After-school tutoring, high expectations and an emphasis on math and writing all add up to an A ranking for Chandler’s Hamilton High School.
The largest school in the state — with more than 3,600 students — not only boasts championship sports teams (Huskies football anyone?), but top academics.
Look through the recent scores awarded to Arizona public schools by the state Department of Education. Right there, in the top 10, sits Hamilton.
It’s the only “neighborhood, comprehensive” school in the top 10. All the others are rigorous charter schools or specialized academic programs that draw in students primarily — or entirely — through open enrollment.
Hamilton expects students to “be where they belong,” principal Fred DePrez said. That means teachers work to put students on track in grade-level appropriate math — few remediation classes are offered — and writing. Students are also given opportunities to accelerate, DePrez said.
“If you want to try taking two years of math in one year or three in two, we’ll do that,” he said. “Our goal is to have almost half our kids in accelerated math and science … My goal is kids need to be where they belong. You try to give them the help to be successful.”
Because classes are offered from 6:30 a.m. to 3:15 p.m., with eight learning periods available, students can also find time for credit recovery should they need it.
“It allows kids to get in a full day. Kids who need credit recovery can get an extra class,” he said.
Last spring, 44 percent of the graduating class passed at least one Advanced Placement (AP) course. The school also had a record 280 AP Scholars, students who passed at least three AP exams.
About 20 percent of Arizona students who pass the Chinese Advanced Placement course attend Hamilton.
Also, not only did Hamilton score high points in overall AIMS scores from last spring, but it received the third highest “growth” points of the top 15 schools. Growth points are given for schools that successfully move students from one level to the next academically.
While many students do choose Hamilton — DePrez said about one-sixth of the population have boundary exceptions — the demographics show it’s not just a one-size-student program.
The school’s ethnic breakdown as of Tuesday was: 2 percent American Indian, 14 percent Asian, 9 percent black, 20 percent Hispanic and 54 percent white. The school’s boundaries cover a vast area, from Price to McQueen roads to Hunt Highway and Chandler Boulevard.
With so many chances — and so much attention — given, academic success is possible, DePrez said
Student involvement is also key, he said. Next week, Hamilton will hold “club week,” where students can learn about the 60 active clubs on campus. About one-third of the school’s students are involved in athletics.
“There are kids who don’t do anything, but the goal is to have kids doing something so they’re a part of our school,” he said.
Scott Reed, who teaches the school’s largest Advanced Placement course, AP Psychology, said that another important factor to success is preparing students for the years following high school. There are 270 students enrolled in the AP psychology class this semester.
“For a lot of the students, it’s the only AP class they’ll take. It gives them a taste of what to expect in college. They come in on equal ground and they are able to compete,” he said.
The school also offers a large AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) program, for students who wouldn’t typically take an honors or advanced course. AVID challenges the students to take more rigorous coursework. More than 200 students are involved this year, DePrez said.
Reed agreed the AVID program is key to Hamilton’s success.
“The counselors push them when they may not have given it a shot,” Reed said.
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