• Academics

  • May 2022

    Posted by SUSD Communications on 5/1/2022

    Paving the Way for Biliteracy 

    SUSD’s Dual Language Immersion (DLI) program was established to acknowledge and communicate the value of diversity in our nation’s language assets and to encourage language learners to maintain and improve their first language skills while at the same time acquiring proficiency in additional languages.  Spanish is the DLI language of study at Pueblo Elementary, following students to Mohave Middle School, then Saguaro High School.

    To recognize significant steps along students’ preschool to high school DLI trajectory, SUSD has newly established “Pathway to Biliteracy Awards” for elementary and middle school students.  These awards advance the district's commitment and vision that every SUSD student graduate prepared and equipped with the knowledge and skills to participate successfully in college, career and a diverse multilingual/multicultural world through participation in a well-articulated, pre-kindergarten through 12th grade DLI program.

    The first recipients of Middle School Pathway to Biliteracy awards are 22 Mohave DLI program 8th graders.  The achievements of 14 Pueblo 5th graders will be honored with Elementary Pathway to Biliteracy awards.

    SUSD Elementary Pathway to BiliteracyPathway to Biliteracy

    State Issues Biliteracy Seals to SUSD Seniors   

    Congratulations to the 117 members of SUSD’s Class of 2022, whose diplomas later this month will bear the Arizona Department of Education’s Seal of Biliteracy.  Established by the Arizona Legislature in 2016, the Seal of Biliteracy recognizes graduating high school students who are proficient in English and at least one other language, based on their performance on an Arizona State Board of Education-approved assessment.ADE Seal of Biliteracy

    This year, the state Biliteracy Seal has been earned by seniors at each SUSD high school:

    • 23 at Arcadia High School
    • 19 at Chaparral High School
    • 5 at Coronado High School
    • 60 at Desert Mountain High School
    • 10 at Saguaro High School

    Languages studied include French, Hebrew, Japanese, Italian, Mandarin Chinese, Russian or Spanish.  Their course of study culminates with comprehensive examinations of reading, writing, speaking and listening proficiency in the foreign language they have selected.  One Arcadia student will receive three seals; a Saguaro student, two, for mastery of multiple languages.

    Biliteracy Seal recipients must also meet all state English Language Arts graduation requirements, with an overall grade point average in those classes of 2.0 or higher on a 4.0 scale and pass end-of-course examinations. If a student’s primary language is a language other than English, the student must also pass the ADE’s Arizona English Language Learner Assessment, a standards-based assessment that meets both state and federal requirements to measure English language proficiency.


    The Scottsdale Unified School District is in the process of adopting curriculum materials for high school Advanced Placement (AP) U.S. Government, AP Economics and International Baccalaureate (IB) Economics courses.  A committee comprised of teachers, site and district leaders, community members and students is meeting regularly to review the curriculum materials that are under consideration.  Information about the Adoption Committee can be found on the SUSD website for Current Textbook Adoptions.

    An additional, important process in the adoption is the opportunity for the community to provide input.  The input period is open for 60 days and runs from April 25 to June 24.  The public is invited to visit the Mohave District Annex, Building B, located at 8500 E. Jackrabbit Rd., Scottsdale, Monday through Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. or on weekends, by appointment.  The textbooks are organized for viewing by content, with access to digital materials displayed on a district computer.  We ask that you please leave feedback via a QR code found adjacent to each type of curriculum.  We appreciate your comments and value input on these important curriculum adoptions.

    Dyslexia Training    Dyslexia Training 

    The state recently mandated that each public school have at least one Dyslexia Training designee on campus by July 1.  To achieve this, an intensive course in the science of reading and dyslexia is required.  SUSD’s first cohort of teachers, reading specialists and psychologists has fulfilled the requirements and will take that training back to schools to support classroom teachers.  The next cohort begins in June.

    Echo Canyon Preschool Receives Prestigious Rating

    Quality First, the signature program of the First Things First organization, has bestowed its coveted, 5-star rating to Echo Canyon School’s early learning classrooms.Echo Canyon

    Quality First, created by Arizona voters, partners with families and communities to help prepare our state’s youngest learners to be ready for kindergarten success and beyond.  Its voluntary, quality-rating system helps families find quality early learning classrooms, with 5 stars – what Echo Canyon has now earned for a second time – topping the scale.

    The quality of each early learning program is assessed using valid and reliable tools that focus on what research shows are the key components of quality early learning, including adult and child interactions, learning environments and staff qualifications. Based on these assessments, each program is given a quality rating ranging from one to five stars.

    Echo Canyon Early Childhood ProgramEcho Canyon’s five stars is considered the platinum standard and reflects the highest quality early-learning environment that far exceeds quality standards.

    We are proud of Echo Canyon's early learning program, and congratulate teachers Marin Velarde and Kellen Velarde, assistants Anna Reilly and Morgan Kane, and childcare provider Paige Johnston!

    Saguaro STEAM Showcase
    Saguaro High School’s annual STEAM Showcase on April 23 was a master class in demonstrating the interconnections between students’ studies of math, science and the arts. Saguaro STEAM ShowcaseSeniors in SUSD’s Math and Science Academy, who will graduate with distinction this month, presented their final class projects and field work at the event. The topics ranged from cyber security to compounding pharmaceuticals, and included the award-winning Saguaro Sabercat Aeronautics Team. Saguaro STEAM ShowcaseThe team received the International Innovation Award in last month’s virtual Real World Design Challenge for its design of a hydrogen-powered propulsion system for an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), or drone, tasked with collecting and delivering small packages. The project included an 86-page Engineering Notebook and a 3D, printed model of their UAV.


    It’s Scholarship Season!
    Congratulations to Desert Mountain senior Bella Agarwal, winner of an ON Semiconductor Scholarship in the 2022 National Merit Scholarship Program.  Recipients of corporate-sponsored scholarships were announced April 27.  Bella, a student in Desert Mountain’s International Baccalaureate (IB) program, is one of just 14 Arizona students and one of 1,000 nationally to receive a corporate-sponsored scholarship this year.  Most of the awards are for up to four years of college undergraduate study at an accredited U.S. college of university of the student’s choice.  More scholarships will be announced this month, June and July.

    Another outstanding Desert Mountain senior, Ayva Kacir, has made the short list to be named a U.S. Presidential Scholar.  Ayva is a finalist in the 2022 competition for her ability and accomplishments in career and technical education, or CTE, fields.  She is heavily involved in the school’s DECA program, speech and debate team, and is a varsity track hurdler.  The U.S Presidential Scholars program was established in 1964 by executive order of President Lyndon Johnson, to recognize and honor some of our nation’s most distinguished graduating high school seniors.  Ayva was one of five Arizona students nominated this year by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman.  We’ll hear later this month whether Ayva will be going to Washington, D.C. this summer as a Presidential Scholar.  Just 160 students are selected each year.

    Scottsdale Charros Honor Outstanding SUSD Students and Educators
    Back from a two-year, pandemic-driven hiatus from gathering together, the Scottsdale Charros hosted their 35th annual Education Banquet April 22 at newly renovated Scottsdale Stadium.  Greeted by Chaparral High School’s drumline and their cowboy hosts, 34 SUSD teachers and 13 graduating seniors were honored at the event.  The Charros’ 2022 Outstanding Teachers are:

    Charros Teachers 2022

    The Charros also recognized 11 outstanding seniors from each of SUSD’s five brick-and-mortar high schools and the district’s online high school.  This year’s recipients are:

    Charros Students 2022

    Finally, to help create the next generation of classroom teachers, the Charros grant scholarships to two members of each year’s graduating class.  This year’s Future Teacher Scholarship winners are Desert Mountain’s Molly Patterson, who wants to become an elementary school teacher and is headed to Northern Arizona University in the fall, and Saguaro’s Christopher Yee, who aspires to teach physical education and will find himself at Arizona State University, come August.  Congratulations to Molly and Christopher!  We hope they will consider bringing their teaching talents back to SUSD when the time comes!

    Longtime Laguna Educator in the Running for National Recognition
    The National Science Foundation’s Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching are the highest honors bestowed by the United States government for K-12 science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and computer science teaching.  Up to 108 teachers nationwide are recognized with this award each year.Laguna Elementary School

    Laguna Elementary School’s gifted specialist, Stephanie Shamy, is a finalist for a 2022 Presidential Award, one of two elementary grades’ math teachers chosen to represent Arizona in the competition.  To her Laguna colleagues and the students she has taught over her 28 years with SUSD, this seems like long-overdue recognition.

    Mrs. Shamy puts her all into her teaching:  she has a master’s degree in educational leadership, is National Board-certified in K-8 Literacy, and has state endorsements in Early Childhood, ESL, Reading and Gifted.  She has been a Charros Teacher of the Year and a Horace Mann Award recipient, she was behind efforts to create a makerspace for Laguna students and has been an SUSD leader in arts integration in recent years, working closely with the Scottsdale Center for the Arts and The Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.  When’s school’s out for the year, Mrs. Shamy turns her attentions to running STEM-based summer camps to keep students engaged in learning.  The bottom line is, we’re quite sure Mrs. Shamy is deserving of this prestigious national award!

    New Elective Leads to Saguaro Teacher Honor

    In 2018, the Arizona State Board of Education adopted new Social Science standards that, among other things, required study at the middle school and high school levels of the World War II-era Holocaust in which an estimated six-million lives were lost. 

    At that time, teachers from around the district came together to develop curriculum maps to address the new standards, including the Holocaust education requirement, which is found in 7th grade’s World Wars unit, 8th grade’s Human Rights and Genocides unit, and 9th and 10th grades World History courses.  When the Arizona legislature and Governor Ducey took the additional step to make the curriculum requirements state law last year, SUSD was already well prepared, and, because of the subject matter’s importance, took it a step further.

    Saguaro High SchoolThis school year, a social studies elective for 10th through 12th graders called “Holocaust and Genocide Studies” is being piloted at Saguaro High School by Social Studies Department Lead Ashley Crose.  To prepare for the new assignment, Mr. Crose, one of SUSD’s 82 National Board-certified teachers, sought out professional development opportunities that led him to becoming a United States Holocaust Museum Teaching Fellow. 

    As a result of this undertaking, Mr. Crose has received the Phoenix Holocaust Association’s Shofar Zakhor Award, which recognizes outstanding contributions to the teaching of the Holocaust and genocide awareness.

    We hope to offer the elective at SUSD’s other high schools in the future.

    Introducing … Maricopa County Exemplary Principal Grace Stombres

    Attendees of Cheyenne Traditional’s April 28 “Evening Under the Stars” event had the opportunity to witness something fun: Principal Grace Stombres being surprised by Steve Watson, Maricopa County’s School Superintendent.  Watson was there to deliver an Exemplary Principal Award to Mrs. Stombres, one of just 10 from among Maricopa County’s 1,200 principals.Cheyenne Traditional - Exemplary Principal

    In bestowing the award, Supt. Watson noted the Cheyenne leader’s collaborative nature that has led to the creation of a strong school culture in which teacher, staff, student and parent input is sought, valued and welcomed.  Mrs. Stombres, who observed that she is not usually at a loss for words as she was at that particular moment, described the award as an honor that belongs to the entire Cheyenne Roadrunners community.  Congratulations, Mrs. Stombres!

    More Doctors in the House!

    Congratulations to Hopi (and soon-to-be Tonalea) Principal Tamara Jagodzinski and SUSD Community Education Director Christine Bonow.  Both women successfully defended their dissertations in recent weeks and will receive doctoral degrees in Educational Leadership from Northern Arizona University.

    Dr. Tamara Jagodzinski    Dr. Christine Bonow

    Dr. Jagodzinski looked into the perceptions of administrators, teachers and parents on effective homework practices.  Working from research that has found that homework does not significantly increase achievement among most elementary school students, she examined how teachers can evaluate their practices and restructure traditional expectations to create homework best practices that meet all learners’ needs.

    The goal of Dr. Bonow’s study was to address the gap in research surrounding crisis leadership and explore how principals’ emotional intelligence impacts their ability to manage and lead throughout a long-term crisis.  She found that principals rely on transparent and clear communication, decisive leadership and strong emotional intelligence competencies while leading during a crisis.


    Read more at The SUSD Source

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  • April 2022

    Posted by SUSD Communications on 4/1/2022

    State Testing
    The annual state testing season gets underway in the coming days.  Here is this year’s lineup:Testing

    • Arizona’s Academic Standards Assessment (AASA) in English Language Arts and Math will be given online to students in grades 3-8.
    • Arizona’s Science Assessment (AzSCI) will be given for the first time to students in 5th, 8th and 11th
    • Ninth graders will take the ACT Aspire test this month.
    • A special school-day schedule will be in effect Tuesday, April 5, for all SUSD 11th grade students, who will be taking the ACT test that day. All other high school classes will have an asynchronous day of learning that day. 

    Please be sure to check for messages from your principal regarding your school’s testing schedule. 

    Student TestingAs Supt. Menzel noted in his welcoming message, state tests are just one of the measures considered when looking at students’ complete learning path.  Testing provides teachers and our curriculum experts with a window into what students have learned to date, what deficiencies may exist that require extra supports in the final two months of the school year and what improvements might need to be made for subsequent classes.

    You can help us set up your student to do their best on test days – and all school days –by making sure they get a good night’s rest the night before, eat a healthy breakfast in the morning and arrive at school on time.  Most tests will be taken on district-issued student laptops, so please be sure your student’s device is fully charged and in their backpacks with its charging cord and headset on test days.

    Saguaro High School STEM Accreditation
    Innovation AcademyWe expect to hear any day that Saguaro High School has received its accreditation as a STEM high school.  That certification will come from Cognia, a global, nonprofit organization that guides schools on how to forge a path toward continuous improvement for all learners.  Saguaro began its journey to accreditation nearly two years ago, taking a deep dive into its learning culture, teaching methods, curriculum, challenges and strengths with the goal of growing learners, teachers and leaders.  It was a massive effort that included parents, the SUSD Foundation and the local business community.  With the designation, Saguaro becomes just the third public high school in Arizona that can call itself STEM-certified.  Congratulations, Sabercats!  The STEAM programs at Laguna and Navajo Elementary schools are also in the process of becoming Cognia-certified.

    See Saguaro High School Photo Gallery

    Class Ranks
    Pandemic-postponed discussions about the use of the class rank system for high school graduates resumed last fall, culminating in a SUSD Governing Board decision last month to move to the Latin Honor system of student academic recognition, beginning with this school year’s freshman class (the Class of 2025).

    High School GraduationSUSD’s high school counselors had been concerned for some time that using class ranks is detrimental to our graduates’ college admissions efforts.  Their concerns were confirmed in conversations with top universities nationwide that either don’t consider or don’t ask freshman applicants about their class rank.  Of note is that Arizona’s public universities do not use class rank in either considering admissions or deciding scholarships.

    In recent months, counselors undertook discussions with parents, students, staff and the community about the matter, and when the pros and cons were laid out, a majority were in favor of using the Latin Honor system, rather than class rankings.

    In so doing, SUSD moves to a system that puts student achievement in grade point average bands and gives weight to all classes taken, not just core classes.  We believe that the Latin Honor system will result in making SUSD students even more competitive in the college admissions process.

    To view the presentation counselors made to the Governing Board on March 8, go to time code 2:10:45 of the meeting video.

    Chaparral-hosted State Robotics Tournament
    Arcadia Robotics TeamIt may have been spring break, but you never would have known it if you popped into the gyms at Chaparral High School March 17-19.  There, 35 high school robotics teams from around Arizona, including 3 SUSD teams, California, Utah and even Singapore took part in a national-qualifying, regional FIRST robotics competition.  The action was fast and furious … and fun … as students engaged the robots they’ve built and programmed in recent months in lively contests against each other under this year’s theme of creating sustainable transportation systems for the future.  Like people, robots don’t always perform as intended, so students engaged in on-the-fly, cooperative problem solving to get and keep their machines in working order.

    Our students fared quite well in the event, with Arcadia making it to the competition’s quarterfinals in an alliance with teams from Chandler and Phoenix.  Chaparral also saw quarterfinal competition in an alliance with teams from Chandler and Singapore.  Chaparral was awarded the competition’s “Gracious Professionalism” Award and Saguaro was recognized with its “Judge’s Award.”

    See Robotics Tournament Photo Gallery

    Summer School
    Summer SchoolJust a reminder that registration for high school summer school has begun.  Whether your student wants to get ahead on core classes, reinforce learning, try for a better grade or study an elective that their regular school year schedule can’t accommodate, SUSD offers more than 50 summer school courses, including Honors sections, online and in person.  The sign-up deadline for the Session 1 (May 31-June 16) is May 24; the sign-up deadline for Session 2 (June 16-30) is June 8

    For our younger students, parents of some elementary and middle grades students will receive invitations in the coming weeks for their students to participate in specialized summer programming.  SUSD offers these opportunities to maintain continuity of learning for continued growth, as well as assist in transitions from elementary to middle school and middle to high school.

    Summer Kids Club
    Summer Camp

    SUSD Community Education is in session this summer with creative and engaging activities for children ages 3-14.  Kids Club Summer Camp runs Monday through Friday (with the exception of July 4) from May 31 to July 29 at our Oak campus, located at 7501 E. Oak St., Scottsdale.  Find out more here.

    Garden Learning
    Student GardeningSpring has truly ‘sprung’ in the Valley, and the student-maintained gardens at 19 SUSD schools are flourishing.  Also bearing fruit (and vegetables!) are many science, social studies, math, language arts, art and nutrition lessons, assignments and projects that the gardens help inspire.  Many of these gardens are also supported by parents and parent organizations, so thank you for helping us ‘grow’ your students.

    See the Student Gardening Photo Gallery


    Read more at The SUSD Source

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