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Sequoia Pathway Academy

Among Maricopa high schoolers graduating this week are Nina Sarappo of Sequoia Pathway, Nancy Saldana of Maricopa High School, Britney Garcia-Coyolt of SPA and Nathan Wallin of MHS. Photo by Victor Moreno

The Class of 2019 at Maricopa High School and Sequoia Pathway Academy is filled with many goal-oriented, career-minded individuals. Learn about just a few of them as they prepare for graduation. 

Jonathan Aguilar. Photo by Victor Moreno

Jonathan Aguilar
An MHS senior, Aguilar has been a student-athlete and taken college-level classes to prepare for his next step. “My high school career has gone by so fast, and I have accomplished a lot.”
Years in Maricopa: 8
Originally from: Downey, California
Career goal: Civil engineering
Self-made advantage: I have taken dual-enrollment classes the past couple of years.
Work/internship/volunteerism: I work at The Duke golf course and I volunteer with Link Crew at Maricopa High School.
High school achievement: My greatest achievement would be having good grades throughout high school and playing varsity sports (golf and baseball).
After graduation: I plan on attending Arizona State’s Ira A. Fulton’s Engineering School and study civil engineering and minor in finance.

Chandler Chang. Photo by Victor Moreno

Chandler Chang
The MHS valedictorian has been out front leading the band and taking tough classes to set himself up for a full-ride scholarship. “It’s an ongoing sense of fulfillment, every moment of every day. I have a whole community supporting me and encouraging me to succeed and excel. It’s like the entire student body and staff is with me in my highest moments, and even my lowest moments. I have made a name for myself and have built a legacy that will endure. I couldn’t ask for anything more.”
Years in Maricopa: 14
Originally from: Elk Grove Village, Illinois
Career goal: Mathematics/chemical engineering
Work/internships/volunteerism: Drum major of MHS marching band, Junior States of America, National Honor Society, part-time employee at McDonald’s
Self-made advantage: I have received the Flinn Scholarship, which provides me with a four-year, full-ride scholarship to ASU as well as professional connections and mentorship. At MHS, I have taken the most rigorous mathematics and science courses available, earning college credit through AP courses.
High school achievement: Becoming a student role model for MHS
After graduation: I plan to attend ASU to major in mathematics and chemical engineering and explore various research opportunities and internships. While I will always be on the academic grind, I also want to take time to have fun, socialize and enjoy my youth while I still have it.

Brian Forkum Jr. Photo by Victor Moreno

Brian Forkum Jr.
A member of National Honor Society at MHS, Forkum has already been involved academically with Northern Arizona University while staying in touch with his roots.
Years in Maricopa: 12
Originally from: Born in Mesa, but I grew up here. I call this place home.
Career goal: Become tenured professor in history and philosophy
Self-made advantage: I attended college at NAU for three summers through the Nizhoni (Navajo for “Beautiful”) Academy. I also interact with teachers and try to understand how they chose their careers and why.
Work/internship/volunteerism: I was an intern for Dr. Cindy Browder at NAU. I volunteer a lot in Maricopa, especially as an NHS member.
High school achievement: Personal growth, from a quiet freshman to a comfortable and self-assured senior.
After graduation: Continue studying, explore the world, meet new people and help others when I can.

Britney Garcia-Coyolt. Photo by Victor Moreno

Britney Garcia-Coyolt
Valedictorian of the Sequoia Pathway Class of 2019, Britney has had a very busy high school experience including earning certification in Medical Office Management. “I remember completing my exam and anxiously waiting for my results to come in and as soon as I saw my results I was completely ecstatic and so proud because all the hard work that had paid off.”
Years in Maricopa: 17
Originally from: Maricopa
Career goal: Interventional radiologist
Work/internships/volunteerism: Two Internships at Sun Life Family Health Center
Self-made advantage: I currently attend Central Arizona Valley Institute of Technology and I am in the Medical Assistant Program. CAVIT was a stepping stone to be able to get into the medical field and to be able to expand my knowledge. Thanks to that I have been able to complete two internships at the Sun Life Family Health Center here in Maricopa and I completely loved it. I am also currently dual-enrolled with CAC so that I can get ahead on some of my basic classes.
High school achievement: Personally, receiving my Medical Office Management Certification was the greatest accomplishment that I received during high school that I worked really hard for.
After graduation: I hope to be able to continue my education at ASU.

Alexis Jackson. Photo by Victor Moreno

Alexis Jackson
The salutatorian of the MHS graduates, Alexis has taken advantage of opportunities for medical training while staying involved in campus politics. “I am extremely blessed and thankful for the support from my friends and family who helped me obtain these achievements, I am eager to see what my career path and future hold.”
Years in Maricopa: 16
Originally from: Mesa, Arizona
Career goal: Nurse practitioner
Self-made advantage: While taking steps towards reaching my end goal of becoming a nurse practitioner, Maricopa High School has provided me with a Sports Medicine program and Athletic Training internship where I have gained insight into the medical field.
Work/internships/volunteerism: National Honor Society member, Student Body president, Student Council experience for nine years, athletic training internship, microbiologist (water quality) intern, ALA Girls’ State attendee, civil engineering job shadow
High school achievement: Earning the Wildcat Excellence scholarship that has paid all my tuition costs at the University of Arizona, as well as getting involved in my community through Student Council.
After graduation: I intend to major in nursing at the University of Arizona.

Brianna N. McVey. Photo by Victor Moreno

Brianna N. McVey
A relative newbie at MHS, Bree has interned with Maricopa Police Department to prepare for her chosen field and was also sent to Girls State. “I was proud to know that I was given such an amazing opportunity.”
Years in Maricopa: 2.5
Originally from: Born in California but lived in Peoria, Arizona.
Career goal: Work for the FBI or be a detective
Self-made advantage: Interning at Maricopa Police Department
Work/internships/volunteerism: I have worked with CopaCloset at MHS and local food banks, I am a captain in the JROTC program, a link leader and an MPD high school intern.
High school achievement: One of my biggest accomplishments is going to Girls State last summer.
After graduation: I am attending University of Arizona to study criminology.

Connor Paine. Photo by Victor Moreno

Connor Paine
With a goal of being a doctor, Connor is also an MHS student-athlete who wrestled his senior year and made it to state. “I was ecstatic because I had worked so hard for months to make it there and I had finally met that goal.”
Years in Maricopa: 7
Originally from: Champaign, Illinois
Career goal: Pediatrician
Self-made advantage: I have begun studying anatomy and physiology to gain a basic understanding of the human body before attending the University of Arizona, majoring in pre-physiology.
Work/internships/volunteerism: Two years at Barro’s Pizza as a cook and two years of volunteering through NHS for various community events
High school achievement: My greatest accomplishment in high school is qualifying for the AIA Division 2 State Wrestling Tournament my senior year.
After graduation: Attending the University of Arizona and majoring in pre-physiology. After college, I plan to attend medical school and become a pediatrician.

Nina Sarappo. Photo by Victor Moreno

Nina Sarappo
Sequoia Pathway’s salutatorian, Nina ingratiated herself with people working in political fields and took dual-enrollment classes starting as a freshman. “My reaction to finding out that I am salutatorian was rewarding myself by eating a whole box of Strawberry Pop-tarts.”
Years in Maricopa: 9
Originally from: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Career goal: Politics
Work/internships/volunteerism: I was treasurer for National Honor Society in 11th grade and our small group organized several volunteer and community-oriented activities. As a senior, I participated in the City of Maricopa internship program which granted me experience in local government.
Self-made advantage: Reading about political philosophy and history helped me shape my own beliefs about what needs to be changed in American government. Although certain ideas are subject to change or evolve, they certainly fuel my own passion to take a political career seriously. Throughout high school, I developed excellent connections with individuals involved in political predictions and reporting.
High school achievement: My greatest accomplishment in high school is graduating second in my class. I have been a dual-enrollment student with Central Arizona College since ninth grade, taking college classes along with high school curriculum and during the summers. Responsibilities and problems outside of the classroom did not hinder my dedication to education and schoolwork. Also, I was low-carb for three months: That was impressive.
After graduation: I will be attending Barrett, the Honors College at Arizona State University as a philosophy (morality, politics and law) major. I am eager to learn about the subjects that interest me at a higher level and refine my critical thinking and argumentative skills to prepare me for my career aspirations as a politician. Outside of school, I want to travel to Europe, specifically Albania, to reconnect with my heritage.

Nancy Saldana. Photo by Victor Moreno

Nancy Denise Saldana
Chairing the Youth Council, she pushed herself to be involved in school activities and the community at large. “It became my greatest accomplishment because ever since then every opportunity to be involved to serve, to show school spirit I took it and through that I gained close relationships with the community, staff and gained amazing friendships. It really gave me a reason to smile at school everyday.”
Years In Maricopa: I’ve lived in Maricopa for 7 years and love it
Originally from: Baja California, Mexico
Career Goal: My goal is to be happy in what I do everyday. I love being involved and talking to people so that’s why I’ve chosen to further my education in mass communications.
Work/internships/volunteerism: I’ve been a member of the Maricopa Youth City Council and Currently work as a respite and habilitation provider.
High school achievement: This last year I just made the decision to make it the best year it can be.
Self-made advantage: I’ve taken every opportunity around school or the city to use skills I would need in my future career such as promoting events, reaching out to others and have found local internships.
After Graduation: Straight out of high school I plan to serve a mission for the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, then attend a university to further my career in mass communications and media.

Kimberly Vega-Sanchez. Photo by Victor Moreno

Kimberly Vega-Sanchez
A member of the National Honor Society at MHS, Kimberly has turned her hard work in the classroom into scholarships. “It makes me proud to think that I’ve managed to work a busy schedule, get schoolwork done and volunteer in my free time while keeping my grades up.”
Years in Maricopa: 12 years
From: California
Career goal: Corporate lawyer
Work/internships/volunteerism: I’ve worked at Panda Express this past year and volunteer with the school’s National Honor Society.
High school achievement: Apart from the scholarships and awards, I would have to say my greatest accomplishment in high school has been having the ability to balance it all throughout these four years and seeing how my hard work has paid off.
After graduation: I’ll be attending ASU this fall to study at the W.P. Carey School of business. This will provide me the opportunity to receive internships, expand my connections, and learn the versatile fundamentals of business and legal expertise to help gain the knowledge needed to become a corporate lawyer.

Nathan Wallin. Photo by Victor Moreno

Nathan Wallin
As president of Junior State of America at MHS, Nathan became organizer and leader for community events, including political forums, for which he was awarded by the vice mayor. “I was so surprised to see myself up there with such amazing young leaders from our community but felt very gratified to be seen as a good member to our community and was able to tell people how thankful I was to be here and to listen to their stories and passions.”
Years in Maricopa: 8
Originally from: Spokane, Washington
Career goal: Traveling nurse
Work/internships/volunteering: I work at Copper Sky as a lifeguard and swim instructor.
Self-made advantage: I’ve done very good in high school in order to receive the top 10-percent scholarship for CAC, giving two free years of college, which is just enough to get me into nursing school.
High school achievement: Being one of the recipients of the first MLK Youth Dreamer Award presented to me by Henry Wade.
After graduation: I plan on expanding my knowledge of the world by meeting and talking to as many people as I can while attending CAC in the fall to purse a degree in nursing.

The MHS graduation ceremony is scheduled for May 23 at 7:30 p.m. at Ram Stadium. Valedictorian is Chandler Chang, and salutatorian is Alexis Jackson. The SPA ceremony is May 22 at 7 p.m. in its gymnasium. Valedictorian is Britney Garcia-Coyolt, and salutatorian is Nina Sarappo.


This article appears in the May issue of InMaricopa.

Photos by Victor Moreno

High school varsity spring sports are under way. Maricopa High School introduces a new sport in beach volleyball while other sports hope to get back into state contention.

Sequoia Pathway Baseball
CAA Division II Region II
March 2 v. WSST 5 p.m.
March 6 at HA-Laveen 4 p.m.
March 9 v. El Dorado 4 p.m.
March 21 v. South Pointe 4 p.m.
March 26 at ASU Prep Poly 5 p.m.
March 27 at HA-Mesa 4:15 p.m.
April 3 at EVAC 4 p.m.
April 5 at Imagine Prep Coolidge 4:30 p.m.
April 7 v. ALA-Ironwood 11 a.m.
April 9 v. Imagine Prep Coolidge 4:30 p.m.
April 11 v. Canyon State 4 p.m.

Sequoia Pathway Softball
CAA Division II Region I
March 1 v. ALA-Gilbert 4 p.m.
March 7 at Imagine Prep Surprise 4 p.m.
March 9 v. Imagine Prep Coolidge 4 p.m.
April 2 at Tri-City College Prep 4 p.m.
April 4 v. ALA-Ironwood 4 p.m.
April 5 at ALA-Gilbert 4 p.m.
April 10 v. Mission Heights 4 p.m.
April 12 at HA-Laveen 4 p.m.
April 17 v. South Ridge 4 p.m.
April 19 at Paradise Valley Christian 4 p.m.

Maricopa High School Baseball
AIA Division 5A Section Metro (remaining schedule)
March 1 v. Sierra Linda 3:45 p.m.
March 2 v. Desert Edge 3:45 p.m.
March 5 v. Glendale 3:45 p.m.
March 7 v. Ironwood 4 p.m.
March 10-13 Bob Everett Spring Break Classic at Highland HS
March 21 at Vista Grande 6 p.m.
March 22 at Mesquite 4 p.m.
March 26 at Kellis 3:45 p.m.
March 27 v. Kellis 3:45 p.m.
March 29 at Casa Grande 4 p.m.
April 3 at Sunnyslope 4 p.m.
April 5 v. Verrado 3:45 p.m.
April 6 v. Sunnyslope 3:45 p.m.
April 10 v. Apollo 3:45 p.m.
April 11 v. Ironwood 6:30 p.m.
April 12 at Apollo 4 p.m.
April 17 at McClintock 4 p.m.
April 19 v. McClintock (Senior Night) 3:45 p.m.
April 20 at Williams Field 3:45 p.m.

Maricopa High School Softball
AIA Division 5A Section Metro (remaining schedule)
March 1 at Sierra Linda 4 p.m.
March 2 at Desert Edge6 p.m.
March 5 at Glendale 4 p.m.
March 6 v. Vista Grande 3:45 p.m.
March 8 v. Williams Field 3:45 p.m.
March 19 v. Mesquite 3:45 p.m.
March 27 at Kellis 4 p.m.
March 29 v. Casa Grande 3:45 p.m.
March 30 v. Kellis 3:45 p.m.
April 3 v. Sunnyslope 3:45 p.m.
April 5 at Verrado 4 p.m.
April 6 at Sunnyslope 4 p.m.
April 10 at Apollo 4 p.m.
April 11 at Ironwood 4 p.m.
April 12 v. Apollo 3:45 p.m.
April 17 v. McClintock (Senior Night) 3:45 p.m.
April 19 at McClintock 4 p.m.

Maricopa High School Track & Field
AIA Division II
March 7 at Chaparral 4 p.m.
March 10 at Desert Tune-Up (Mountain View Marana) 8 a.m.
March 21 at McClintock 3 p.m.
March 22 at Schuster Jones Under-Class Showcase 12 p.m.
March 28 at Maricopa Twilight 3:30 p.m.
April 13 at Hohokam Invitational 9:30 a.m.

Maricopa High School Boys’ Tennis
AIA Division I Section I (remaining schedule)
March 2 v. Casa Grande 3:30 p.m.
March 8 at Higley 3:30 p.m.
March 22 at Williams Field 3:30 p.m.
March 27 v. Cibola 3:30 p.m.
March 28 v. Tolleson Union 3:30 p.m.
March 29 at San Luis 3:30 p.m.
April 3 at Millennium 3:30 p.m.
April 4 at La Joya Community 3:30 p.m.
April 10 v. Westview 3:30 p.m.
April 12 at Kofa 3:30 p.m.

Maricopa High School Girls’ Tennis
AIA Division I Section I (remaining schedule)
March 1 v. Casteel 3:30 p.m.
March 5 at Casa Grande 3:30 p.m.
March 8 v. Higley 3:30 p.m.
March 27 at Cibola 3 p.m.
March 28 at Tolleson Union 3:30 p.m.
March 29 v. San Luis 3:30 p.m.
April 3 v. Millennium 3:30 p.m.
April 4 v. La Joya Community 3:30 p.m.
April 10 at Westview 3:30 p.m.
April 12 v. Kofa 3:30 p.m.
April 16 v. Williams Field 3:30 p.m.

Maricopa High School Beach Volleyball
AIA Division I Section IV (remaining schedule)
March 5 v. Casteel at Copper Sky 4 p.m.
March 26 v. Millennium at Copper Sky 4 p.m.
March 28 at Willow Canyon at Victory Lane Complex 4 p.m.
April 2 at Shadow Ridge at Victory Lane Complex 4 p.m.
April 4 at Perry at Seville Golf & Country Club 6:30 p.m.
April 9 v. Verrado at Copper Sky 4 p.m.
April 11 v. Dysart at Copper Sky 4 p.m.
April 13 v. Hamilton at Copper Sky (Senior Night) 4 p.m.
April 16 at Mesquite High School 4 p.m.

 

 

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Submitted photo

Saturday, Sequoia Pathway’s wrestling team competed in the Canyon Athletic Association 2018 Wrestling State Championships. The team finished third behind ALA-Gilbert and Harvest Prep of Yuma.

The Pumas’ five state champions:
Joshua Husick 23-0 (120 pounds)
Igor Husick 35-1 (126 pounds)
Kawehialani Kalulu 15-9 (girls 126 pounds), beat last year’s champion.
Anthony Rohde 38-2 (138 pounds)
Jackson Lee 32-0 (220 pounds)
George Husick Coach of the Year

Lucio Dominguez was second at 285 pounds. Will Senne (132 pounds) and A.J. Anderson (120 pounds) both placed third. Patrick Lisby placed fourth at 106 pounds.

 

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This season’s team captains for Sequoia Pathway football are (from left) Shawn Yuhas, Trey Anderson, Arthur Silva and Travion Bolds. Photo by Williams Lange

Sequoia Pathway Academy’s football team is stepping up in a big way.

The Pumas, perennial favorites in the Canyon Athletic Association, have moved from eight-man football to 11-man football. It represents challenges and opportunities, third-year head coach Demond Williams said.

While the athletes have already drawn the notice of Division II and III college football programs, Williams said going to 11-man ball will help SPA compete for players in a football town. The Pumas will also be facing schools with a bigger enrollment, like CAA Division III champion American Leadership Academy in Ironwood, which was 10-0 last year.

SPA was 9-1 in Division II in 2015, and a narrow loss in the title game has turned into the training mantra, “Three Minutes the Hard Way.”

The Pumas were undefeated and top-ranked going into the division championship game against Heritage Academy-Mesa. The Heroes went ahead by 6 points late in the game, and the Pumas’ offense could not come back in time.

Williams said being so close to a state championship has fired up the team for the new season. During both winter conditioning and spring ball, he said, the Pumas have worked with a purpose.

“We are super excited,” he said.

The Pumas continue to be a “great defensive group” that needed only to add three more positions to its line. They also have the confidence of two seasons of success.

The Pumas at practice. Photo by Dean Crandall
The Pumas at practice. Photo by Dean Crandall

“We have to make sure they’re not really complacent,” Williams said. He said the focus is on doing things right on the field and even more importantly in the classroom.

Last season, 20 players came out for the football team. This year, that grew to 32.

Among returning players are the Pumas’ four team captains. Senior quarterback Arthur Silva has been with the program since it started in 2014. Senior defensive back Trey Anderson is also the leading receiver. Senior Shawn Yuhas is a 6-foot-5 leader on the offensive line. Senior Travion Bolds led the team rushing with 1,172 yards.

Also back is senior Bryce Thurman, who led the team in sacks last year with 15.

Williams also praised the freshmen and sophomores coming up to combine with the returning players who have compiled impressive statistics over the program’s two seasons.

“This was the year to go to 11-man,” the coach said.

The Pumas won their first game in Division III by defeating Canyon State 42-36. Silva threw for 161 yards, and Bolds ran the ball 22 times for 206 yards and four touchdowns. Anderson had nine receptions for 156 yards and three touchdowns. Anderson also had seven total tackles to lead the defense. Devin Nickelson had a sack.

Friday, Sequoia Pathway plays Heritage Academy-Laveen, which also won its season opener.

The Pumas practice at school but host home games at Pacana Park. Photo by Dean Crandall
The Pumas practice at school but host home games at Pacana Park. Photo by Dean Crandall

Sequoia Pathway Varsity Football Schedule
Aug. 19     away     Canyon State Academy        W 42-36
Aug. 26     away    Heritage-Laveen                     7 p.m.
Sept. 2      away    Harvest Prep                            7 p.m.
Sept. 16    home    ALA-Ironwood                       7 p.m.

Sept. 23   away     AZ Compass                            7 p.m.
Oct. 6        away    Sequoia Charter School        7 p.m.

Oct. 14     home    Harvest Prep                          7 p.m.
Oct. 21     home    Heritage-Laveen                   7 p.m.
Oct. 28     away    ALA-Ironwood                         7 p.m.

Nov 4       PLAYOFFS- TBA


This story appeared in part in the September issue of InMaricopa.

Sequoia Pathway performed its Spring Concert Thursday in four groups: Advanced Band, Junior High/Senior High Choir, Guitar (w/violin) and Guitar Ensemble. They were led by Kristin Rasmussen.

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It was College Day at Sequoia Pathway Academy in Maricopa. Photo by Adam Wolfe

The Nelson C. Lathan Counseling Center presented a college fair at Sequoia Pathways Academy to help local students see how many options they have for a post-high school education.

The event brought in four-year universities such as Arizona State University and Grand Canyon University, as well as two-year schools such as Central Arizona College, military entities, cosmetology schools and trade schools.

“We’re really trying to get the students aware of all the opportunities they have available to them while they’re in high school,” NCLCC counselor Chris Lathan said. “We really wanted to give the students every opportunity to see all of the different type of schools they can do to advance themselves in their career.”

The event was presented by the NCLCC to promote the organization’s “Roads to Scholars” program.

“The basis of all of our programs is to make sure the youth have the knowledge in order to get into college and be successful once they get in there.”

The Nelson C. Lathan Counseling Center is a nonprofit organization based in Maricopa. To find out more information about upcoming events or programs, visit www.nelsonclathancounseling.com.

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By Yvonne Gonzalez

The first test results under AzMERIT, the assessment that replaced AIMS (Arizona’s Instrument to Measure Standards), have some districts and public charter schools in Maricopa looking for ways to improve come spring.

Leading Edge Academy Principal Mat Reese said with the test approved late in 2014, schools didn’t have much information on it until January. Students were taking the test three months later.

“We’ll just keep on working as hard as we possibly can and go from there,” he said. “This has been a really tough thing for everybody. We just need to keep pushing.”

The new test is intended to be taken online. Maricopa Unified School District Superintendent Steve Chestnut said unlike last year when the district didn’t have enough computers to equip all the test-takers, all nine MUSD schools will give the spring assessments online thanks to additional laptop carts and wireless laptops and an enhanced network.

Results were mixed across all schools. Legacy Traditional School outscored the state average in every grade while MUSD’s junior highs and high school test-takers struggled.

At the 55-student Holsteiner Agricultural School, founder and director Tanya Graysmark wrote in an email that students taking the math test were exhausted after the test and frustrated with the on-and-off-again WiFi.

She said the math was presented differently.

“We have reviewed the data and will work with students on mastering the skills they are struggling with,” she said.

The test is intended to be comparable to the National Assessment of Educational Progress. On NAEP and AzMERIT, “proficient” is the second-top scoring category students can achieve.

“There were a lot of variables, so hopefully we’re going to be smarter and wiser the next go around,” Reese said.

MUSD's overall student performance on the AzMERIT. See below for grade-by-grade scores: Red=Minimally Proficient; Pink=Partially Proficient; Blue=Proficient; Green=Highly Proficient.
MUSD’s overall student performance on the AzMERIT. See below for grade-by-grade scores: Red=Minimally Proficient; Pink=Partially Proficient; Blue=Proficient; Green=Highly Proficient.

Maricopa Unified School District

The district’s superintendent says the scores on the new test were disappointing.

“We had hoped to do better,” Chestnut said.

He said there were bright spots in the data.

“We were very pleased with the results from third and fourth grade math,” he said, noting they were above the state average and “pretty good for a first time out.”

In English language arts, more of MUSD’s fourth graders scored in the proficient category or above compared to NAEP results.

By eighth grade, a disparity appears that is even below a state-level comparison. Compared to the rest of the state, fewer of the district’s 10th and 11th graders were proficient or highly proficient in English language arts.

“College readiness adds a new wrinkle to that,” Chestnut said of the higher levels of the assessment.

“One test doesn’t tell you everything you need to know about a kid’s college readiness,” he said.

Chestnut said data is still being reviewed from the new assessment and, “There’s a lot of work to do there.”

“We’re just beginning to get a plan on how we’re going to move forward on this,” he said. “We aren’t where we want to be and we think our kids can do better, and that’s what we’re working on.”

Due to the shorter length of the test, intended to limit the amount of time students spend on assessments, AzMERIT data does not break down results into the same types of strand data that AIMS did.

“Another problem is that we don’t get as much detailed information as we did on AIMS,” Chestnut said.

Interpreting the data is a step toward improving classroom instruction. Some districts find this difficult without the in-depth data.

According to the Arizona Department of Education, a score of proficient or better “indicates that a student is prepared for the next grade or course without requiring additional support. It is a far higher expectation than the previous AIMS expectation.”

Fourth grade math testing results were roughly in line with NAEP, but, again, a disparity appears by eighth grade that also exists compared to state results. In the highest-level math, Algebra II, 17 percent of Maricopa students scored in the proficient or highly proficient categories compared to 30 percent statewide.

One percent of MUSD’s geometry students tested as highly proficient, a category that 2 percent each of the district’s Algebra I and II students qualified for.

“Parents, particularly high school parents, understand there are a variety of things you have to look at to see if their kid is college ready,” he said.

Sequoia Pathway's AzMERIT results: Red=Minimally Proficient; Pink=Partially Proficient; Blue=Proficient; Green=Highly Proficient.
Sequoia Pathway’s AzMERIT results: Red=Minimally Proficient; Pink=Partially Proficient; Blue=Proficient; Green=Highly Proficient.

Sequoia Pathway Academy

In English language arts, more of the Sequoia Pathway Academy’s third graders were in the highly proficient category than their statewide counterparts. They also fared better on AzMERIT’s math portion.

Fourth-grade math students scored roughly in line with their peers who took the state and national assessments. Slightly more language arts test-takers in fourth grade earned passing scores, 45 percent versus 42 percent statewide. On NAEP’s English language arts test, 35 percent of fourth graders scored in the proficient category or better.

Sequoia’s eighth graders, however, lagged behind their peers at the state and national level with 77 percent failing the AzMERIT language arts section. Statewide, 62 percent did not pass, and on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, 69 percent scored in the basic category or below.

More than half of Sequoia’s 11th graders were minimally proficient, roughly in line with statewide results.

In eighth grade, however, 86 percent of Sequoia students did not pass the math portion of AzMERIT and 88 percent of algebra II test-takers fell below proficient. None of the school’s students scored highly proficient on either test level.

Algebra I students also struggled, with 21 percent earning passing scores compared to 32 percent at the state level.

School officials could not be reached for comment.

Leading Edge Academy's AzMERIT results: Red=Minimally Proficient; Pink=Partially Proficient; Blue=Proficient; Green=Highly Proficient.
Leading Edge Academy’s AzMERIT results: Red=Minimally Proficient; Pink=Partially Proficient; Blue=Proficient; Green=Highly Proficient.

Leading Edge Academy

At the K-8 public charter school Leading Edge Academy, 82 percent of its third graders passed AzMERIT’s math assessment, double the state’s 41 percent.

Reese said the strong scores on AzMERIT came a year after 94 percent of the school’s third graders “exceeded” in the old assessment’s category.

Reese said interventions are in place to help students improve on areas of weakness.

More fourth graders (55 percent) passed the test compared to the statewide average (42 percent). Nationally, 39 percent of fourth graders scored proficient or better in math.

He said “things get more complicated” as the grade levels advance. Fewer of the school’s sixth graders passed the test compared to statewide numbers.

No Leading Edge eighth graders scored “highly proficient” in math, and only 15 percent passed the test, far below the statewide and national averages of 34 and 32, respectively.

The school had 75 percent of test-takers qualify as minimally proficient.

Reese said last year over two dozen students transferred from other schools into the eighth grade, setting up students at varying starting points for the academic year.

There were 8 percent more students passing the language arts assessment compared to statewide data.

Sixth graders’ scores were more in line with the rest of the state, and more students taking the seventh grade assessment passed compared to their statewide peers.

Scores lag among the school’s fifth-grade test-takers, where 81 percent did not pass. In the rest of the state, 67 percent scored below proficient.

The eighth-grade assessment showed the biggest gap, with 85 percent of Leading Edge Academy’s students not passing, compared to 65 percent statewide and 69 percent nationally.

The principal said it’s not ideal to evaluate everything that’s going on in a classroom based on what he called a “one-shot test.”

“It is raw scores, and it doesn’t tell the rest of the story,” Reese said.

Legacy's AzMERIT results: Red=Minimally Proficient; Pink=Partially Proficient; Blue=Proficient; Green=Highly Proficient.
Legacy’s AzMERIT results: Red=Minimally Proficient; Pink=Partially Proficient; Blue=Proficient; Green=Highly Proficient.

Legacy Traditional School

Test takers at the K-10 Legacy Traditional School outscored their statewide peers in every grade level on both the math and English language arts portions of AzMERIT. They also outstripped NAEP scores for fourth and fifth graders.

Fifty-seven percent passed the English language arts portion compared to 35 percent statewide. Sixty percent of third graders and sixth graders scored “proficient” or higher.

In math, third, fourth and fifth grades did particularly well compared to their peers. More than 50 percent in each grade scored at least proficient.

With the state averaging 24 percent proficient in third-grade math, 46 percent of Legacy’s third graders were proficient. Another 17 percent were highly proficient.

There is more room for improvement in Algebra I. Sixty percent of the Legacy students taking that portion of AzMERIT failed to achieve proficiency. Statewide, 68 percent did not pass.

A school official could not be reached for comment.

Holsteiner Ag School's AzMERIT results: Red=Minimally Proficient; Pink=Partially Proficient; Blue=Proficient; Green=Highly Proficient.
Holsteiner Ag School’s AzMERIT results: Red=Minimally Proficient; Pink=Partially Proficient; Blue=Proficient; Green=Highly Proficient.

Holsteiner Agricultural School

In math, 27 percent of the school’s students passed AzMERIT compared to 35 percent statewide.

“This was our first year taking the AzMERIT as well as taking the test in an online format,” Graysmark, the school’s owner, wrote in an email. “The students were on a learning curve for both.”

She said AzMERIT data is interpreted the same by small and big schools like.

“We work with each student on their individual score and create an action plan based on their strengths and weaknesses,” she said.

More than 40 percent of Holsteiner students who took the English language arts assessment passed it, better than the state’s 35 percent.

“We have great teachers here,” Graysmark said. “Working hard every day before school, after school, working with parents, etc. A lot of work goes into daily instruction and preparation.”

“As a school we will continue to support our students learning to the best of our ability and try our best to help them fit their (sometimes) square peg into a round hole.”

Graysmark said there weren’t enough fourth, fifth or sixth grade students for scores to be reported.

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All Maricopa schools had bright spots on the AzMERIT and areas needing improvement.

“These are the highest standards we’ve ever held our kids accountable to,” Chestnut said. “There’s a lot more higher-level thinking that has to be demonstrated on both the English language arts and math assessments … those are good things we want kids to learn.”

Chestnut said students who take AzMERIT may not all be college ready, but those who take ACT tests to submit to colleges do pretty well.

This story appeared in the January issue of InMaricopa News.

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What were the memorable stories from 2015 among Maricopa youth?

In the upcoming year, the Maricopa Unified School District will move up to the 5A Conference for athletics, there will be two votes to help solve the district’s funding issues and hundreds of seniors will graduate and take the next step in their lives.

However, before Maricopa’s youth move into the future, it’s time to reflect on the year that was.

These are the top “Youth” stories from 2015:

10. AzMERIT

The Arizona Department of Education debuted a new state testing system for the 2014-15 school year. The test was seen as an improvement on previous state testing, but the criterion was also expected to be much more rigorous.

That proved out in the scores, where MUSD was disappointed in the outcome and even Legacy Traditional School, which outstripped the state and national averages, had room for improvement.

9. MHS Cross Country Qualifies for the State Meet

The Maricopa High School Cross Country team qualified both the boys’ and girls’ cross country teams for the Arizona Interscholastic Association Division II State Cross Country Meet. This was the first time since 2011 any Maricopa team had qualified.

“These kids have put in everything this season,” assistant coach Alec Fillmore said. “From workouts to easy runs to longs runs, every one of them has put their heart and soul into this season.”

8. MHS has Largest Graduating Class in School History

The 346 seniors who received their diplomas in May were part of the largest graduating class in MHS history. The group also earned over $2 million in scholarships to college, and had 20 members earn a place in the National Honor Society.

7. MHS Receives Bomb Threat

On Sept. 23, MHS received an anonymous call threatening to “blow this thing up.” From there, the school was evacuated and police searched the school for any contraband. The threat was determined to lack any “substance,” but the saga left its mark on the community.

The story was picked up by local, state and national news services.

6. VEX Robotics Competition Debuts at MHS

For the first time in school history, Maricopa High School hosted a VEX VRC Robotics competition on Dec. 12. Twenty teams from around the state arrived at MHS to compete in the “Nothing but net” state qualifying event. Teams had spent the previous three months developing robots specifically meant to accurately shoot a ball into a net. The competition’s winners were able to earn a spot in the state competition at the end of the year.

According to MHS librarian Robin Shoup, the school hopes to hold middle school and elementary school state qualifying competitions next year.

5. Sequoia Pathways Dominates CAA Athletics

It was a banner year for the Pumas of Sequoia Pathways Academy. First, the girls’ basketball team won the 2015 Canyon Athletic Association Division II State Championship, and then the football made a run to the championship game for the second straight year.

The football team went 9-1 in the regular season before the championship game. The Pumas lost 28-22 to Heritage Academy in Mesa in the finals, but head coach Demond Williams was named Coach of the Year.

4. MHS 60th Anniversary

The 2015 Homecoming festivities honored the past and present as current students and alumni came together to celebrate the last 60 years of Maricopa High School. Homecoming week featured community celebrations ranging from an alumni football game to a “Student vs. Teacher” mud run at Copper Sky Regional Park.

The week culminated in the “Ram Fest 2015,” and the festivities were covered by local and state media sources.

3. Sequoia Pathways Administration Turmoil

On Sept. 29, parents and community members were angry and confused when students were out of classes at Sequoia Pathways in the middle of the day. News spread fast across campus that two popular administrators, Nate Lamma and Diane Silvia, had resigned. A replacement principal was on campus only a day. Students staged a protest, and parents demanded answers from the academy’s remaining administration. To resolve the issue, EdKey Inc. Assistant Superintendent Tamara Becker took over the role of interim principal for the school.

Lamma and Silvia were re-hired, a new interim superintendent was announced, and EdKey’s board re-evaluated its personnel policies.

2. Nate Ford

The Maricopa community was shocked and heartbroken when high school senior Nate Ford passed away in a car accident in late August. Ford was on the MHS football and baseball teams and was also involved in many aspects of the community. His death became a rallying cry for seatbelt awareness from the Maricopa Police Department, a source of motivation for his football team, and inspired the creation of the “Mothers of Everyday Heroes” organization as part of the Rocking 4D Foundation.

“The outreach has been incredible,” Nate’s father Doug Ford said. “He touched a lot of lives in a lot of places. It’s been great to see.”

1. MHS Girls’ Basketball Win State Championship

Despite losing just five games all season, the MHS girls’ basketball team entered the Arizona Interscholastic Association Division II State Tournament as only the 12 seed. The Rams went on a “Cinderella” run through the playoffs and captured the school’s first girls’ basketball title in school history.

The team was honored throughout the city and across the state, and first year head coach Kati Burrows was awarded “Coach of the Year” awards. The accolades earned Burrows a job as assistant coach for her alma mater Montana State University. MHS girls’ basketball assistant coach Melvin Mitchell took over the head coach position for the 2015-16 season, and the team has begun their title defense under his tutelage.

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Ray Carroll. Photo by William Lange

After a 10-win season, Sequoia Pathway finished second in the Canyon Athletic Association’s Division II football championship.

The top-ranked Pumas lost the title game Saturday to No. 2-ranked Heritage Academy–Mesa, 28-22, at Valley Christian High School.

Pathway trailed from the start but was able to tie up the game early in the second quarter on a 5-yard rush by Travion Bolds followed by a two-point conversion by Jon Samuels.

Heritage, however, took the 14-8 lead into halftime.

Pathway’s Ray Carroll ran 60 yards for touchdown early in the third quarter to tie the score again. In the final minute of the quarter, Heritage scored on a 12-yard pass to go ahead again, 22-14.

Again, midway through the fourth, Carroll rushed for a touchdown and Bolds scored the two-point conversion to knot things up again. Heritage, however, scored with five minutes to go, and the Pumas could not answer.

For the game, Bolds rushed for 122 yards on 15 carries, and Carroll ran seven times for 99 yards. Quarterback Arthur Silva was 3-for-12 passing for 39 yards.

Sherman Chavaria led the defense with eight tackles and three assists. Trey Anderson had six tackles and one assist, and Bryce Thurman had five tackles and four assists.