Camelback High School Change Evaluation
Social Venture Partners Arizona (SVP) engaged with the Phoenix Union High School District (PUHSD) and Dr. Chad Gestson during his tenure as Principal at Camelback High School (CBHS) from 2009 to 2014. The intent was to have positive impacts on the students who attended CBHS and change the educational approach at large urban high schools in Phoenix and beyond. SVP wanted to support this by finding the leverage points that will most effectively turn dollars of support from a community partner into lasting social impact.
CBHS was, in many ways, a failing school. It had undergone nearly constant changes in leadership for more than a decade, with no principal staying more than two years. It was disconnected from the community, with its campus closed and locked at 3:00 p.m. every day. Students were fearful, disengaged from the educational process, and had a low opinion of their school. Many faculty and staff members had an antagonistic relationship with their students, didn’t see students as having potential for success, and were not promoting a culture of excellence.
Research designed and conducted by Flanagan-Hyde Associates, with Peter Flanagan-Hyde as the lead consultant, demonstrated that interventions at CBHS, supported by the partnership with SVP Arizona, resulted in substantive and sustainable changes among students, staff, and the greater Camelback community.
- Qualitative research with key SVP and CBHS stakeholders articulated with the benefit of hindsight and the literature on school change, the theory of action that directed the CBHS interventions.
- Quantitative research compared CBHS with the nine other comparable PUHSD schools that serve the general population with enrollments in the range of 2,000-3,000 students. Quantitative metrics on school culture, achievement, and success were used to determine if the changes at CBHS over the time period 2009-2014 were similar to or better than the other PUHSD schools.
The qualitative research identified five principles of school change that supported the strong performance at CBHS. These principles formed the basis for developing the specific strategies and timeframes to guide the implementation of school change policies. At CBHS, these strategies included: build structures (right away); engage students at school (very soon); success is mandatory (intermediate time); engage students with their future (ongoing development); and promote excellence (ongoing development).
Analysis of quantitative data showed the following changes at CBHS, which were then compared to the nine other schools: decreased discipline problems; decreased dropout rate (statistically significantly better); increased daily attendance (statistically significantly better); increased enrollment; increased standardized test scores (statistically significantly better); increased college attendance; and increased college scholarships awarded.