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July 5, 2015

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Initiatives aimed at helping more students graduate

Students receive help to boost graduation rates

KSNV coverage of a new School District initiatives to boost graduation rates, Aug. 11, 2011.

Pedro Martinez

Pedro Martinez

Dwight Jones

Dwight Jones

No matter how it’s calculated, the high school graduation rate in Clark County is abysmal.

The class of 2011 saw less than half of its incoming freshman graduate.

This school year, however, more seniors might make it across the stage in June — diplomas in hand — after the Clark County School District implements several initiatives this fall to improve graduation rates, officials said Thursday.

Of the 20,600 incoming seniors, the School District has identified nearly 10,000 students who don’t have enough class credits and haven’t passed the standardized High School Proficiency Exam needed to graduate. The exam is first administered in 10th grade and tests students on mostly 9th grade material.

“We have a large number of kids in harm’s way,” said Pedro Martinez, deputy superintendent of instruction.

Principals at each of the 49 high schools in the district were tasked this summer to come up with a plan to help 7,430 of these at-risk students graduate. The district feels this subset of seniors can be helped in time to graduate with the rest of the senior class.

“Frankly, we can’t undo what they didn’t get in 12 years, but we have one year to help them graduate,” Martinez said. “I think we can help these kids.”

Principals reviewed each of the at-risk students’ transcripts and submitted plans to help them graduate. These targeted students will receive special attention: a cocktail of credit retrieval programs, additional classes, online help and tutoring.

Each at-risk student will also be paired with a teacher, counselor or assistant principal who will oversee his or her academic progress on a weekly basis.

“The fact that they know someone cares about them will make a world of difference with these kids,” said School Board member John Cole. “We have time and effort invested in these kids. Why would we ever want to give up on them?”

The rest of the at-risk seniors — some 2,400 of them — are so far behind in their credits and standardized testing, the school district is looking for other options to help them graduate, Martinez said. They may need to stay behind a year to get ready to graduate, he said.

But Martinez said he hasn’t given up on these students.

“They wouldn’t be in the (school) building, coming in for four years not wanting to graduate,” Martinez said. “They want to graduate. What they’re looking for is the support system to be able to do it.”

The School District is also looking to decrease the number of students who need remediation and increase the number of upperclassmen taking challenging Advanced Placement classes.

Research has shown that even if students don’t pass the voluntary AP exams, students who take AP classes are more likely to succeed in college. By having more students take AP classes in high school, more Clark County School District alumni can graduate from community colleges such as the College of Southern Nevada, which has an 8 percent graduation rate.

“If you expose (high school students) to rigor now, that’s what is going to help them in post-secondary,” Martinez said.

By next school year, the School District will phase out remediation classes in high schools. It’s all part of raising standards for students in Clark County, Schools Superintendent Dwight Jones said.

“Remedial courses and low expectations will not stand,” he said.

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  1. "Each at-risk student will also be paired with a teacher, counselor or assistant principal who will oversee his or her academic progress on a weekly basis.

    "The fact that they know someone cares about them will make a world of difference with these kids," said School Board member John Cole. "We have time and effort invested in these kids. Why would we ever want to give up on them?""

    What happened to caring about the teachers? Do they really expect teachers to volunteer for this after wanting to cut our pay, stop the education and service raises, and changing the health insurance plan. Really? I can see teachers beating the door down to take on this extra work, NOT!!!!

  2. The reason is very simple. In Nevada, education has no value. Most jobs in this state requires working experience rather than education. When the society has created a mindset like that, it is not hard to understand why there is such a high dropout rate.

  3. The school district's plan sounds reasonable, but there are a couple problems with it. As Tanker mentioned, it is expecting a lot of teachers to cut their salary and benefits and then demand they do more work also. However, the primary problem is that student achievement depends on the students as well as the teachers. Students may want to graduate, but if they are unable or unwilling to put the time and effort into learning (for whatever reason), they are not going to improve their skills and knowledge. The current mindset that learning is totally and completely the teacher's responsibility is fallacious. I'm not saying that we shouldn't try to improve teaching and give support for struggling students, but we need to recognize that students also have responsibility for learning. In a society that blames teachers, the sense that students need to to work at learning is lost.

  4. The students and parents need to be made accountable. Many of the high schools offer one-on-one tutoring preparing students for taking the mandatory profiiency exams. The students that need it most (those who have already taken the exam and failed) don't bother to show up for tutoring. Those that do show up expect to have the answers given to them.

    Being educated is not easy, if it was, everybody would be educated. Many CCSD teacher spend unreimbursed money an time for students.

    If you really want to know why students don't graduate, start keeping score of the effort they make.

  5. It's a bit late to be worrying about graduation when the student is already in high school.

    Why are these people in power? If you need reforms, go to the source of the problem! I have been saying this: The solutions are all palliative. It will not solve the problem. How about the ones who are coming up to high school? Are we really going to expect teachers and administrators to do this every year? Let's say in a staff of 60, how many do you expect will stay after hours to do one to one with these students. And, there are hundreds of them in each school!

    Find the cause of the problems. We need to worry about graduation when the child is still in Kindergarten, heck when the child is born! Spend the money on solutions that will make sense:

    (1) Strengthen the family structure. Get to the families of children who struggle in schools. Determine what needs to be done. If it is making parents accountable for their children. Then let's do it.

    a. Make parents accountable for children's grades as a condition for granting any form of government assistance.

    b. Make parents attend parenting classes.

    c. Make parents come to school with their children at least once a week to ask teachers for help in helping their children at home.

    (2) Make college admission for teachers TOUGH.

    a. Give writing tests, interviews, and background checks. Admission to the college of education should be tougher than any department, after all teachers are going to be dealing with CHILDREN - THE FUTURE - OUR FUTURE.

    b. Make pre-service training longer. The student should observe for one year, teach for one year on his/her own, before allowing the student to graduate. A semester is not sufficient. It does not cover the whole gamut of teaching experience that will engender a love for it or a hatred for it. The student can then decide whether or not teaching is what he/she really wants to do.

    (3) Teacher recruitment MUST be tough. Having a teaching license does not make one a teacher.

    a. Human resources departments must conduct a thorough assessment of the applicants' qualification to include college experiences, previous experiences, and interviews of previous supervisors/administrators.

    b. On-site interviews must be conducted by a panel of administrators and teachers with a wide-range of questions and situations that the applicant must be able to answer satisfactorily. No one should be hired simply because a reference person says that the applicant is 'good.' People normally give references who will give favorable comments.

    c. Evaluation of the first-year teacher must be done regularly with observations at least once or twice a week. A mentor must be provided and all supports must be given. Feedback must be provided constantly to help the new teacher learn and adjust methods and strategies.

    I do not believe these people are really serious about school reforms. Either that or they are simply CLUELESS!

  6. If there is no parent required involvement then it is a waste of time and resources. A parent should be required to be paired as well as the student and held accountable for the progress of their child. School is a learning center, not a babysitting camp. If the parents do not care enough then the child should go to a foster home for the betterment of the child.

  7. Martinez: "Increase the rigor now."

    (1.) If these students cannot pass the current standards, how is increasing rigor going to mitigate that? Skills taught at school stay in short term memory very briefly. It must 'connect' to something for it to transfer to long term memory. Then it must be constantly practiced for mastery. For the learning process to complete the cycle, there must be a collaborative interactions among the teacher, the parents, society, AND the student. Unless these components are all present, learning does not happen and fragmented at best.

    Jones: "Remedial courses and low expectations do not stand. ". Remedial courses are there because (1) is not present. What do you think the administrators and the teachers would do during the 1-1 session? Talk about the weather? They will have to remediate what these students lack so they can graduate! What else can they do at this point?

    It really burns me that people in power talk like this as if they know what they're doing when they are simply saying and doing the same thing we have been doing for years and expecting different results. All they're doing is recycling and re-phrasing words. Grrrrrrrr. This is insanity!

  8. Fe: That's your secret: You WANT to graduate. YOU have the will. Many children now do not care. Their parents do not care either. Many teachers already work very hard and students like yourself benefit from it. How about those who do not care? These are the ones that are bringing others down. And, their numbers are growing. These problems are brought on by parents not at home, alcohol, drugs, and a society that does not place importance in education. Children see neighbors who "make it " by selling drugs and not even finishing high school. They do not have the motivation to go to school. There are too many distractions: technology - computer games, tv, cellphones /testing, hanging out, etc. Etc. Teachers cannot control what goes on with students ' lives outside school. WE NEED HELP! PARENTS AND THE COMMUNITY MUST HELP!

  9. Texting!

  10. This story illustrates the limited DOK[depth of knowledge] possessed by Jones and Martinez. They appear to be clueless as to what actually goes on in schools and how students and teachers interact beyond the classroom. This mentoring already goes on you dimwits!. Most every teacher has a gaggle of kids with whom he or she connects. They come in early, stay late, hang out at lunch and often cut lame classes to be with that connected teacher. There's no predicting who the kid might be. Having a principal assign that kid to a teacher or vice-versa is not likely to work. Good principals and administrators already encourage and support that informal networking.

    You might as well face it Nancy, we've bought ourselves a very expensive empty suit.

  11. Lighting the candle in hope for a brighter future, while cursing the darkness that is all too pervasive in the present.

    Thank you for such words of encouragement, inspiration, and enlightenment, Nancy Agustin, Tanker1975, Dravon, Peter Fritz, Joe Lamy, Just_Us, Kaza329530, and Patrick Hayes, teacher, and Fe.

    The insane educational asylum is getting fuller with once sane educators, and I believe that Nancy Agustin's detective work has sniffed out the culprits who have systematically driven education to the Never Never Land of promises.

    It takes the focused (and sustained over the years) efforts of the student, parent, and teacher(s) towards a successful education. If one of those elements is missing, then you will NOT get positive results (ultimately, the student's GRADUATION OF HIGH SCHOOL)!

  12. ....."These targeted students will receive special attention: a cocktail of credit retrieval programs, additional classes, online help and tutoring...."

    Good luck! There will be a few students who will stick it out to graduate. You will have to force the others to stay. The challenge is making their staying in school way more fun than what they can do outside school! To these children, school is NOT fun. They have been having 'fun' all these years and their 'entitlements' increase each birthday. What these children need is bootcamp - with their parents.

    "Each at-risk student will also be paired with a teacher, counselor or assistant principal who will oversee his or her academic progress on a weekly basis......"

    THIS IS THEIR JOB! Are they saying these people are NOT doing their jobs? What are the administrators doing? Why are they not making these people do their jobs in the first place?

    The solution being offered is NOTHING NEW!

    Bottomline: Leadership. THERE IS NONE!