Dateland Gets an A

Dateland, AZ | Submitted by Bob Sloncen

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Here’s a little background on our little spot on the Big Blue Marble. Our school district covers about 450 square miles in SW Arizona. Our buses travel over 400 miles a day to pick up our 104 students. We are 70 miles from Yuma and 120 miles from Phoenix. We are the poorest school district in Yuma County with 95% Hispanic. On an average, 60% of our students that arrive in Kindergarten do not speak English. None of the homes in the area have access to the internet and some families have no television. In spite of these issues, Dateland School, after six years of being a performing plus school, became an A school for the first time in its history. In addition, we were a Title I High Performing Reward school. How did this little, poor, remote school climb that mountain?

Knowing these facts, we understand that our curriculum must be different than a school in the Phoenix or Yuma area. Many years ago we made a decision that we are going to treat academics like we treat athletics. Before school begins the staff gets together and discusses each student individually. We talk about their strengths, their weaknesses and what needs to be addressed to get them ready for the BIG GAME – the AIMS test in the spring. Our weekly schedule has the number of days posted on it that remain until the BIG GAME. Our Student Council class representatives act as team captains to ensure their class is ready for the season to begin. We look for student engagement and rigor and then we practice, practice, practice. We then have a practice GAME. Following that game we review how well the team did and then start the practice all over again. The week before the BIG GAME we have a whole school pep rally with our school cheerleaders. We are cheering for an academic victory in the BIG GAME. After the results come back we have a school assembly to recognize student achievement and effort and celebrate our success with special events like a movie trip and a big pizza party.
We also decided that because of our remoteness and lack of internet and TV, all our students need to have experiences like city students do. From Kindergarten to 8th grade we take them on trips – some overnight, to places like the Phoenix Zoo, Sea World, Disneyland, a Diamondback game, Arizona State University, Arizona Western College, the State Capitol, the beach in San Diego and the Tractor Rodeo in Wellton. These travel trips give them an opportunity to experience what a motel, a zoo, a nice restaurant, a college campus, a train ride is. These are real opportunities for them to increase their verbal skills through experiences that are very foreign to them.

We are a little different than most schools but through these experiences, we feel our students receive a little extra to help them succeed in the BIG GAME and the world that lies ahead of them.

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