My son is in his second year at Sky Islands and I have to say that it was the best decision we ever made. He was in the largest school district in Tucson and unfortunately spent his entire year in front of a computer for a math teacher. It was a complete failure. Teachers in other subjects were never the same ones because they were either incompetent or simply walked away from such a disastrous district , and who blames them. We looked for a new school for him with a lower student to teacher ratio, teachers who had been rooted to the school for many years, teachers passionate about their career, and a school administration dedicated to teenagers and their education. We found it in one school at Sky Islands. The first time I walked in the school we were greeted by the director herself she gave us a tour and explained what the school was all about. the curriculum, the school goal for their students etc. On our second visit we met with the rest of the administration team and we were explained how the school handled discipline, bullying, disturbances by students if they occurred, what was expected of my child as a participant of the school community. It was music to our ears. We finally found a gem of a school and we were ready to have our child be part of this wonderful community. Well I can honestly say that it has been a lot more than that. All of his teachers are very involved in his academic success as well as his success as a productive young adult. All of the teachers and member of the administration know each child by name, their academic strength and weaknesses, and are very attentive to their social needs as well. My son biggest challenge was math. At Sky Islands not just his math teacher but the entire team came together and implemented strategies to help him from tutoring after school everyday to building teams and relationships among students to help him build strength and be very successful in the subject. I know that the old school district would not have done a fraction of what sky islands and its staff has done for him. My hope is that parents looking for a high school for their child will find Sky Islands and will be as enthusiastic as we were to give the school a try and be prepare to be amazed. Our son will graduate next year and will be prepare to enter the real world with the strong foundations he received at the school.
Our child has been at Sky Islands for only half a year, so we can't speak from ample experience, but based on what we've seen so far, and on what we've seen at other high schools, we can say Sky Islands is a great school.
The teachers and staff are well-qualified and very committed. They are close to the students, and the teachers coordinate the content and workload so that the students get a holistic, challenging education that never becomes too stressful. In fact, my child's favorite class is also his hardest.
The format is also great. Of course, being a small school with small classes helps a lot -- no one can "sit in the back of the classroom" -- but we also like the block format. Three classes on Monday and Thursday, and the other three classes on Tuesday and Friday. Each class is 90 min with a 15 min break in between. This is much better for learning than literally running through the same seven-period schedule every day. On Wednesdays they attend a mixed-grade community-building class that does all kinds of things. And students can stay after school for half hour on any day to use school resources or meet with teachers.
Sky Islands isn't for everyone, but for many/most kids it's much better than the typical public high school, and for some kids it's much, much better. The contrast with most public high schools is amazing. You really need to visit another high school, then visit Sky Islands to know what I mean.
My son is now in his second and final year at this school as a senior. The one thing that stands out right away with this curriculum is that they don't just stick to the standard requirements, but go far beyond those. Life skills come to mind immediately. This is one of the strengths of this school. Real life issues, styles and knowledge. Not only do students get the required education, but also actual experience that can be documented on a resume for their future. Practical knowledge and such experience is priceless for any young person's future. This school delivers!
The school's director has developed a very unique learning situation with this school. Her many years of experience in the field of having experienced the bad, the good and ugly have now been molded to bring out the best in students and staff. Her entire model of not only teaching the basic requirements, but real life has proven over and over again to a very powerful and successful model. I fully support the concept in all respects as I have seen the best results in my own son.
When teachers respect the students, the inverse happens. These students all have a mutual respect not only towards each other, but also towards the staff. This is a key component to success. These teachers, or actually the entire staff put major emphasis on this simple concept.
In many cases the students have enough time to get all the work done during the school hours due to the way the class schedule is designed. As this school has many diverse programs, it makes sense to not drive the students crazy with overload as many schools do. From my observations while watching my son, I see that basically he is always in school mode. We could be doing anything and at one point he will make reference to something they learned in school. This is absolutely brilliant!
I have seen it in my son. He actually cares about the school, its surroundings and fellow class mates. Just this morning he told me that he would be late for pickup as he will be helping other students with some after school projects. (His words, not mine)
First off, they allow students to become adults and don't "baby" them. The entire attitude drives to create a responsible community. I experienced a far more mature group of students in this school than ever before. The camaraderie amongst the students helps develop a sincere understanding of today's society IMHO. The last time I visited this school, I was actually greeted by students in a most friendly and adult like manner and most of all respect. This is not what one typically finds at high schools.