Meet Poudre High School, a CHSS Demonstration School  

The Center for High School Success is proud to announce our 2023-24 Demonstration Schools. CHSS Demonstration Schools are chosen for their sustained improvement, consistently high 9th Grade On-Track Rates, and exemplary implementation of the CHSS Roadmap. Additionally, Demonstration Schools receive the recommendation from a CHSS 9th Grade Success Coach.   

Demonstration Schools partner with CHSS to showcase the exemplary 9th Grade Success Work to support deep learning for the current national network of high schools and to recruit new schools and districts to engage in 9th Grade Success Work. 

Meet Poudre High School in Fort Collins, Colorado  

Across the three-year partnership with CHSS, Poudre High School, a large, diverse high school just north of Denver, increased 9th Grade On-Track Rates by 13%. 

CHSS Southwest Regional Director Judith Martinez shared about experience working with Poudre saying, “The Poudre team is transforming the high school experience by developing year-long transition supports for ninth graders. I’m most proud of the integration of ninth grade success approaches into the school’s pathway model.” 

Poudre High School has been recognized by the Colorado Department of Education (CDE) and Colorado Governor, Jared Polis, for their transformational work in developing multiple pathways to meet the needs of all students. Poudre was one of the first schools to receive a CDE Ninth Grade Success Grant 

Colorado news outlet recently featured Poudre’s work around changing how kids adjust going back to school

Principal, Kathy Mackay, shared more about Poudre High School.  

Tell us a little about your school community. 

Poudre High School draws students primarily from three middle school feeder sites in the northern part of the District’s boundaries. Each of these schools is uniquely diverse in the types of students served—from mountainous and rural areas, from farms and ranches, from small towns, from bedroom communities to the larger Fort Collins area, from the very lowest income mobile home parks, and from the most expensive homes in old town Fort Collins. At PHS, we have six pathways that students opt into during their transition from 8th to 9th grade– Agriculture and the Environment, Arts and Humanities, Engineering and Design, Entrepreneurship, Health Science and Human Services, or the International Baccalaureate program. All pathways include opportunities to earn college credit and industry certifications. At PHS, we live by the philosophy of Ubuntu, translated as “I am who I am because of who we are.” We are Poudre High School. 

Tell us a little about your school’s history with 9th Grade Success Work?   

We began our journey with full-school pathway development in 2016, and embedded 9th Grade Success Work in 2018. Our pathway structure was perfect to support the 9th Grade Success Work. Our MTSS Coordinator serves as the Student Success Team Leader, and our Counselors oversee each pathway and facilitate the conversations among pathway teams of teachers. This model has been the best model for increasing teacher collective efficacy and truly integrating multi-tiered systems of support. We monitor student progress bi-weekly and intervene early and often. We’ve seen an increase in our on-time graduation rate over the last five years, and we know that this work has been incredibly influential in these gains. 

What are you most proud of? 

I’m proud that we’re using systems of support, rather than attempting random interventions here and there that may or may not be effective. I’m also proud that our staff believe in the work, it has created more collaboration to support students, and it has increased their individual and collective teacher efficacy. 

What has been an obstacle you’ve been able to overcome? 

Time is always the obstacle. There’s never enough of it. We’ve been able to “overcome” this obstacle by embedding the work within our weekly late start schedule and by using virtual meetings to be more efficient with time. 

Finish this sentence. “9th Grade On-Track Work/9th Grade Success Work has been transformational at our school…” 

Period. The Roadmap provides a true roadmap to implementing the structures and practices needed to do the work. The structure creates a teaming model that increases teacher collective efficacy. The data shows us that it’s the right work. We’re keeping students on-track and it’s resulting in better student outcomes, including increases in our on-time graduation rates. 

How has partnering with CHSS been transformative? 

CHSS has been the best support I’ve received as a principal in my ten-year career. The Roadmap, coaching, collaborations, data analysis and training have been invaluable to my growth and the growth of our teams. 

Anything else you’d like to share? 

At the Arts& Humanities “Kid Talk” student, RB, was brought up by the Social Studies teacher as a student she was concerned about. RB had great attendance but was failing classes because of an apparent refusal to complete or turn in work. As the teachers discussed RB, they noticed that it wasn’t as if he didn’t want to do the work, or was distracted, or didn’t understand. He was pleasant, stayed off of his phone, and was attentive to the work! He just wouldn’t do it. It was determined in the Kid Talk that RB is extremely gifted and only wanted to produce perfect quality work. He would rather not do anything than have it not be perfect. His teachers would beg him to just put down something, even if it wasn’t perfect, in order to earn some points. RB’s science teacher suggested introducing him to a High Dosage Teacher who was working with another student in her class. Once the connection was made, RB started finding success. The tutor helped give him the confidence he needed to get the work done. He had the knowledge but lacked the executive functioning skills to actually ‘do’ the work. The match was so effective that RB requested to continue working with his tutor in his second semester classes and he passed them all! 

This year, CHSS is partnering with our Demonstration Schools to host Learning Labs, which are designed to be an immersive experience wherein participants have an in-depth learning opportunity to see best practices and strategies from our CHSS Roadmap in action at a Demonstration School. These visits are a great opportunity for high school educators and district leadership to learn about 9th Grade Success work through seeing it in action. Both current CHSS network partners and prospective partners are welcome!  View the dates and register to attend here.