TUSD fails to graduate over 500 seniors

Over 500 TUSD seniors did not graduate this past school year. Those students did not receive a diploma due to the fact that they had either failed the AIMS test, did not receive enough class credits to graduate, or both.

The vast majority, of those students, 357, had reached their senior year and failed to earn a diploma did because they did not have the required number of classes to graduate.

Pueblo High School had the greatest percentage of students who did not graduate; a total of 120 students out of a senior class of 334 (35%), failing to receive a diploma. Despite calls to give students more opportunities to take classes on the campus, students were offered a zero hour in which they were supposed to catch up on their studies.

Catalina was a close second to Pueblo, with 31.1 percent of seniors failing to graduate. Tucson High, TUSD’s flagship school, was a distant third with 115 seniors who were not awarded a diploma.

TUSD’s alternative schools had fewer graduating seniors than non-graduating seniors.

In January, the Tucson Unified School District Governing Board voted to cut school counselor positions. As a result, there will be one counselor for every 500 students. One of the primary functions of high school counselors is to work with students to ensure that they know how many classes they need to take in order to graduate and what classes would be appropriate for their future endeavors and skills. Assistant principals have also been cut across the board.

Those counselors and assistant principals will now be replaced with layers of administrators housed in the District’s central office. These new administrators will almost never meet any students except, perhaps, by accident. Many student advocates have complained about the failures of the District’s dropout prevention in the past. Evidence of those failures is found in the fact that, according to the District’s own data, of those students who began their senior year at a TUSD school, 228 seniors did not complete their last year in that TUSD school.

Many student advocates have that complained about the District’s dropout prevention in the past. As evidence of the failures, of those students who began their senior year at a TUSD school, 228 seniors did not complete their last year in TUSD schools, according to the District’s data.

While it is not known how many of those students left for other schools according to the data provided, many say that the District has done little to actually track those students throughout the year.

One parent tells of his son, who dropped out of school in his senior year last year, and it wasn’t until a this year, full year later, that the parent was contacted by the District’s dropout prevention specialist about his son’s status.

The Special Master in the District’s desegregation case, Willis Hawley, has focused on reintroducing multicultural studies, rather than increase the number of interveners for students. Hawley relies on highly questionable data, which claims that the studies will reengage the students. Advocates say that Hawley ignores the data which clearly shows that the students have been engaged enough t stay in school until their senior year only to discover that they do not have enough credits.

Rich Kronberg, a long time educator and public school advocate questioned the Special Mater’s priorities; “While Special Master Hawley has hired his friends to do-nothing positions on an advisory board that will not actually offer advice and created useless jobs for unnecessary administrators TUSD continues to fail its students in basic ways. When students do not graduate because they did not have enough of the right classes, or because the classes they needed to take were not available because the school failed to provide them, it is a symptom of a complete breakdown in leadership. Those TUSD administrators responsible for the allocation of resources and the supervision of TUSD high schools should be fired for their incompetence.”

Kronberg says that “even more critically, US District Court Judge Bury needs to re-examine his desegregation order and require that at least half the funds provided for purposes of desegregating TUSD schools and closing the racial and ethnic achievement gaps be allocated directly to TUSD schools so that teachers can be hired, more sections of required classes can be added where they are needed and learning can go on. Instead of adding “culturally relevant” courses that will indoctrinate students, Judge Bury’s Order needs to add more sections of required courses that will help students get the math, science, literature and history courses they need to graduate. It is time for the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to, once again, remind Judge Bury that his responsibility is to help TUSD’s students meet their learning needs, not to the ideological or political needs of those adults…like Hawley, his friends and the two dozen new administrators TUSD will be forced to hire…who are continuing to benefit at the expense of those students.”

Another civil rights activist and public school advocate, desegregation representative Gloria Copeland has questioned that Special Master’s focus. She told popular radio host James T. Harris, in April that the Special Master’s plan amounted to a jobs program for school administrators. (Listen to the interview here.)

Copeland told Harris that “with the Special Master coming in, I really was hopeful that we would have some redress, and in some ways he is worse than the District because he is drawing thousands and thousands of dollars and his friends are drawing thousands and thousands of dollars and if you look at the Post Unitary Plan it is nothing about helping kids with achievement or the overrepresentation in suspension of kids. It is all about adults.”

Copeland and Kronberg were referring to the fact that TUSD was found to be acting in bad faith by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals when it overturned the previous Post Unitary Plan approved by Judge Bury. As a result the federal desegregation case was kicked back to Judge Bury to remedy the failings of TUSD through the development of a new Post Unitary Status Plan.

The old Post Unitary Status Plan, which had been rejected by the Ninth Circuit, changed little under Bury’s court appointed Special Master.

Copeland said the new plan is “worse than the ruling we had before. None of the money is going directly into the schools.” Copeland continued, “and who knows, they put in at least 10 new director positions, not to mention all the little off-shoot positions they are putting in there.”

“Numbers like these break your heart,” said Tucson businessman and former TUSD Governing Board candidate, John Hunnicutt. “These are not just numbers, they represent real kids. It is tragic for the kids, and our community. Small business owners recognize the need for a well-educated work force. Why can’t District administration? Our kids deserve better.”

Board member Michael Hicks said the “graduation numbers are a direct result of the District’s failure to staff our schools appropriately.” Hicks said the District needs to reconsider its priorities. “We are spending money on bells and whistles and classes kids don’t want while we cut the counselors, librarians, and other staff that have, or should have frequent interaction with our students. Over 500 kids paid for adults’ poor choices, and that is inexcusable.”

SchoolsSrs. on 8/12Srs. on 5/13GraduatesFailed%DeficientFailed AIMSBoth
Mary Meredith1191888.984
Palo Verde2182111852612.3222
Santa Rita228213198157.0914
Project More3242231945.2163


  1. As a person who is involved in education, there is no doubt that it takes a village to raise and educate a child, which means that ALL stakeholders need to hold themselves accountable: Parents, faculty, staff, especially students themselves. I have seen too often when faculty and staff try to hold students accountable for their educational responsibilities and parents enable their child’s dysfunction with regards to their attendance and poor work ethic. I have also witnessed very good yet desperate parents wanting for their children to succeed, but the students refuse; you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make them drink if they don’t want it. Education begins in the home. Faculty and Staff cannot be held solely accountable for students who have atrocious attendance issues and who choose not to work, but only come to school to socialize. Once again, it takes a village to raise a child and when there is failure, everyone needs to hold themselves accountable including you, the voter.

  2. Read “The Deliberate Dumbing Down of America” by Iserbyt. It can be downloaded free or purchased from Amazon.

  3. Well folks it appears some are upset by their own making IMO. The stuff printed above and the comments all indicate that the writers have failed to ensure that the school board that has been elected is doing their job. They do not stand on the corners to illuminate those party line voters to turn out these political hacks. Not all but the main few are leading this community over the edge IMO. Just like the city clowncil. Where are these ‘voices’ crying in the wilderness when they are most needed?

    As to the loss of the councilors and librarians, well it seems that they were not doing their jobs either so is it really a loss? These kids that failed were there mainly under their watch and they still did not have the requirements completed, so that is a wash. As to 1 per 500 well that comes back to 1 parenting, 2 school admin 3 school boards not ensuring the kids are tracking as required. How many parent teacher days are there in a year? How many grading days, there are lots of off days, 1/2 days etc. Yes teaching is a hard job, but for some that is all it is. As a profession the teacher may have to push uphill against the admin, the admin against the higer admin and finally the school board. I would guess not all are willing to do this. why are tusd schools a revolving door for superintendants? Why are those responsible for teachers IN the schools NOT held accountable for the teachers actions/inactions? Are there not annual appraisals conducted? Until we get good people on boards, in classrooms, as parents this will be an ongoing trip of futility.

  4. TUSD is truly the living definition of insanity. Doing the same thing over and over expecting different results. Get your kids out & home school if you must. Reading ADI and listening to talk radio will get you a better history lesson and education that this school district. Stop beating your heads against the wall. Bleed it dry. No more money.

  5. The failures at Pueblo HS are no surprise. Last fall when it was found that PHS did not have enough instructional hours as required by law, nothing was done to change the schedule to increase those hours.

    Before coming to PHS, the Principal, Vivi Watt, was Assistant Principal to Abel Morado, who was then the Principal at Tucson HS. Now Mr. Morado is the Assistant Superintendent for all TUSD high schools. Where is the leadership and direction he could and should be giving to Ms. Watts to help Pueblo rise above?

    In the two years that Ms. Watts has been the Principal at Pueblo the morale of the faculty and staff has gone down along with the test scores and graduation rates of Pueblo students. Where is the leadership and direction Mr. Morado could and should be giving to Ms. Watts?

    Some have even commented that there is some plot to destroy Pueblo so that it could be declared a “new” school as it was a few decades ago. If that is true, then the Principal should be the first to go.

    • As a parent of a Pueblo graduate and now having a nephew there, it has gone from a happy to very sad place. Faculty and staff fear Ms. Watt. Parents and students feel she has no clue of what the culture there is all about. Pueblo was promised in the spring of 2011 that it would get a culture sensitive and bilingual principal and insted it has and anglo one that does not speak the language and definitly does not know the culture. It is wrong and sad that TUSD can not look at what she has done in Pueblo and find someone that can bring the morale up, so our scores can go up and we can bring back our school spirit that she got rid of by not allowing pep rallys durring the school year.

  6. Rincon’s allowable enrollment for next year is 987. This means, according to the TUSD math, that they are allowed 1 counselor. Wow – that’s an amazing responsibility for one person – get them graduated, get them to college. Maybe they should allow them the full 1000 (and they are sending kids away) to get the extra counselor

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