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Central Union High School

Central Union High School A School in the Central Union High School District

Why Central Union Was Selected

To identify a pool of high-performing schools, we examined student and school performance data from 2003-2007. Generally, we selected schools to highlight based on the following criteria:

  •  High poverty: 50% of Central Union students are eligible to receive free or reduced-price lunch.
  • Substantially higher performance than predicted: As indicated by a similar schools rank of 9, Central Union students are performing above the levels of their peers in similar schools.
  •  Meeting or exceeding subgroup performance standards: Central Union students in all subgroups are meeting or exceeding Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) goals.
  •  Sustained performance over time: Central Union has never been identified for program improvement under No Child Left Behind and has met all AYP requirements. Furthermore, Central Union has met all Academic Performance Index (API) targets across all subgroups.
  • No selectivity in admissions: Central Union serves neighborhood students within its attendance zone.

Recognition of Central Union's Success

Central Union was selected a California Distinguished School in 2007. Its school jazz band is ranked in the top 20 in the U.S. The school’s Academic Decathlon team has been county champions for 29 consecutive years.

Factors in Central Union's Success

A main contributor to Central Union’s success is its emphasis on improving instructional practice through a system and culture that incorporates routine formal and informal classroom observations, analysis of instructional techniques, and feedback on teacher practices.

Central Union’s district has a monitoring plan that includes a component called “Data in a Day.” For “Data in a Day,” the principal, assistant principals, academic coaches, and department chairs visit and observe classrooms in pairs for 20 minutes each throughout the day. These visits occur four times a year, and the observation teams include not only school administrators but also a rotating set of teachers and some district personnel. The teams observe and code various facets of a teacher’s classroom instruction through the use of an observation protocol. These areas include classroom environment, instructional practices and techniques related to standards, teacher and student interactions, levels of student thinking, and assessment of student learning. Observers debrief afterwards to ensure the reliability of their observations and to provide feedback to teachers.

The “Data in a Day” strategy is one important part of an overall system that encourages improvement in instructional practice through critical examination and accountability. The principal and other administrators, for example, do three-minute walk-throughs to every classroom in the school at least once a week to gain a larger picture of classroom instruction. The superintendent and assistant superintendent sometimes join these walk-throughs and provide feedback to the administrators, which in turn helps the administrators guide teacher instruction. Also, academic coaches informally observe and assist teachers throughout the year, and teachers are themselves encouraged to observe other teachers. All of these activities have fostered an atmosphere where teachers are open to improving their skills and techniques in the classroom through both informal collegial feedback and formalized observation and analysis.

How Central Union's District Provides Support

  • Collaboration between district and school: The District Improvement Team meets every other month and the District Leadership Team meets monthly to ensure that school staff are all participating in the same types of staff development and interventions. In addition, a Site Leadership Team meets weekly to discuss site-specific issues and to provide further communication with the district.
  • Flexibility in the use of funds: The district allows Central Union to exercise flexibility in its funding allocation created through the school site plan. All of the teachers have input into the site plan, and every teacher is asked what he or she needs. As a result of this flexibility, Central Union has purchased technological tools such as LCD projectors.
  • Districtwide monitoring plan for accountability: Central Union High School District provides a systemic, coherent accountability plan for all schools that includes the “Data in a Day” as described previously.

Quick School Facts

  • Enrollment: 1,836
  • Average class size: 28
  • Grades: 9-12
  • Location:El Centro
  • County:Imperial

Source: California Basic Educational Data System (CBEDS) and Academic Performance Index (API), 2006-07.

Quick Student Facts

  • Free/reduced-price lunch: 50%
  • Minority: 93%
  • English Learners: 34%
  • Percent Special Education: 5%

Source: CBEDS and Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) Program, 2006-07.

School Rankings

  2003-04 2004-05 2005-06 2006-07
Similar Schools Ranking 10 9 9 9
Statewide Ranking 5 5 5 5

Source: API, 2003-04 through 2006-07.

2006-2007 API

Schoolwide and Subgroup Targets and Scores


Source: API, 2006-07.