Daily High gets praise for focus

GLENDALE — State Supt. of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell recognized Daily High School on Wednesday as one of 14 Model Continuation High Schools in California, a designation comparable to Blue Ribbon and Distinguished School honors for traditional schools, according to the Department of Education.

O’Connell made the announcement in a news statement, acknowledging the select model schools as examples for the rest of the 523 continuation schools in California.

“In these challenging economic times, the risk of vulnerable students dropping out of school is greater than ever,” O’Connell said. “These model continuation high schools may provide the last connection that keeps troubled students in school, on a path to graduate, and on to better opportunities in life, college and careers.”

Daily has succeeded in developing a personalized approach to education for students who have struggled at traditional high schools in the Glendale Unified School District, Principal Cuauhtemoc Avila said.

The school has achieved a 92% graduation rate with students who were in danger of not completing high school in four years, or of dropping out altogether, Avila said.

“For Glendale, [the designation] just means that we are getting it together with respect of meeting the needs of these kids,” he said. “If we’re not able to do it at the regular schools, we have this alternate program.”

Daily has established itself as a unique school because teachers are flexible with their approach to delivering lessons to students, changing their strategies depending on individual needs, Avila said.

The school offers flexible scheduling, and some teachers employ unconventional grading systems, he said.

That adaptable approach makes education at Daily very different and much more personalized than it might be at traditional high schools, Avila said.

“It needs to be very flexible,” he said of the instruction at Daily. “It needs to offer kids a variety. Offering the same type of service that the regular school offers really won’t make much of a difference, because that’s probably why they weren’t able to be successful [there].”

California’s continuation high school system is the oldest dropout prevention program in the country and was initiated in 1919 as an effort to help students who had to leave schools to help on farms during harvests, said Dennis Fisher, program consultant for continuing education at the Department of Education.

Continuation schools were designed to keep students going with their educations, Fisher said.

But the reputation of continuation schools changed dramatically in the 1940s and 1950s, when they were known by many as “reform schools” and became holding grounds for students with behavioral problems, Fisher said.

The Model Continuation High School program is an effort to change that reputation so that communities respect the schools’ abilities to help graduate students who are behind in their high school credits, he said.

Recognition for Daily would help residents realize the value of the school in giving struggling students the helping hand they need to reach success, Supt. Michael Escalante said.

“Frequently people see continuation school as a dumping ground for students that have not been successful in traditional high schools, but Daily does not work like that,” Escalante said.

Escalante sometimes refers to Daily as the “private school next door” because of its focused atmosphere and classrooms full of quiet and dedicated students, he said.

One reason for Daily’s success is the ownership that students take in the school, which is decorated by graffiti-like murals that are made by students, he said.

“The kids truly believe and feel like it’s their place,” he said.

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