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Watch Them Soar: DHS High

DHS High should be celebrated! Not only because it’s a great school, but because of the innovative approaches that Principal Cota and her staff employ daily. Over the course of the last year I have witnessed academic excellence, school pride, and exemplary professionalism from students and staff. However, I have now become aware of some academic offerings that uniquely separate us from other schools in the valley and aims to prepare our students for the next chapter of their lives and beyond. This interview was unique because not only did Principal Cota offer perspective through the lens of DHS High, Dr. Deanna Keuilian (Director of College and Career at PSUSD) also contributed with her insight from Palm Springs Unified School District.

Dr. Keuilian
Principal Cota

For those that may not know, what is dual enrollment and how does it benefit our students?

Dr. Keuilian replied, “Dual enrollment is a unique opportunity for students to participate in college classes earning simultaneously high school and college credits. In other words, students who take dual enrollment courses are meeting their requirements for graduation purposes, while building their college transcripts. Courses, which are transferable to most 4 year institutions, are taken on the high school campus, which provides a familiar setting as they take rigorous college course(s). Another aspect that makes dual enrollment a unique, and desired option for students is the tuition associated with taking college courses is waived by the local college. Additionally, the school district pays for the textbook(s) associated with the dual enrollment course. This is a tremendous cost savings for families should their student continue onto post-secondary after graduation.”

Principal Cota, I was informed of the AP offerings at DHS high, how many are there? Are any of them unique to DHS high (in Terms of other valley schools)?

DHS High offers 18 different AP courses in English, Math, Art, Spanish, Computer Science, Science and Social Sciences. We have dramatically expanded our offerings for 2019-20, including the addition of AP Computer Science Principles, AP Psychology, AP Seminar, and AP Human Geography, which is the first AP course open to 9th graders.

We also have a unique offering: the AP Capstone program. This is our first year of this new program, so we currently only offer the first course: AP Seminar. Next year, we will add the second course: AP Research. In order to offer this program, we had to apply to the College Board for permission. We were approved last year and had our instructor trained during the summer. While the AP Capstone program is offered in the Desert Sands USD, DHSHS is the only PSUSD school to offer it. Here is a quote from the College Board regarding the AP Capstone program:

“AP Capstone™ is a diploma program from the College Board. It’s based on two yearlong AP courses: AP Seminar and AP Research. Rather than teaching subject-specific content, these courses develop students’ skills in research, analysis, evidence-based arguments, collaboration, writing, and presenting. Students who complete the two-year program can earn one of two different AP Capstone awards, which are valued by colleges across the United States and around the world.”

Dr. Keuilian added, “AP Capstone has just been approved as meeting the ‘b’ requirement, for ‘a-g’ purposes for both the University and California State University systems. ‘a-g’ is the minimum requirement of coursework students must take to demonstrate college readiness.” For more information please follow this link: https://apcentral.collegeboard.org/courses/ap-capstone

In terms of the AP and Dual enrollment courses. What separates DHS high from other schools?

Principal Cota commented, “I believe we are the only ones to combine CTE academies, including ACE and PSA with Dual Enrollment offerings. For example, our current Public Safety Academy 11th graders are completing a Dual Enrollment course in Fire Science within their school day at DHSHS. Next year, they will complete an Emergency Medical Services course as well, and the 10th graders will take a Police Science course. The PSA graduating class of 2021 will have a minimum of two dual enrollment courses done prior to graduation and the class of 2022 will have completed three courses. [Additionally], our ACE academy currently includes Dual Enrollment courses in the education pathway at COD. I also believe we have more Dual Enrollment options than any other high school in our district.”

Dr. Keuilian chimed in here as well, “I would also add, it is important to remember the way students, schools, and districts are being measured in terms of College & Career preparedness. College & Career is a new indicator on the California Dashboard and on it, there are a variety of ways students can demonstrate proficiency. It is a more comprehensive way to measure a students’ readiness. In the past, proficiency was measured by a test score, that is no longer the case. For example, students who successfully pass two college credit courses, or dual enrollment course, is deemed College & Career ready. Another example is if a student receives a qualifying score of 3 or higher on two AP exams, they are college and career ready. Having robust offerings increase the opportunities for students to pick and choose how they can demonstrate College & Career. DHSHS provides so many options for students to show they are ready for their next steps.”

Principal Cota, being an avid sports fans, whenever I am in a debate I often say, “Statistics never tell the entire story”. Many may view statistical data and assume that they are the only measurable that should be considered as it relates to a school’s performance. In regard to the numbers reported for DHS High, what say you?

“There is no doubt that student test scores and graduation rates tell part of the story about how effective a school is. There are also other important indicators that can’t be measured as easily. That includes the staff’s passion for continued improvement and meeting the changing needs of students. As it relates to DHS High, I am proud to say that our staff continue to discuss our students’ performance on important state measures and to look at ways to improve those results. We don’t simply look at average performance but the extent to which individual students are showing growth. We continue to think creatively, designing programs and classes that address the needs of different student groups and will motivate them to come to school each day, try their best, and grow their skills. Our belief is that it’s more important to look at how kids were doing when they arrived at our school and how much we were able to help them grow in the time we had with them. That applies for a student who comes to us as a freshman with a blank slate, ready to take on the most difficult classes or a 10th or 11th grade transfer student who is missing credits and needs a plan to catch up. All DHS kids are OUR kids, regardless of their situation. That passion is not something that can be measured, unfortunately.”

In your opinion(s), how prepared are our students for college (those that desire to attend college) after graduation?

Principal Cota: “DHS students who want to attend college after graduation receive the best possible preparation for success. They have access to as many or more AP, Dual Enrollment, and Honors courses as students at any of our high schools. We build our master schedule from scratch each year, based on student requests to ensure that our high achieving students can take all the advanced courses they desire. Their teachers are dedicated to them and offer the Scholar Lab after school where they provide additional support with the rigorous work of AP classes. It is our hope that with the flexibility of our master schedule, the variety of different options for students and the support we provide to students who are new to AP, more of our DHS students will take on the challenge of being scholars at DHSHS.”

Dr. Keuilian: “It is evident that DHSHS is committed to not only offering programs and courses to engage students, but they are also committed to providing support structures. Additionally, as mentioned previously, many dual enrollment options are embedded in their Career Technical Education programs, thus allowing students yet another option to demonstrate preparedness. CTE students can learn a skill/trade/industry, however, students are still building their college transcript and are still on track to attend college in the fall if they choose. By offering students an array of program and course offerings, we are truly preparing DHS students to be College & Career.”

It’s becoming more and more evident that DHS High truly is the place to be, it’s amazing to watch them soar! THANK YOU FOR ADVANCING DHS!

As you may know… I LOVE looking for new places to eat! This morning I had breakfast at Delicias!!! Wow, delicious! Get there!!! 66121 Pierson Blvd!

Delicias= DELICIOUS!

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