Meeetings planned to educate parents about new graduation standards |

Meeetings planned to educate parents about new graduation standards

by Merrie Leininger

Although the focus is on educating Douglas County students, their parents will first learn about the new graduation requirements in a series of meetings this month.

Those students who are 9th graders now will be the first class held accountable under the new requirements when they graduate in the year 2002.

“This is the first time we will really be able to say everyone who graduates knows the basic skills in these areas,” said Superintendent Pendery Clark.

n Understanding the plan. Many parents are not aware of what competencies, strategic plan or assessments mean to their children or even that this plan will have been under way for 10 years by the time their 9th graders graduate.

“It’s crucial their parents understand what the competencies are, so we are sending each parent an invitation designed by high school students,” said communication liaison Maggie Allen. “I’m really excited. Lots of things will have to change, but students won’t be passed on who aren’t ready.”

At the meetings, school principals and counselors will be on hand to facilitate small question- and-answer groups after parents watch a video made by students and Pau-Wa-Lu teacher Don Baumann.

Allen said the district is determined not to miss any parent and will be checking up, one-on-one with parents who don’t come to the Wednesday night meetings. She said the district may hold another series of meetings in the spring if more questions surface after parents are introduced to the idea.

n Strategic plan. Clark said in the first half of the 1990s, Douglas County grew by 25 percent, and the school board was faced with a facilities’ crisis.

In May 1992, the board finally passed a bond issue to address facility needs after four previous bonds had failed.

After some of the facility needs had been met, the board decided to shift the focus back to student achievement and hired Clark to develop and the strategic plan.

“We wanted to know whether we were adequately preparing students for employment in a rapidly changing world,” Clark said.

n Getting started. The first step was to look at what the district was already doing and decide what had to improve, she said.

An accountability committee made up of community members, parents, business people and educators decided what basic skills would be needed for success in the 21st century and what knowledge level students should have to graduate. The level children had to reach at each grade level was also set.

“The strategic plan was well-planned. We have taken a lot of time with it. The community wanted higher standards and wanted students to know the basic skills. Now, if a student has their 23 credits and reach passing on the state proficiency test, they can graduate,” Clark said. “The world requires a higher level because of technology. All people need basic skills in all areas. We need to raise the bar.”

n Identify problems. Historically, if public school teachers tried to hold students back and repeat a whole grade when they may have had only trouble in one area, research shows they would continue to be unsuccessful in school and eventually drop out, Clark said.

The idea behind the competencies is to identify problem areas early and aggressively work with the student to improve their understanding of that subject, while allowing them to continue on with their other classes.

Meanwhile, very talented students should be able to move on to more challenging work once they meet the competencies.

For instance, the math competency is at a 9th grade level, so once the student meets that, they are free to take classes at Western Nevada Community College.

Clark said students who are having trouble will receive extra help through tutoring, after school instruction and even extra instruction during breaks.

“I think, historically, we have done a good job preparing those students who continue onto higher education, but this ensures all students will have the basic skills,” Clark said.

Parent meetings will be held at 7 p.m. Jan. 20, at Carson Valley Middle School; 7 p.m., Jan. 27, at Whittell High School; and 7 p.m., Feb. 3, at Pau-Wa-Lu Middle School.

For information, contact the school district at 782-5134.

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