Learn how Xello helped one Arizona district solve its college and career readiness challenges, and meet state mandated responsibilities.

The Phoenix Union High School District is the largest high school district in the state of Arizona, with 21 schools and over 28,000 students.

95% of the district’s students are minority, 81% are Latino, and more than half of the students come from a home where English is not their first language.

All school districts within the state of Arizona must follow certain state mandated specifications to guide students through a streamlined process of meeting certain graduation requirements.

The ECAP was put into effect in 2008, mandating that all Arizona students in grades 9–12 create portfolios that include current coursework, career aspirations, and further learning opportunities, to be completed prior to graduation.

At Phoenix Union, the CTE Counselor Facilitator for the school district, Mary Wrobel, focuses on ensuring her students are set up to meet ECAP requirements and become future ready.

Wrobel was a counselor at Phoenix Union for 14 years before taking on her current role in January of 2020.


ECAP Arizona


In her present role, she supports the 90 plus counselors in the district and works primarily with the Career and Technical Education Department.

The district includes more than 30 CTE areas of study with 7,500 students enrolled in the program at any one time. 

Phoenix Union prides itself on its students’ success despite the notion that large urban school districts struggle academically. The four-year graduation rate at the district surpasses the state average, and the dropout rate is also lower than the state median.

We spoke to Wrobel about how her district is utilizing Xello to meet Arizona’s ECAP requirements and dealing with the challenges of remote learning during these trying times. 

How Phoenix Union Successfully Utilizes Xello for ECAP Implementation

“In our counseling department, we had been using Xello. And just last year, we started with our own caseload groups and reached out to the freshmen class,” said Wrobel.

Wrobel has found Xello to be helpful when assisting students to meet the various ECAP requirements.

The ECAP is an ongoing process that empowers students to create an individualized plan, guiding them towards postsecondary success. 

The ECAP process helps students develop the self-awareness, knowledge and skills needed for them to make informed decisions about their future career and postsecondary options. 

“Xello is helpful because we were getting them [students] in that ninth, 10th, 11th, grade years to learn about themselves, but I really saw that ramp up last year,” said Wrobel. 

“I think that we have ninth and 10th graders really comfortable with it, while 11th and 12th graders are semi-comfortable with it, so we’re trying to actively use Xello more now.”

In her current role, Wrobel is excited to roll out more of Xello on a global scale to benefit the entire district. 

This will support Phoenix Union as they strive to fulfill the ECAP mandate.

One feature that I’m really excited to support our counselors with is implementation of the course planner so that the students can put their plan in there to support the ECAP plan.

The ECAP process includes four components, one of which focuses on a student’s academic goals, highlighting how students should plan coursework to explore their interests, develop skills and meet their high school requirements.

Xello’s interactive planning tools help students determine what courses to take. They take the knowledge they’ve gained and translate it into an actionable roadmap by piecing together their saved career and academic options to create a personalized plan.  

After the course planner is completed, students and counselors are notified if there’s a conflict, whether a prerequisite is missing, or additional information pertaining to the course is required. If any action is needed, clicking on the alert will provide options to resolve the conflict.

Using the program to the fullest could have been a challenge for many of the Hispanic students in the Phoenix Union School District, had the Xello program not been available in Spanish as well. 

The Spanish availability of Xello has been enormously helpful for our student population. It’s one of the features that we explain to teachers when we do any training, letting them know that they can change it.

“We do have a lot of ELD speakers here, so it makes it more user friendly for them if they can utilize Xello in their native language,” explained Wrobel. 

The Spanish availability also allows conversations to continue at home as Spanish speaking parents can easily have a look at their children’s Xello portfolio and have discussions with them about their future plans and goals.

We have a lot of parents who feel much more comfortable on the Xello platform as students can easily invite them to be a part of their future planning process,” said Wrobel. 

Engaging, Impactful Lessons within Xello

Students are distracted by a million and one things. To gain and sustain their interest, lessons need to be engaging. 

Xello’s integrated lessons allow students to build essential skills and knowledge that can help them succeed in the real world by building skills employers value. 

The lessons are personalized and based on the work students do in Xello. They give students the chance to reflect, reassess, and build communication, problem solving, and teamwork skills to ensure smooth transitions between critical life stages.

I like that Xello is interactive, which I think is very appealing to students. It’s intuitive and easy for them to use and connect with.

Because the software is user friendly, it encourages students to take ownership of their learning 

Our students can go into Xello and learn about themselves and go through those lessons in a self-guided manner. They can complete the lessons on their own or with the guide of a teacher or a counselor, and then save them for future reference,” said Wrobel.

Lessons within Xello guide students through learning experiences, helping them develop key social-emotional learning skills aligned to college and career readiness. 

Remote Learning Plans

It was just two days after returning from Spring Break for the final quarter of the school year when Phoenix Union went virtual. 

“We fell in a kind of limbo,” said Wrobel.

Despite the uncertainty caused by COVID-19, Xello usage at Phoenix Union increased during the final quarter. Wrobel credits CTE teachers with this high usage, who she speculates turned to the software. 

For the first quarter of this new school year, Phoenix Union is going virtual. At the end of the quarter, they’ll determine how the rest of the school year will continue. 

Originally, Phoenix Union planned on having multiple options that students could’ve chosen from, which included hybrid, online, & in-person. 

However, that plan was shelved in July due to the state’s COVID situation. 

While the late change in terms of how classes will be delivered is sure to be challenging and stressful, Wrobel believes Xello will be an asset during this time of virtual learning

The goal is to utilize Xello in all classes – not just CTE. Teachers have been planning throughout the summer and attending trainings with Wrobel. 

“We did a training for thirty general education teachers about how we were going to support them in using Xello in the classroom,” said Wrobel. 

“They came up with amazing ideas about how to connect Xello to their subject and utilize it in the classroom and beyond.”

Counselors have also been gearing up for the new school year at Phoenix Union. Part of their training involves learning how Xello is integrated with Common App

According to Wrobel, the counselors are responsible for the district’s college application campaign, and Common App is a key element of the college application process.

Getting this process moving is, therefore, a key focus for the district. 

The Xello feature that I’m really focused on right now is the college application tracker and the Common App integration. The goal is to have students use Xello for researching colleges, requesting and sending transcripts and tracking where they want to go to college.

Before the school year started, approximately 160 students participated in a week-long session with post-secondary articulation specialists, and they reviewed the college application process. 

“And those students were all directed to go into Xello to research the colleges there and request their transcripts there,” said Wrobel. 

As Phoenix Union High School District moves forward into the 2020/21 school year, one that seems bound to be filled with uncertainty, they aim to further integrate Xello. 

The software’s engaging lessons are being used as part of the core curriculum so that future-readiness will be woven into the fabric of how all students at the district experience education. 

Phoenix Union High School District is definitely on the path towards creating self-aware and future ready students.

Want to learn more about how Xello can help you create future ready students & enable you to meet state-mandated requirements? Just click on the link below to book a call with our education consultants. 👇

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Larry Bernstein

Larry is an experienced educator having taught at both the K-12 and post high school level. Outside of the classroom, Larry is a freelance writer whose writing focuses on edtech and general education topics.