacher,” and Maui’s CTE teachers commonly have four years to cultivate that.
“Some of our students work for Dropbox, Hawaii Business Magazine, they’re producing music videos for the top recording artists, editing shows for Anthony Bourdain, but we also have engineers, teachers, airline employees, construction workers, dental hygienists,” he said. “What I hope they get out of being in ACOM for four years is the skills they need to be successful in whatever they do, be a good human being and have the internal motivation to do well.”
The college connection
“Post-secondary planning is a priority here at Maui High, and that is the single biggest factor to the successes we experience,” said Scott Tresidder, the school’s College & Career Counselor, who took over for longtime counselor Tad Iwata this year.
Five years into its restructuring, that priority is seen and felt everywhere on campus. Curriculum coordinator Ti‘a Joaquin, who has taught at Maui High for 20 years, cited changes to the school’s master schedule to create the flexibility students need to take the courses they want, the CTE focus, and the growth of AVID and AP as main components of what’s driving the success.
But the counseling in particular is helping support students as they take advantage of these new and expanding choices.
For example, Joaquin noted that anyone can enroll in the school’s AP courses, but when they do it’s with the understanding that they’ll take the college-credit bearing AP exam. “It’s a must, so we do parent nights and one-on-one teacher conferences before they can sign up.”
She also noted that AVID program enrollment has grown to about 50 students per class, but the instructional strategies are deployed school-wide. “Our AVID coordinator Danielle DeJesus has really sparked more interest in college and learning how to improve test-taking skills.”
UH-Maui College provides teaching and counseling supports, with professors on campus to teach dual credit courses — program enrollment has risen nine points over two years — and students gaining access to supports like MySuccess so they can track their progress and where they may need extra support in real time.
UHMC’s Eri Nomura, who serves as the liaison for Maui High, said a stronger relationship between the two is a team effort that’s helping deliver on the state’s 55 by ‘25 goal.
“Our counselors are now more visible in high school functions. We’re available to students and their parents during events such as College Credit Parent Night,” she said. “UHMC Student Affairs hosts an annual meeting on our campus where high school counselors, registrars, and principals receive updates from our system. And each UHMC counselor partners with a specific high school counselor as a liaison to streamline our partnership.”
With much of the needed academic and counseling apparatus in place to support college-going, the final piece was flattening the financial hurdles. Tresidder said, “We have a pretty motivated group of students here at Maui High. What I have found over the past few years is many students who say they are not going to college say that because it’s an economic decision, not a desire."
What is working for Maui High is stronger ties to the Educational Opportunity Center housed at UHMC.
“We utilize every service available to our students that the EOC offers,” Tresidder said. “We regularly have an EOC worker on our campus in the counseling center helping students complete the FAFSA, college applications and scholarships. This extra support is invaluable because it allows us to help so many more students than we could on our own.”
Principal Jamie Yap is finishing his first year at Maui High after 30 years heading a feeder school, Maui Waena Intermediate, and has the unique perspective of seeing the impact from the outside for students he worked closely with in their younger years.
“They did a lot of things here that had a big impact on the college and career culture,” Yap said. “Full time college and career counselor, expanding Senior Project so that project-based learning is happening for all students, a lot of which is aligned to our CTE pathways.
“Kids are taking ownership for their education,” he added. “This campus almost emulates a college campus.”