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DHS students do well on college tests

by Merrie Leininger

While they celebrated positive programs and higher test scores, the Douglas County School board trustees also discussed whether to join the fight against the state school board’s unfunded mandates for remedial classes.

Janice Florey, coordinator of assessments, grants and projects, showed the board how Douglas School District’s students last year earned higher scores on the SAT and ACT college entry tests than the previous two years.

“Our students did quite well compared with students across the state and the United States. And the scores were higher than last year. I was pleased with the SAT scores, which in the past two years had dropped and leveled off,” Florey said.

The 1999 Scholastic Aptitude Test data reflects the scores of 141 students who took the SAT in their sophomore, junior or senior years.

Overall, Douglas County students’ average score on the verbal portion of the test was 526 on a scale of 200 to 800. Nevada students’ averaged 512 while the national average was 505.

Some 35 Whittell High School students took the test, while 106 Douglas High School students took it. DHS students averaged 523 on the test while WHS students averaged 533.

The county’s average score on the math test was 526, higher than Nevada’s average of 517 and the national average of 511.

DHS students averaged 526 and WHS averaged 527.

Douglas County female students averaged higher than males on the verbal test, but lower on the math test. Females averaged 533 on verbal, while males averaged 517. Females averaged 519 in math while males average 534.

The American College Test scores also increased for the 159 DHS students and 19 WHS students who took the test.

The test is scored on a scale of 0 to 36. DHS students averaged 22 while WHS students averaged 25.2. District-wide, students averaged 22.3. Nevada students averaged 21.5, while nationally, students averaged 21.

Douglas County’s students also outscored Nevada and the nation’s graduates in the areas of English, math, reading and science reasoning.

n Graduation requirements. Superintendent Pendery Clark said the district needed to decide whether to join the Elko School District and others in a fight against the state school board. On July 9, the board approved a number of regulations regarding graduation. They approved two different diplomas – an advanced diploma with more credit requirements and a standard diploma.

They also added an additional year of math as a requirement for all students, starting with this year’s 9th graders.

“We all testified very strongly against that. All students don’t need another year of math, but we would have liked to been able to change the course requirements so students are taught what they need,” Clark said.

The state board is requiring every school to provide extra help for any student who has not passed one or both of the proficiency tests at no cost to the students. They also require the schools to provide transportation for students for the extra classes.

“The districts were outraged by this and testified against it, but they didn’t pay any attention to us anyway,” Clark said.

After the requirements were passed, the Elko school board voted to ask their attorney to check whether the board could pass unfunded mandates and their attorney found the board did not follow the requirements for passing school policies.

Once the state school board was made aware of this, members decided to go through the whole process correctly to pass the requirements. There is not much doubt they will again pass it. However, because the adoption isn’t expected until Oct. 29, the extra math class requirement won’t be able to go into effect for this year’s 9th graders because they have already started school.

Douglas County School District attorney Tom Susich said Elko has approached him about joining a challenge and possible lawsuit on the issue of unfunded classes and transportation for all students who need help passing the proficiency test.

“I think it would be negligent of us not to do it since the professionals in our district have been against it,” said board member Cheri Johnson.

The district’s schools already have extra help in the classrooms, computer labs and zero period classes for students who need help. However, the zero period classes were held at a cost and students had to provide their own transportation.

“This requirement to provide every senior and junior remediation at no cost is stepping way out of their boundaries,”Clark said.

The board voted to support Elko’s challenge to the state board with the exception of George Echan who was absent.

n Occupational education. The school board held a workshop on the School-to-Careers program and occupational education classes with director Christie List-Sparks leading the discussion. She told the board a committee is currently reviewing the objectives of the program and will report findings after the first of the year.

This year the teachers will begin tracking which employability competency requirements each student meets. List-Sparks showed the board the first draft of a checklist being used.

List-Sparks said the future of occupational education is tech prep – programs run by businesses or colleges in which students can get real world experience or college credit.

The federal and state grants that make the School-to-Careers programs possible are being phased out within the next two years, causing the school to look to different sources of funds.

“Since it is difficult to get funding for these classes, we are trying to get area businesses to adopt the programs. The majority of the teachers have partners they work with a lot already,” List-Sparks said.