Niños staff unveils plan to boost student achievement


2Story by Diana Whittle

Student achievement in Kyrene
schools is closely aligned with
the performance of a school’s
administrator and teachers, with both
increasingly required to work as a
“We’ve adopted a cultural change
in Kyrene that shapes the way we do
business in our schools. We expect
principals and teachers to work
together to form (what we call) a
Professional Learning Community,
which will be evaluated by their
students’ achievements,” said Gina
Taylor, assistant superintendent of
educational services, for the Kyrene
Every one of the district’s 25
schools is required to develop a school
improvement plan, said Taylor. That
is the document that provides specific
and measurable goals for students in
the school.
“Teachers are responsible
for the students’ learning and for
communicating the high expectations
required of each student,” explained
“We track the progress of all
students to meet goals that are focused
on college and career-ready standards.”
One of schools that made major
strides over the past year in student
achievement is Kyrene de los Niños in
south Tempe. With a new principal,
Tonya Yalung, in place a year ago, the
school improved its letter grade with
the Arizona Board of Education.
“Niños was chosen to showcase
our hard work to the board,” said
Yalung, “because we were the only
school in our district last year to
receive a C rating, and we have moved
to being a B school for this year by
increasing our AIMS scores.”
On the school’s website is the
slogan: “No Excuses University,”
designed to promote college readiness.
The school’s intention is to provide an
education that will prepare students for
college should they choose to attend.
Niños offers a dual language program,
so that students learn Spanish and
English equally throughout the entire
school year.
“The school’s enrollment includes
many students who are considered
at risk,” said Yalung, “so we have to
be very focused and achievementoriented.”
Niños is also one of four schools
in the Kyrene district that receives Title
1 federal funding, which is partially
due to the number of students who
qualify for free or a reduced-fee lunch
program. These federal funds must
be used for at-risk youth, homeless
services, the professional development
of teachers and parental improvement
At a recent Kyrene board
meeting, Yalung spoke about her
staff scrutinizing their efforts and
meeting weekly to discuss the school’s
performance plan.
“Through everyone’s hard
work, we have achieved several
accomplishments,” said Yalung.
“This year we enrolled 100 more
kindergarten students into our dual
language program, and the program
now has expanded to our third grade.
“Also, due to the tax credit dollars
brought in by our community, we were
able to provide a DRUM club for our
fifth-grade students, free of charge to
our families. We will be showcasing
them Nov. 7 at Barnes and Noble on
Ray Road in Ahwautukee.”
Taylor complimented the Niños
staff for their commitment to their
improvement plan and their diligence
in meeting regularly to review
“I am impressed with the journey
Niños has taken to better students’
achievement,” said Taylor.
“It’s a wonderful example of
our learning goal in Kyrene, which
is to make sure all students make
continuous progress and to close the
gap so students who are struggling to
achieve are not left behind.”
Hospital hosts landmark study
Chandler Regional Medical Center
is hosting a landmark new
research study by the American
Cancer Society, which has announced
plans to recruit men and women for a
cancer-prevention study.
An exploratory meeting is
scheduled from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Thursday, Nov. 14, in the hospital’s
lower level conference rooms.
Dignity Health affiliates Chandler
Regional and Mercy Gilbert medical
centers are serving as enrollment sites
for the study.
Individuals may choose to
participate if they are willing to make
a long-term commitment to the study,
which involves completing followup
surveys periodically over the next
20-30 years. Participants must be
between the ages of 30 and 65 and
never been diagnosed with cancer.
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