From my viewpoint, this is a very simple story. Washoe County School District in Nevada has made a significant commitment to increasing graduation rates in the school district. They have gone as far as to create a very clear tagline, “Every Child, By Name and Face, To Graduation.” Wow! I applaud that. It is like professional sports teams that set their goal to winning the championship and regularly talk about it; then do it. Washoe County School District is not afraid to put their critical goals front and center.
And, without surprise, they did increase their graduation rates significantly as reported in this news release:
Graduation Rate Makes Significant Jump Up
September 14, 2010
Graduation Rate Makes Significant Jump Up
Reno, NV (Sept. 14, 2010) – After several years of no change, the graduation rate in the Washoe County School District jumped to 63 percent for the Class of 2010. The seven percent increase shows significant improvement for the District in a one-year period and symbolizes a renewed commitment to improving the graduation rate every year.
The WCSD released the 2009-2010 graduation data at a news conference on Tuesday and detailed its upcoming campaign to further improve the graduation rate. The data represents the four-year cohort rate, which calculates the graduation rate based on following students who started ninth grade in 2007 and who graduated four years later (2010).
At the news conference, Superintendent Heath Morrison spoke about the importance of the graduation rate as a benchmark of success for the District. “We are thrilled, not only about the increase, but about the significant increase. It means more students are walking across the stage and getting a diploma, which ensures more and better opportunities for their future,” he said. “Our rate has been flat for the past four years. To increase this much in just one year is a significant tribute to our principals, teachers and staff who have all played a part and to our Board for setting this direction for our District.”
The District’s graduation rate has remained stagnant for the four prior school years. The Class of 2006 recorded a 57 percent graduation rate; the Class of 2007 sat at 55 percent; and the classes of 2008 and 2009 remained at 56 percent.
In addition to the overall district increase, the data shows that the graduation rate for every minority subgroup increased as well.
“This improvement is great momentum for our District as we work to get every child to graduation and ready for college and a highly-skilled career,” said Board President Estela Gutierrez. “I am very proud of our students and everyone at the schools for their hard work and dedication. I am especially proud to see that we have made progress with our minority students.”
The graduation data also shows every single one of the high schools in the WCSD improved its individual graduation rate. Reed High School showed one of the biggest increases, climbing from 62 percent for the Class of 2009 to 76 percent for the Class of 2010.
Principal Mary Vesco explained how Reed High School was able to make such a significant improvement in one year. “I am ecstatic about our graduation rate increase because it is my goal as the principal to see every student walk across the stage. We have wonderful teachers who stepped up to teach extra classes so our students could regain credits they lost and to ensure they were prepared for the high school proficiency exams. Our special education teachers have high expectations for their students as well and pushed those students to get standard diplomas,” she said. “I want to commend the students and teachers that made this happen.”
Morrison commented that the graduation data shows the District is on the right track toward reaching its goals outlined in the new strategic plan, ‘Envision WCSD 2015 – Investing in Our Future,’ but also said there is more work to be done. “We are celebrating great strides today, but there are still many students who did not make it across the stage. We have to work even harder now as we commit to ‘every child, by name and face, to graduation,’” he said. “We now have to raise our expectations and not only get our children to graduation, but also prepare them for college and the highly-skilled careers of tomorrow.”
Nevada historically has ranked at the bottom of the list for graduation in the country. Morrison says reversing that trend and investing in education will provide a well-educated workforce that will ultimately attract more diverse and stable businesses to Northern Nevada to help revitalize and sustain the state’s economy.
Morrison then announced the details of this year’s “Door to Door for Student Achievement” initiative, which directly correlates to the District’s graduation goals. On Saturday morning, September 18, the Superintendent, Board of Trustees, school leaders and other community and elected leaders will visit the homes of students who have not yet enrolled or returned to the classroom to encourage them to get back to school. The campaign is being expanded this year to reach out to students with attendance issues who are at risk of dropping out.
As these groups fan out around the community, they will sit down with students and their parents to discuss the reasons why the child is not in school. During the visit, the group will have the ability to immediately enroll the student into school and will help start a personalized plan to help the student be successful in the classroom.
“‘Door to Door for Student Achievement’ is an extremely important campaign. We cannot get these kids to graduation and prepared for their future if they are not in class,” Board of Trustees Vice President, Dr. Barbara McLaury, said. “While this initiative has real results, it is also a symbolic commitment to ‘every child, by name and face, to graduation.’”
School officials said last year’s “Door to Door for Student Achievement” campaign was a great success. The WCSD visited more than 400 homes in four hours and enrolled a number of students back into the educational system.
Area Superintendent Doug Parry, who participated last year as principal of Sparks High School, said he hopes to build on last year’s achievement. “We must be proactive and reach out to our students. If we have to reach out to every child one by one to get them ready for their future, then that is what we will do. For me, this campaign will be a success if we bring just one child back to school,” Parry said.
The “Door to Door for Student Achievement” campaign gets started at 8 a.m. on Saturday, September 18.
Snapshot of Graduation Rates for the Class of 2010
WCSD Graduation Rate Increases to 63 percent
- After several years of no growth, the District’s graduation rate increased 7 percent in 2010.
- The increase can be attributed to:
- A renewed focus on improving graduation rates and aligning resources to assist schools with support programs for credit-deficient students
- Implementation of the “Door to Door for Student Achievement” campaign that got students back into school in September 2009
- Commitment among our schools to support students in the credit recovery process and in preparation for the state exit examinations
- A decrease in the dropout rate
- A decrease in vanished* students, many of whom seem to have been convinced to stay in the system
- Improved student tracking procedures both at the district level and at the schools
- WCSD graduating 129 students more in 2010 than in 2009 even though the full cohort** was slightly smaller
All High Schools in Washoe County Showed Gains in 2010
- Gerlach (33 percent) and Incline (20 percent) high schools had the biggest increases among WCSD’s smaller schools.
- Reed and Galena high schools both improved by 14 percent, which were the biggest increases among WCSD’s larger high schools.
Graduation Rate Improves within Student Groups
- Since the Class of 2006 graduated, the individual graduation rates for many of the District’s student groups have improved with the inclusion of the 2010 data.
- In that five-year span, the District’s overall rate increased 6 percent. The following groups outpaced the District as a whole:
- American Indian students increased 13 percent from 2006 to 2010.
- Hispanic students increased 8 percent from 2006 to 2010.
- IEP students, which are students with “individual education plans,” increased 9 percent between 2006 and 2010.
*Vanished Students – Students who leave the system and for whom no records requests are made and no forwarding location can be determined. **The data represents the four-year cohort rate, which calculates the graduation rate based on following students who started ninth grade in 2007 and who graduate four years later (2010).
About Washoe County School District: The Washoe County School District includes the Reno/Sparks metropolitan area, Incline Village, Gerlach, Empire and Wadsworth, Nevada. The District provides each of its 63,000 students with a superior education in a safe and challenging environment and is committed to graduate every child career and college ready. For more information visit: www.washoecountyschools.org. Follow us on Twitter at WCSDTweet.
Washoe County School District
425 East Ninth Street
Reno, NV 89520
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