In 2012, Jenna Leahy and Tacey Clayton met and immediately connected over the injustice they witnessed in their classrooms— even in the primary grades, students from low-income communities were not entering or progressing at the same rate as their higher income peers. Unfortunately, their experiences were not unique: statistically, on average, low-income students are already two years behind by the time they reach the fourth grade.
They decided to join forces, driven by a common mission—to raise the bar for education in Arizona. Their drive and persistence resulted in over $950,000 in start-up funding. Together, they visited over 50 of the top-performing schools across the country to learn best practices before submitting their charter application, which was unanimously approved in January of 2014.
After countless months of knocking on neighborhood doors in the stifling summer heat, CASA opened to a record number of students on August 4, 2014. Their vision, guided by overcoming the inequalities they had experienced in the early grades, is today a reality: a Phoenix school dedicated to closing the achievement gap—CASA Academy.
CASA is unique in that it is part of the “New Schools for Phoenix” incubator program, a highly selective and competitive non-profit program devoted to expanding educational opportunities to all students throughout Arizona. At CASA, 98% percent of students qualify for free and reduced lunch, 72% are English Language Learners and over 90% of the student body are students of color.
CASA is not just a school, but a movement to raise the bar for education in Central Phoenix. Through a combination of rigorous academics, a college-bound culture, competitively selected teachers, and an extended school-day and school year, CASA aims to have all of its students to make over 1.5 years of growth in a single year. At CASA, the road to college truly starts in kindergarten.