Tucson schools, especially on the south side, are making history as schools across the nation are now sharing their methods on how to make a difference in student performance.

These schools credit their partnership with Higher Ground, a nonprofit that has helped build community by providing support to students, teachers and families. The impact is shown in the school letter grades below.

SCHOOL YEAR GRADE YEAR GRADE Utterback Middle School 2018 F 2022 B Lawrence 3-8 School 2022 F 2023 C Safford K-8 School 2022 F 2023 B Doolen Middle School 2022 D 2023 C

From May 29 through May 31, Tucson education and business leaders shared how the Higher Ground community school model has helped provide a stable foundation for students who might need extra support.

One of our families needed help with repairing their roof. That’s not something I could’ve done. So Higher Ground was able to come back with a new roof and give that family the help that they needed, said Lawrence 3-8 School Principal Zulema Stanbrook.

That’s just one of many examples presented at the 2024 Institute for Educational Leadership National Community School and Family Engagement Conference.

This is the first time Tucson schools were invited to present at the conference. The invitation to present was a big deal to the education leaders in attendance.

“We’ve hit on something unique and special here in Tucson. The fact that they are willing to listen to us, as new practitioners to this area, is pretty exciting,” said Stephanie Anderson, CCO of Higher Ground.

Arizona has historically ranked low in education, and currently sits at 44 out of 50 states according to U.S. News & World Report.

We are not looking to blow up the education system. What we’re doing is coming alongside to support, not only the students, but the families, the teachers, the leadership teams. We’re here to show that there’s a little different way of doing things…and if we can just shift our efforts and priorities, we can end up with 100% of our students ending up college and career-ready in the state of Arizona, Anderson said.

With more college and career-ready students, there’s more potential for the future workforce of Tucson. Tucson Metro Chamber C.E.O. Michael Guymon said that is why the chamber supports the nonprofit.

We’ve seen these schools that are under the community school model go from a B to a D, from a C to an A. We have seen great progress in these schools, and we need to make sure we have a skilled and talented workforce in this region so that companies can hire within our community, said Guymon.

Now that these education and business leaders have returned from the conference, it’s time to take what they learned to prepare for the upcoming school year.