Sonoran Science Academy operates under a distinct educational model that serves to prepare its students for jobs of the future by focusing on math, science and technology subjects.
Fatih Karatas, the academy's principal, said the school is founded on four pillars of emphasis — a focus on math and science, a dynamic athletics and liberal arts program, college preparation instruction, and emphasis on preparing students for the 21st Century job market by making them competitive in a global marketplace.
"We're currently at capacity on our campus and have a waiting list on 80 percent of our grade levels," Karatas pointed out. "We have up to 100 students in some grades waiting. We could admit more students if we had more space, but physically we can't."
The Sonoran Science Academy, part of the Daisy Education Corporation, is located at 2325 W. Sunset Road. It has approximately 760 students in grades K-12 on a campus of five buildings, three for classrooms and two for administration. The middle and high schools have about 230 of those students.
Daisy Education Corp. also has Sonoran Science Academy locations at 6880 E. Broadway Blvd. (K-8), Davis Monthan Air Force Base, (grades 6 to 8), and in Phoenix (K to 10). The Sunset Road location also operates a Daisy Early Learning Academy for children up to pre-school age in a separate campus building.
Academic achievement is high on the list of the academy's priorities, with students taking a number of competitive awards in the state. Tucson students placed first, second and third in the statewide MathCounts competition in 2007-2008, also winning the distinction of "#1 Team in Southern Arizona." That same school year, students also took first place in the Pima Community College Math Competition for High Schools.
Statewide, in the past few years the Sonoran Science Academy has won a bronze medal in the International Science Project Olympiad in Houston, an individual first place award in the American Mathematics Contest, an Engineering Inspiration Award in the First Robotics Competition, and a Highest Honor in the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair. The academy's robots also placed in the Top 30 Robots in the USA nationwide in the 2006-2007 school year. In addition to the competitive aspect of the school, the academy also offers 18 different Advanced Placement college level classes for student, according to Karatas.
"We have high expectations of our students because we want them not only to go to college, but to be successful in college and not need any remediation," Karatas said. He noted that 50 percent of college freshmen need either reading or math remediation.
"At Sonoran Science Academy, we are trying to find ways to bridge the gap in that number and our goal is to keep working to eliminate it," he said.
As part of its educational aims, Karatas said, the academy fosters learning and personal development by having strict behavioral expectations, character education assemblies, small class sizes and systematic consequences for misbehavior.
"Our curriculum is structured in a flexible and individualized manner that enables us to adapt to the different needs of our students," he said. "Those who excel in our specialty areas of mathematics, science and technology can easily move in and out of honors and accelerated courses so they can be continually challenged throughout the year."
Those students who require more support receive tutoring and individualized teacher attention.
"We want kids to be problem solvers and critical thinkers for the 21st Century," Karatas said. "That is a big part of our focus."
Sonoran Science Academy has 2 in national math 'Olympiad' contest
Sonoran Science Academy sophomore Richard Spence has been invited to compete at the United States of America Mathematics Olympiad.
It's an unusual achievement for the 10th grader; usually, invitees are seniors completing the highest-level math exams. "In order to find unrecognized young talent, a handful of high-scoring (sophomore) takers are invited to compete," the release said.
Freshman Joshua Sloane has been invited to compete in the Junior Mathematics Olympiad, for students in 10th grade or below.
Both Sonoran Science Academy students have prepared for years. They are joining two other Arizona students in the national competition, a six-question, two-day, nine-hour essay and proof exam April 27-28.
"In the 38-year history of this competition, Arizona has had fewer than one dozen students accepted," said math teacher Kadir Bahar. "I am very proud to see two students from our school compete against the best math students from all over the United States and Canada."
Tom Horne, Arizona's state superintendent of public instruction, is coming to the Sonoran Science Academy this Friday, April 16, to recognize student accomplishments in state math and science competitions.
The school marks its 10th birthday this fall.
Sonoran Science Academy
2325 W. Sunset