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Douglas school is tops

by Maggie Allen

– What’s Right About Douglas County School District?

Choice is a wonderful thing and this is certainly true in education. Parents can choose home school, private schools, or public schools to help their students receive the best education possible based on their individual needs. While all three have their strengths and weaknesses, public education gives all students, regardless of economic status, race, family situations, or learning abilities, a chance for a free, quality education. Public education also gives students practice in real life situations such as peer pressure, social skills, problem solving, time management, and efficacy. Since public school “bashing” has become such a popular sport, it seems appropriate to point out these strengths of public education, in general, and the strengths of DCSD, specifically. The following statistics and information were gathered in the 1997-98 school year and are available in the District’s Accountability Report.

– What are the attendance statistics in DCSD?

With a student population of 7,302, the attendance rate was 93.9 percent, and the dropout rate for grades 9-12 was 5.8 percent.

– How safe are DCSD students?

Keeping in mind that DCSD has a zero tolerance policy toward weapons (including all knives), drugs, alcohol, and violence, the following statistics were gathered in the 1997-98 school year: Incidents of violence to students, 111; incidents of violence to staff, 8; possession of weapons, 17; distribution of controlled substances, 4; and total suspensions involving alcohol and controlled substances, 30.

– What guarantee do taxpayers have those students who graduate from DCSD will be literate?

The District’s Strategic Plan, which guides everything the District does, was adopted in February 1994. The District’s Mission Statement is a part of that Plan and states: “The Douglas County School District, in partnership with parents and community, will ensure that all students are competent in the basic skill areas and are prepared to be productive, responsible citizens.” In December 1995, the Board approved exit competencies in seven basic skill areas including communications (reading, writing, listening, and speaking), foreign language, math, science, social science, technology, and employability. Before students can graduate they must prove themselves competent in these seven areas. Opportunities will be provided for students who require assistance in meeting the competencies as well as for students who exceed the competencies and require a more challenging curriculum.

– What proof is there as to what DCSD students know?

Douglas County School District students are consistently given tests in order to determine what they know and where they need additional help or additional challenge. The TerraNova comprehensive Test of Basic Skills compares each student’s performance to that of a representative sample of students nationwide scores in either the top or bottom quarter. Students in grades 1 through 6 are given language and reading benchmark tests as well as Criterion-Referenced Mathematics tests. Nevada requires that students be administered the Analytic Writing Trait Assessment and the High School Proficiency Exam in reading, math, and writing. If you are interested in the results of any or all of these tests, you may pick up a copy of the Accountability Report at the DCSD District Office at 751 Mono, Minden.

– In addition to the fundamental English, math, science, and social studies classes that all schools offer, what unique classes does DCSD offer?

To name a few: communication in the work place; algebra/geometry III-engineering; applied physics, and Economics. In addition, agribusiness management and marketing, advanced automated accounting, drawing and design, pottery, video production, photography, drama, concert band, show choir, music appreciation, French and Spanish, gourmet foods, computer graphics, Corel draw, multi-media production, journalism, drafting, welding, weight training, aerobics conditioning, and philosophy are offered.

No system should claim to be perfect and this applies to DCSD. However, when you look at the hard data, you would be hard-pressed to find a public school district that produces any better results for students than DCSD. The other choices available to students unquestionably have their strengths; but they cannot match the high standards of competency-based graduation requirements, the variety of course offerings, and the real-life experiences that a good public school can offer. Maybe school “bashing” should become school “bragging.”

– If you have any questions regarding DCSD as a whole, please feel free to write to Maggie Allen, Box 1888, and Minden, Nevada 89423. Allen is the communications liaison for the Douglas County School District.