Schools / Education

Several Valley Schools Named Among Nation's Best

The Phoenix Business Journal reports that fifteen of the Valley’s high schools were recently named among the nation’s best by Newsweek magazine.


Newsweek ranked schools by calculating the number of students per school who take either an Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate and/or Cambridge tests, divided by the total number of students at the school.


It’s an enduring urban legend that metro Phoenix’s school systems stink. Some years ago the state department of education insituted a grading system and now grades schools as "excelling" (the best), "performing", "underperforming" and so on.


Personally, I don't have kids so I can’t comment on the myth and I'm unfamiliar with the criterion used at the state level to determine who's Excelling. I'd bet that if you ask people "Are Arizona's schools sub-par?" you'd get a lot of Yes answers. But if you ask parents "Do you have confidence in YOUR child's school?" you'd also get a lot of Yes's. In other words, people are prone to think "the system" stinks but "my kids' schools are OK."  That's just human nature.


Regardless, it is nice to have a national newsmagazine name a handful of Arizona’s high schools “best”. Arizona schools on the list were:




Want to search for homes for sale in these school districts? Email us and we’ll hook you up.
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Continuing Education Class Falls Short

My local board, the West Maricopa County Board of Realtors, recently began offering continuing education classes online. I need a few more credit-hours before I renew my license, so I was excited to learn about this new format. I took my first online class yesterday.

Since I wasn't sure what the format was going to be, and how long it was going to take, I wanted to take a class on a subject I was already very familiar with. I also thought it would be neat to see what the Board is trying to teach its members in this area. My class was titled "Internet 101". There were positives and negatives about the class:

The Good: The class only took 90 minutes, compared with the typical 4 hours (including travel).

The Bad: Where do I start?

1. This was a class on the internet – a technology which changes at the speed of Moore's Law. But the class was written in 2003!! No mention of the word Blog. And their advice for building a successful website is completely obsolete.

2. Buying a new computer? It better meet these standards:






I just wrote a post a couple of days ago about proper disposal of computers that are about this speed. Maybe instead of spending $10 I could have sold it to another Realtor who just took this class...?

3. In order to obtain my certificate for completion of the class, I need to:

A. Download a form, print it out, and complete it by hand (including the blanks that ask for duplicate information.)


B. Mail or Fax it to the school providing the course.


C. Wait 5-7 business days for my certificate to be faxed back to me.


What? Are you kidding me? For an ONLINE class on a TECHNOLOGY subject?



Geez. It's no wonder why the real estate community at large has a reputation for being technologically behind the times.

Your surprised they accept faxes Realtor,

Chris Butterworth

[tags] online education, continuing education, WeMAR, West Maricopa County Board of Realtors, Fletcher Heights [/tags]

West Valley Population Explodes – my unscientific opinion

Every morning my oldest son & I join thousands of other Phoenicians in the tradition of parents taking their kids to school. However, in our case it's a little more of a journey than it is for most people; we leave our house in the Arrowhead area (Northwest Valley) and travel to ACT School in downtown Phoenix. Last year my son attended Chrysalis Academy in Tempe, but our route through central Phoenix was the same.


Well, now that we're about a month into the school year, one thing has become very clear to me: Traffic is much worse this year! I take the 101 South from Peoria/Glendale (not much traffic) to I-10 eastbound (using the carpool lane). Last year I was able to get onto I-10, and I usually had about a mile or so to merge over into the carpool lane before we hit major traffic. This year the I-10 traffic is backing up onto the 101 offramp! (see my expertly drawn illustrations below!)















Statistics? None. Housing permits? Nope. County Recorder's Office official data? No way. But how can you argue with the change in traffic?


The only thing I can surmise is that there are more people living west of the Loop 101.. An absolute population boom!


- Chris Butterworth

Congratulations To The Best Teacher In Arizona!

I know this has nothing to do with real estae, but it does have something to do with me.  So I thought I might throw it out there for all of you to read.


I would like to say "Congratulations!!!" to my wife, Tiwi (a.k.a. Mrs. Nicks) who is completing her first week as the 4th Grade teacher at North Ranch Elementary School.  For the better part of this last year she's perservered through a condensed Master's of Elementary Education program at ASU West.  This is something that she's had set as a goal for herself for quite some time now and she's finally acheived it.  We had some set-backs along the way, the biggest of which was being classified as a non-resident after we moved back from Idaho a few years back.  That would have cost us about an extra $20,000 in non-resident tuition.  Instead we decided that she wait for a year before starting the program to re-establish our residency in Arizona.  And then just last week she was admitted to the hospital for an emergency surgery to remove her gall bladder.  We weren't sure if she was going to be able to make it to her first couple days of school, but she recovered quickly and with shear determination made it through her first few days, as painful as they were.


So Congratulations Mrs. Nicks, I am very proud of you!!


-Steve

Back to school clothing sale (and buy!)

Want to make a little extra money from all the clothes your kids have outgrown? Want to buy some new clothes for your kids at a fraction of the retail price? This may be the event for you!


There is going to be a HUGE consignment sale at the Peoria Sports Complex on September 11 – 16, with all sorts of back-to-school items available. Clothing, shoes, accessories, toys, books, video games, puzzles, as well as maternity clothes and Halloween costumes. This can be a great way to update some of your kids' stuff, while at the same time getting rid of some of that clutter that isn't played with anymore.


Click here to read more about it from the Peoria Star.



You can volunteer to work at the event (volunteers get first dibs on shopping the items.), or you can sign up to consign items to sell (consigners get second dibs on shopping). Visit www.mykidscloset.com, or call Stacey Johnson at (602) 300-3078 to learn more or to sign up.


- Chris Butterworth

Comparing Valley Schools

School time is almost here for the Valley!  My daughters start next week, which seems so early, compared to the September start dates of my school years - we have a hard time believing that summer vacation is almost over!


If you have just moved, are planning on moving, or want more information on your local schools, you can get school ratings and information at http://www.greatschools.net/.  You can compare schools all over the nation - just put in a zip code or address to compare all schools in that area.  Comparisons can be broken down into academics and student grades, student-teacher ratios, student attendance, and even parent ratings and reviews.  The site also lists private and charter schools as well, if you're looking for an alternative to public schools.

School Safety

With the latest shooting at Virginia Tech, it got me to thinking about how schools have really had to alter their responsibilities, compared to the previous decades that we all went to school.  It's amazing how small-time bullying (from the "good old days") has escalated in recent years into shooting deaths.  I don't know if there's a way to stop this momentum, but I"m hopeful that schools will take a good look at ways to reduce the chances of guns at school, as well as protecting their students if there is such an occurence.


My girls attend a public elementary school in Chandler.  For the last 7 years, they've been in a very small Montessori School, which really gave us no reason for worrying about their safety.  However, now that they are in the public forum of schools, I've discovered that their school actually does have some good procedures in place if there is a concern for the children's safety.  If someone on the school campus begins wreaking havoc, an alarm across the whole school goes out, so that every room and every teacher can hear it.  The teachers then lock the doors and cover all the windows with black-outs, so that no-one can see in.  The children are not allowed out until a second signal notifies them that it's safe to leave their classrooms.


When my girls first told me of this set-up, it struck a note of fear in my heart, for I had never before considered that they would need to practice for such an event.  However, once that subsided, I realized that bringing the possibility to the attention of the children and running drills with them on what to do, is the best policy the school can have.  Keeping them in the dark (innocent as we all want to keep our children!), is not the way to ensure their safety.


I am hopeful that all schools in the Valley have similar procedures in place.  Check with your children's school and ask them what they are doing to ensure your children are as safe as possible should the unimaginable event happen to take place here.

Challenger Space Center Still Owes PUSD

A couple of years ago the Challenger Space Center ran into financial difficulties and was not able to keep up with their obligations. The center is located on the Sunrise Mountain High School campus. My understanding was that they changed management and restructured some of their payment terms.


Now it appears that they're still having difficulties. Here's an article from last week's AZCentral.com explaining this in more detail.


I know one part of the solution; they need to get more people through the door! I hate to say it, but I haven't been there yet. I love that kind of stuff (History Channel, Discovery Channel, the Planet Earth shows, etc.), and I have two kids - I should be an ideal candidate! Maybe it's their marketing (or lack thereof). Maybe they need to partner with the local schools. Maybe they need to take some lessons from the Arizona Science Center!


I would love to see this become more popular. It would be great for our area, the school district, and our kids. I think this summer I'll buck the trend, and make it a point to visit the Challenger Space Center. I'll let you know more about it after I go…


- Chris Butterworth

Challenger Space Center Still Owes PUSD

A couple of years ago the Challenger Space Center ran into financial difficulties and was not able to keep up with their obligations. The center is located on the Sunrise Mountain High School campus in Peoria. My understanding was that they changed management and restructured some of their payment terms.


Now it appears that they're still having difficulties. Here's an article from last week's AZCentral.com explaining this in more detail.


I know one part of the solution; they need to get more people through the door! I hate to say it, but I haven't been there yet. I love that kind of stuff (History Channel, Discovery Channel, the Planet Earth shows, etc.), and I have two kids - I should be an ideal candidate! Maybe it's their marketing (or lack thereof). Maybe they need to partner with the local schools. Maybe they need to take some lessons from the Arizona Science Center!


I would love to see this become more popular. It would be great for our area, the PUSD school district, and our kids. I think this summer I'll buck the trend, and make it a point to visit the Challenger Space Center. I'll let you know more about it after I go…



- Chris Butterworth

Chandler and "Dangerous Schools"

The Chandler Unified School District is voting this week on a proposal to notify and allow parents of students who attend "dangerous schools" to transfer out.  They consider a "dangerous school" to be one in which four or more firearms are found in a year, or four gun-related incidents have occurred.  If passed, parents of children in these schools will be notified and allowed to switch their children to another school.


Now, I agree with the idea of allowing parents to opt out of sending their child to a potentially dangerous school.  It doesn't seem fair to keep kids in a school based solely on their geographic location and school boundaries.  I most certainly would not want to knowingly send my daughters to a school that has a history of violence (although being the conscientious parent I am, I would have done thorough research on the school before sending my children there anyway).  However, it seems a bit like solving the symptom and not the original problem.  If a school is labeled as dangerous and parents are notified, what happens when a good majority of the kids (many of them being the "dangerous" ones who brought firearms to school) are transferred to other schools.  Won't that just shift the problem of gun-toting to a school that may have in the past not had any firearm issues?  Those kids are still going to be bringing guns to school, no matter which one they attend.


Or you could allow the non-gun-toting kids to transfer out but not the gun-carrying ones.  That would leave you with a small-attended school filled with only the kids who enjoy bringing guns to school and flashing them around, or even worse, shooting them off.  Now, who is going to want to teach at this school?  I certainly wouldn't put my life in that kind of danger for the joy of teaching!


I agree with the motive of the Chandler School District to provide a safer learning environment for all children, however, I think that focusing on solving the societal issue of kids and guns might be a more productive place to start.  Yes, it is a big issue but you can only treat the symptoms for so long and eventually you have to address the original issue in order to change it.

PUSD Special Needs Prom

Kudos to Beth Tozzi. And kudos to the Peoria Unified School District for listening to her. Beth is a special education teacher who wanted to give her students a chance to participate in one of our greatest high school rituals: Prom. (Here's an article from AZCentral.com).


The more time I spend dealing with the people from PUSD, the more impressed I am with them. The teachers we've met, and maybe even more importantly, the administrators, have shown a very real desire to help our oldest son, Collin, reach his full potential.


Good job, PUSD. And good job, Beth. Keep it up!



- Chris Butterworth

Back to School in February???

If you are the parent of an 8th grader, then you know exactly what I am talking about. For 8th graders in the Dysart Unified School District, it's time to pick elective courses for that freshman year of high school.


I attended the parent meeting this past week at Willow Canyon H.S. located in the city of Surprise, and for the most part I enjoyed the presentation held in the auditorium (minus the giddy girls who couldn't decide whether to stay in their front-row seats, or converse in the lobby). Overall, the presentation was well-prepared and well-presented.


I did find it quite interesting that the students may decide for themselves which level of difficulty per course they wish to take. When I was about to enter high school - 20 years ago - I remember having to obtain teacher recommendations for any classes that were considered "accelerated." I do understand that many students have untapped potential, and possibly by choosing their own course of study, they may finally have the opportunity to prove what they are capable of when given the chance. But my next question would be: What is the reasoning behind "placement testing?" which also took place last week for 8th graders. I'm not against placement testing, I just wonder if this is another "test" taking up valuable teaching time.


Anyway, back to the original question at hand... choosing courses. In many districts, simply attending classes at the high school down the street is a thing of the past. More and more, districts are choosing to offer "specialized" courses/programs at one or more of their high schools. For example, in the Dysart U.S.D., the "Signature Programs" offered are: Architectural Design, Automotive Technology, Early Childhood Education, Financial Services, Information Technology, JROTC, and Medical Occupations at Dysart High; Allied Health, Culinary Arts, Law & Public Safety, and Fire science at Valley Vista High; and Allied Health, International Baccalaureate, & Small Business Management at Willow Canyon High. The purpose of signature programs is to give students a step-up into the path of the chosen career/program. For many students this provides a first-hand awareness of the program without the risk of a wasted college career/elective. I wish I had had the opportunity to try various classes to help me decide my career path.


While I believe that the decision of school officials to provide these signature programs is admirable, I wonder how they decide which school will provide which programs. As a former teacher, I realize the desire to equalize opportunities for all students, and the efforts made to equalize the ethnic population at all schools. I applaud the district's efforts, and hope that more parents will be open to allowing their child to attend whichever school provides the program in which the student is most interested.


I believe the Dysart U.S.D. has gone the extra mile in offering these programs by also providing transportation from the student's home school for students attending a different school's signature program. For example, my son is in the Willow Canyon attendance boundaries, but if he chooses a signature program offered at Valley Vista or Dysart, then he will go to Willow Canyon first & be given bus transportation to Valley Vista or Dysart...whichever has the program he chooses. This should not be confused with open-enrollment... If a student chooses to attend one of the other district schools because all of his/her friends attend there, but does not choose to participate in one of their signature programs, then transportation is not provided.


February 8th, 2007 is the deadline to turn in the paperwork for incoming freshmen in the Dysart U.S.D. If you have not seen the 07-08 Course Selection Guide yet, I would encourage you to request one at the elementary school where your child attends, or click here to view one online.


For those of you who reside in a different school district, call your local District Office to find out what programs are offered at the various high schools. If your district does not offer special programs at this point, don't remain idle. Get involved and find out when they will offer them, or what they are offering in place of them. If you still aren't satisfied, research the surrounding districts and find one that provides the education for your child. You must remain involved in your child's education. If you are planning to fund your son/daughter's college - even partially - you don't want to pay for classes they don't need, especially when they might have been able to try it out for free in high school.


If you have just moved to the valley or are preparing to and you are starting your search for a home on the internet, you might want to check out the websites of the school districts in the valley. Bear in mind, this list includes the websites for all Arizona school districts with websites. Any one of us in the Butterworth Group will be happy to help you find a new home within the attendance area of a great school! And don't forget, the value of your home can be affected by the school and/or district it happens to feed into.


I hope you have found this information helpful! If you have any questions, comments, or concerns, I'd love to hear from you!

Small Private Tempe School Goes Synthetic

It's hard to imagine a school without a grassy play area for the kids. But the grass comes with a price... Green, winter rye grass tends to always be wet. Dormant bermuda grass gets dust and "hay" everywhere. Rain, though infrequent in our city, makes mud. Springtime brings new bermuda growth, and lots of allergies!


AZCentral.com ran a story today about Chrysalis Academy, a small private school in Tempe specializing in teaching children with autism, who recently replaced their natural grass with a lush, green synthetic lawn. The most common feedback from the children, teachers, and parents alike has been "I love it!"


Kudos to Chrysalis Academy for being proactive. And Kudos to those whose generous donations made it possible.


Read the AZCentral.com article here.


In the spirit of full disclosure, I know the folks at Chrysalis Academy and have nothing but good words to say and admiration for what they do.



-Chris