Arcadia Neighborhood Learning Center seeks new identity, learning model

The Arcadia Neighborhood Learning Center is at 4330 N. 62nd Street. (photo by Scottsdale Unified School District)

The Arcadia Neighborhood Learning Center, one of the Scottsdale Unified School District’s 24 schools, is asking for governing board approval of a name to go along with a model change.

ANLC Principal Kathleen Hughes presented to the Scottsdale Unified School District Governing Board at a Feb. 14 meeting a request to change its name to Echo Canyon K-8. The move comes after the school chooses to abandon its current multi-age teaching style and begin an approach coined “looping.”

Pending board approval, the changes would begin in August of the 2017-18 school year.

Ms. Hughes, who joined the school July 1, said she met with teachers and community members who shared similar concerns.

“I had the opportunity to meet with a lot of teachers and community members and what we recognized that some of what was going on at ANLC was not what was best for kids,” she explained to the governing board.  “We were creating academic gaps for students.”

The ANLC, 4330 N. 62nd Street in Scottsdale, was established in 1990 as a demonstration program for the district. According to the district website, the founding principal and teaching team at ANLC was charged with “being innovative, going outside the boundaries of traditional education and putting into practice the latest educational research on how children learn and effective schools.”

Ms. Hughes says very little has changed within the school since 1990, when this type of program was “very cutting-age.”

“But as it began as a small program and it became a larger school, we started to see some academic gaps,” she said. “As you saw earlier in the year, our test scores are not where we wanted them to be.”

The school began surveying and talking about a model change. There was overwhelming support for the looping model, says Ms. Hughes.

The looping model will begin in kindergarten, so students will have one teacher for kindergarten and first grade; then a new teacher for second and third grade; a new teacher for fourth and fifth grade; and sixth, seventh and eighth grade would operate more similarly to a middle school.

In sixth grade there will be an English and social studies teacher, and a math and science teacher. Seventh and eighth graders will continue to change teachers for all four core classes.

“We really believe our enrollment is going to increase at this point,” Ms. Hughes explained. “When we’ve been doing our tours the fact that we are switching to looping is grabbing much more attention. I’m pretty confident that we’re going to be good at two classes at each grade level to continue the loop, which would actually fill our building.”

The school also wants to show the community their large-scale name with a name change.

“The idea behind the name change is Arcadia Neighborhood Learning Center — learning center is implied in preschools, tutoring programs, alternative programs and that’s not what we are,” Ms. Hughes said. “We’re a school in the Scottsdale Unified School District and we want to be recognized as such.”

The school colors would now be black and purple — dropping the teal — and its mascot will remain the Jaguars.

Community meetings for ANLC parents are slated to be in room 603 on campus at 8:15 a.m. Friday, Feb. 17; and 1:30 p.m. and 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 21.

The board is expected to vote on the name change at an upcoming governing board meeting, but no date has been set at the time of publication.

Govening board approval of the model-change is not needed, Superintendent Dr. Denise Birdwell said at the meeting. According to a document posted to ANLC’s website, the district cabinet supports the move to the looping model for the 2017-18 school year.

“Principal Hughes has done an amazing job of being completely transparent and including the stakeholders,” said Assistant Superintendent Educational Leadership Dr. David McNeil.

“They have a very active think-tank at ANLC, where it’s quite larger than most site-councils, if you will, so there has been communication. It’s posted on her web page, she has sent out letters, teachers are a big advocate.”

Northeast Valley News Services Editor Melissa Fittro can be e-mailed at mfittro@newszap.com or can be followed on Twitter at twitter.com/melissafittro.

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