Meet Camelback High School, in Phoenix, Arizona, the newest CHSS Demonstration School  

The Center for High School Success is proud to introduce our newest 2023-24 Demonstration School, Camelback High School! CHSS Demonstration Schools are chosen for their sustained improvement, consistently high 9th Grade On-Track Rates, and exemplary implementation of the CHSS Roadmap. Demonstration Schools partner with CHSS to showcase exemplary 9th Grade Success Work for our national network of high schools and to introduce the work to new schools and districts interested in engaging in 9th Grade Success Work. 

Camelback High School is a large, comprehensive high school that is part of Phoenix Union High School District.  They have been engaged partners with CHSS for four years. During that time, they’ve increased their 9th Grade On-Track Rate by 35 percentage points!  We are proud to partner with them in showcasing the inspiring work they’ve done to change outcomes for their students.

CHSS Coach, Keith Smith, shared about his experience working with Camelback saying, “Camelback’s 9th Grade Team is full of passionate and talented educators that are 100% committed to implementing the 9th Grade Success Approach. I know through my observations and student testimony, Camelback High School is changing mindsets.

Meet Camelback High School in Phoenix, Arizona  

Principal James Arndt and Freshman House Coordinator Erika Wimble shared more about Camelback High School.  

Tell us a little about your school community. 

Camelback serves a diverse community of students and works hard to realize the promise of an excellent education for ALL. We are an urban school found in Phoenix, Arizona that serves over 2,200 students who represent over 30 different countries and languages. We believe our strength comes from our differences and that when we work together, we can meet any goal. The rallying cry of our Freshman House is “Stronger Together” and we practice that belief through the routines and strategies we implement in our work. 

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

Freshman House at Camelback began in 2019 with a small pilot of 4 teachers and a shared cohort of students. That fall teachers and administrators attended a CHSS conference and a great partnership started. 2020 not only brought a pandemic and online school to PXU and Camelback, it also brought the official start of a full freshman house and a partnership with CHSS. For the past four years CHSS has been by our side as we have fine-tuned Freshman support at Camelback. 

What are you most proud of? 

Our cohesive and dedicated community within Freshman House is truly remarkable! 

We take pride that we’ve increased our On-Track rate from 67% to 82% since the start of Freshman House. Being honored with the first PXU Freshman Success Award is a testament to the dedication of the Freshman House Team. Another point of pride is that Camelback teachers actively choose to be part of FH, reflecting their belief in our impactful work. Our 95% teacher retention rate is a testament to the commitment and satisfaction of our teaching staff. Once teachers join Freshman House they stay, contributing to our sustained success. 

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

The Freshman House model requires major master schedule changes to build the appropriate structure, to align prep periods, and make sure students stay in the correct teacher cohort. This challenge is only compounded at a campus with 2,200 students. Many campuses of our size are simply unable to overcome this challenge, but we are proud to say that we have had the correct master schedule built since the full founding of our Freshman House. This effort took buy in from staff members across the campus, but people believe in the power of the 9th grade model and made the sacrifices necessary so we could build the right master schedule. 

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

9th Grade Success Work has been transformational at our school, as it has not only laid a foundation for 9th-grade data analysis but also influenced a school-wide shift in using data. This initiative has supported a model dedicated to providing 9th graders with the necessary support for success in high school. Moreover, it has created a lasting foundation that accompanies students through graduation. As articulated by a 10th-grade teacher, “10th-grade students now come to us knowing how to advocate for themselves and know what it takes to succeed,” underscoring the enduring impact of the 9th Grade On-Track Work/9th Grade Success Work on students’ academic journey and self-empowerment. 

How has partnering with CHSS been transformative? 

In the 2019-2020 school year, we embarked on piloting our Freshman House model with a team of four teachers (biology, algebra, English, and health). At the outset, we felt like explorers navigating uncharted territory without a North Star. However, our trajectory shifted significantly when we had the opportunity to attend a CHSS training. This event marked a partnership that catalyzed the subsequent success we have witnessed at our school. 

The pivotal moment occurred during the training when the CHSS Coach not only imparted valuable insights but also instilled in us the values and beliefs essential for building a successful Freshman House. 

Our CHSS Coach has played a crucial role in providing coaching and support, instrumental in ensuring that more students stay on track toward success. 

Without the foundational training and the ongoing coaching support, the success we are currently experiencing would not have been possible.

Anything else you’d like to share? 

Our Freshman House Team is unlike any other! 9th grade teachers, administrations, counselors, truly believe in the work we do. They all choose to be a part of the 9th grade team and their commitment shows in all they do. 

Freshman House also receives love and support from the entire staff at Camelback. From teachers who don’t teach freshmen to our safety staff, tech team, registration team, and administration – our community actively contributes to and vocally supports the work we do. This shared commitment to our students’ success creates a supportive and inclusive atmosphere that sets Camelback’s Freshman House apart. 

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.