Phoenix Union High School District is one of the largest high school districts in the country, with 17 schools, over 27,000 students, and nearly 3,000 employees. Phoenix Union covers 220-square miles of Arizona’s capital city. If the K-8 students in its 13 elementary partner schools were included, it would be among the 25 largest school districts in the United States, with over 110,000 students.
Phoenix Union is a portfolio district, with 11 comprehensive high schools, three specialty small schools and three alternative schools. There are a number of programs that make Phoenix Union unique. Among those, are:
Academically, there are over 500 courses to choose from. Rigor continues to be the emphasis, as the District offers more Honors, AP and other high level courses than ever before, and student enrollment in those classes is the highest ever. Students are earning college credit and accelerating their academics through community college dual enrollment. In 2016, seniors earned a record $66 million in merit scholarships and millions more in grants and financial aid.
Phoenix Union belies the notion that large urban school districts struggle academically. Phoenix Union has drastically improved graduation rates, reduced dropout rates, and continue to close the “Achievement Gap” so often cited between high minority, low income districts and national averages. Its four-year graduation rate surpasses the state average, and its dropout rate is lower than the state average. In the last Arizona Accountability Letter Grades, Eight of the 14 Phoenix Union schools measured, recorded an A or B and no school scored below a C.
Diversity is a hallmark at The Phoenix Union--95% of its students are minority, including 81% Latino, and the students, including a large refugee population, represent over 70 languages. More than half of the students come from a home where English is not the primary language spoken.
Student support is important at Phoenix Union. Every comprehensive high school has a nurse, social worker, psychologist, security staff, School Resource Officer, student and community liaisons, student prevention interventionist and a team of academic counselors with the best counselor-to-student ratio in Arizona. Its Exceptional Student Services Department is a model for school districts, offering services for gifted to medically fragile, hearing impaired and children with autism. The English Language Learner program is as comprehensive as any in the state, from placement to testing to reclassification.
Phoenix Union schools offer a full array of activities and opportunities for students. Student Government, Yearbook and Newspaper, Academic Decathlon, Speech and Debate, DECA and National Honor Society are just a sampling. There are 11 Army Junior ROTC programs with over 2000 student-cadets. Enrollment in performing and visual arts classes increased by 2000 students in the past five years, while bands, ensembles, choirs, dance troupes and theatre offer extracurricular opportunities. There are 21 interscholastic sports available, and over 6,000 boys and girls participate. Almost 700 clubs, with 50 or more on most campuses cover everything from robotics to recycling, step teams to chess teams.
Partnerships with government, colleges and universities, nonprofits and businesses abound, affording innovative programming, grants, student internships and scholarships. The Maricopa Community Colleges and Grand Canyon University offer dual enrollment courses. The District has several programs with Arizona State University. Science Foundation Arizona gave its largest school grant ever to Metro Tech to integrate sustainability into its curriculum and project learning. Helios Foundation has funded free ACT tests. A cross-sector of business, education and non-profits formed a collective action initiative called Thriving Together, focusing on student success from birth to career within the Phoenix Union boundaries.
Unlike many urban school districts, Phoenix Union is fiscally sound, its enrollment is growing, and it attracts highly qualified teachers whose experience, educational attainment and compensation are well above the state average. PUHSD’s facilities are spacious, modern, technologically advanced, well-maintained and safe, thanks to the community supporting two bond elections for over $400 million for construction, renovation and maintenance since 2003. The most recent wave of construction included two new small schools, and major campus renovation at others. The voters of Phoenix Union also approved a Budget Override in 2013 and a District Additional Assistance override in 2015.Phoenix Union is a school district with a glorious past, a successful present, and a promising future as it prepares Every Student for Success in College, Career and Life.