Keys To Success

Four Keys to College and Career Readiness

Schools need a common language around curriculum and instruction that allows administrators and teachers to effectively communicate with each other as well as with parents and students.   Students can often be overwhelmed by the different ways teachers and counselors talk about learning, and as a result, feel a sense of disconnect between their classes.   David Conley, an educational researcher and theorist at Oregon University, developed an overarching curricular, instructional, and school design model called the Four Keys to College and Career readiness.  Conley’s system provides a common language for administrators, teachers, parents, and students to talk about learning in a way that encompasses all academic disciplines as well as student beliefs and behaviors that will lead them to be “college and career ready.”  Conley’s decade of research is a guiding theory behind Valley International Preparatory High School, providing an overarching framework not just to curricular and instructional design, but school design as a whole.


Conley’s framework is divided into four sections:


  1. Key Cognitive Strategies – “Think” – the key cognitive strategies include problem formulation, research, interpretation, communication, and precision/accuracy.
  2. Key Content Knowledge – “Know” – which includes the structure of knowledge, challenge level, value, attribution, and effort.
  3. Key Learning Skills and Techniques – “Act” – which includes ownership of learning and learning techniques
  4. Key Transition Knowledge and Skills – “Go” – which include awareness of post-secondary options and cost, career awareness, role and identity, and self-advocacy.

Extensive College Counseling

Public high school guidance counselors in California (oftentimes assigned the title “school counselors”) nearly always carry huge caseloads (the counselor to student ratio in California is 945:1), thus may struggle to provide high-quality college counseling.  First of all, their time is largely taken up with meeting the myriad demands of delivering much-needed academic and socio-emotional counseling to their adolescent charges.   In fact, A 2005 study by the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) reported that the average public high school student got about 38 minutes of college advising per year from their guidance counselor, and a 2009 study by the National Center for Education Statistics said the average public school had 457 students per counselor.


Perhaps an even greater problem that exists is that school/guidance counselors receive little-to-no formal training within the college counseling realm when completing their coursework for the purposes of obtaining the Pupil Personnel Services (“PPS”) credential.  A 2012 report from Harvard University states “Although graduate course work varies by state … specific course work in higher education or college counseling is rarely required, if even offered.” Less than 10 percent of counselor graduate programs currently offer specific course work in college counseling, as identified by the National Association for College Admission Counseling, and the number of new programs adding such a course in the last year is less than a dozen.


Conversely, VIP’s goal is to optimally prepare and support each one of its students for higher-education choice, completion, and success…no matter what socio-economic, cultural, socio/emotional and/or learning challenges may exist.


The program VIP is instituting has guided hundreds of students from virtually all walks of life in achieving optimal college fit that has been individually tailored to each one’s needs and goals — which is precisely where we believe all of public secondary education needs to go in terms of facilitating its graduates’ brightest-possible futures. The task is a deep and multi-faceted one that certainly includes and reaches far beyond the offering of Advanced Placement (“AP”) classes, group-centered information sessions and college admissions test preparation.  It requires caring and nurturing the whole child via listening, reacting, guiding, applying specialized college-concerned knowledge, and we are fully prepared and able to meet such a challenge. As a small group of educators who have worked together in the past, our roster of previous success stories includes college placements at a wide and diverse array of carefully chosen institutions throughout the U.S., ranging from public and private universities to small liberal arts colleges, specialty schools (arts; science, technology, engineering, and math (“STEM”); trades), Ivy League (and equivalent) selections, historically black colleges and universities (“HBCU”), single-gender choices, and pre-professionally-oriented programs and institutions.


These include institutions like Yale, Dartmouth, Stanford, Brown, Columbia, Sarah Lawrence College, Bard College, Reed College, USC, UCLA, UC Berkeley, & many more.  We guarantee that your family will be given the individualized attention they need in making one of the most important decisions a young person can make.

Smaller Learning Community

We recognize and embrace the individuality of every student and family, and believe that all children can learn, given the right conditions and requisite level of collaboration and interaction.   Learning best occurs in a collegial atmosphere in a small learning community – with teachers and students as partners in education. We believe that at VIPHS, students who are known well, know well.


Diversity is our strength — it is the key to separating and highlighting our proposed program from others.  Our proposed program truly does indeed endeavor to achieve diversity, serve our neighborhood, and “serve the underserved,” alongside others.  In other to bring forth a truly diverse atmosphere in every sense of the word, we will do our best to enroll students from all walks of life — every color, creed, ability level, income level. True diversity is what will breathe life into our purpose, and we’ve already experienced it many times over.  All of us will work together to bring each one of our students to the realization and actuality of the best-possible post-high school fit, which usually translates to a viable and unique choice in higher education. Our teachers will be deeply committed to our mission, as they will be allowed to create curricula that not only excites their students, but them as well.

“Teacher as Designer”

Valley International Preparatory High School teachers are expected to take on the role of “teacher-as-designer” of curriculum, developing and submitting curriculum maps at the beginning of each school year that clearly define course objectives, standards to be addressed, and how the Key Cognitive Strategies will be incorporated as a common language of thinking and learning.


Valley International Preparatory High School teachers will also regularly meet in department and advisory-grade level teams where they will share best practices, receive feedback, and collaborate on alignment of curricula across grades and disciplines.  As part of “teacher-as-designer” role, curriculum will be revised and refined throughout the year and be based on student performance and assessment data and will incorporate a wide variety of instructional strategies.


At Valley International Preparatory High School, students will participate in a curriculum where:

  • Student will be expected to complete A-G graduation requirements for the UC/CSU system


  • All relevant CCSS standards will be addressed through engaging and meaningful instruction.


  • Using David Conley’s Four Keys to College and Career Readiness as a guiding principle, students will participate in courses that teach them both content knowledge and critical thinking and communication skills.


  • Students will take at least one communications electives (Speech and Debate or Communication Arts) that improves their written and oral presentation skills in a variety of formats and for a variety of purposes.


  • Students will participate in intensive PBL experiences in their courses at least once per semester.


  • Students will be encouraged to participate in AP Course offerings and to take the corresponding AP Exams.


  • Students will have opportunities to participate in a wide variety of course offerings in communications, the arts, and college-preparatory electives.


  • All students will be appropriately supported through differentiation, advisory, opportunities for tutoring, student support teams, and enrichment opportunities.


  • All students will be delivered extensive information and guidance related to the college selection and application process in order to ensure they are matriculating to the institution that is the “right fit” for them.


Contact with teachers on an individual basis during our twice or thrice weekly, 40- minute advisory periods will be used as a cornerstone for student motivation. The advisory curriculum will implement the College Board’s Advisory Session Guides along with grade-level team developed lesson plans on seing academic and college goals, social-emotional development, and organizational and study skills. Advisory teachers will also monitor a students’ grades, help students understand performance data, and invest stakeholders through the “ILP” process.  For students, knowing that an adult is personally invested in the success of a student in a “safe” space allows the student to positively develop academic and social skills, and when appropriate, have an adult advocate who can intervene and help re-direct the student.


Every year, advisory teachers will meet with parents/guardians in the fall to craft individualized learning plans (“ILP”) which will include an initial assessment of the student’s learning style and interests, performance data in Math and English Language Arts (“ELA”) diagnostic assessments, and self-reported rankings on a social-emotional rubric. During ILP meetings, students will be aided in crafting two academic and one social emotional goal for the academic year, and advisory teachers will be the point persons in following up with students on a regular basis. Furthermore, students will track their progress towards their goals using an advisory binder that will be presented to parents/guardians at the spring ILP review meeting. Research shows that a strong advisory program boosts students’ achievement and helps them on the path to lifelong learning.


Furthermore, peer involvement aligned with the same academic goals during student- centered and project-based methodologies builds a fabric of shared educational values. Through a varied approach that emphasizes communications skills, both through formal electives and through integration into all subject areas, educational challenges become topics of discussion as opposed to stumbling blocks. Support becomes the norm as opposed to the aspiration. The setting forth of future goals like college and career readiness, keeps students actively engaged in their own prospects, their own dreams, their own education.

Block Scheduling

The bell schedule will alternate between “A Days” and “B Days,” with different start time. Research has shown that starting school later, even if not every day, can boost academic achievement among adolescents, which is why “B Days” are scheduled to start later.  Furthermore, block schedules are better aligned to the demands of the CCSS State Standards (“CCSS”) and have been shown to:


  • Improve teaching and learning


  • Improve ability to focus attention


  • Increasing on-task time by limiting transitions


  • Improve interpersonal relations between teachers and students

A Days

  • Block 1A    8:20 – 9:55 – 95 minutes
    (10 minute nutritional and restroom break)
  • Block 2A   10:05 – 11:40 – 95 minutes
  • Lunch        11:40 – 12:15 – 35 minutes
    (5 minute passing period)
  • Block 3A   12:20 – 1:55 – 95 minutes
    (10 minute nutritional and restroom break)
  • Block 4A    2:05 – 3:40 – 95 minutes

Total 380 instructional minutes

B Days

  • Block 1B    9:20 – 10:55 – 95 minutes
    (5 minute passing period)
  • Block 2B (Advisory) 11:00 – 11:40 – 40 minutes
  • Lunch        11:40 – 12:15 – 35 minutes
    (5 minute passing period)
  • Block 3B   12:20 – 1:55 – 95 minutes
    (10 minute nutritional and restroom break)
  • Block 4B   2:05 – 3:40 – 95 minutes

Total 360 instructional minutes

College. Culture. Communication.

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