There is no holding back the new year for Tomales High School, with our full staff set to return to work on Friday and school to resume on Tuesday morning. A few years ago, our staff set out to review our vision statement in an effort to refocus our work to ensure that we were student-centered in everything we did. We solicited input from our kids, their families and our community about the qualities they wanted to see in a Tomales graduate.
With this input, as well as our own research, we began to rebuild our program to develop students who are critical thinkers and problem solvers, who have a relevant understanding of the world they inherit and who have the communication and analytical skills to be successful in that world. We increased our writing instruction in all subject areas, began to develop interdisciplinary projects designed around real-world issues, and looked at how to incorporate more career-related experience into our programs. This is the work that energizes our return this fall.
And we are already seeing successes. Our 2016 graduates are moving on to a diverse range of four-year universities at higher percentages than the classes before them. The balance of these students are preparing to enter two-year colleges and trade schools with a clear picture of their next steps. Their hard work and academic achievement earned them over $300,000 in scholarships and financial aid to support continued education, largely due to the generosity our community.
Our focus on writing has generated an increased number of students performing at or above grade level in language arts on standardized tests such as the new Smarter Balanced assessment and their college placement exams. Teachers are increasingly developing curriculum that is project-based and interdisciplinary, giving students opportunities to research, analyze and present their findings in a professional manner. In fact, at least half of our staff spent time this summer in a variety of workshops focused on this very aspect of their curriculum.
Opportunities at Tomales High for internships in the community, in a wide range of career fields, continue to increase. More students are venturing out to take college classes concurrently with their high school program. These experiences have proven to give students a head start in the world of college and careers, and we are proud to integrate them into our school culture.
This year, we will continue to grow. Our work will focus on how we can best support student learning through these opportunities, and how we can effectively measure success. We will also celebrate our community and the invaluable learning that happens outside the classroom, on the sports field, in our club and spirit activities and during family events. As a school, we will energize behind a Tomales High beautification movement, which will build on the work done so far by our leadership class and our school site council representative Cindy Skavdal to spruce up our grounds and facilities.
For me, it has been a rich summer full of rejuvenating experiences with my friends and family. As Friday rolls around, however, I am ready to bring everyone back together to re-focus again on our students. Come join us, if you can, for a game, a performance or even a weekend workday. There are great things happening at Tomales High School.
Adam Jennings is entering his fifth year as principal at Tomales High School, and his 16th year as an educator in California.