Mary Alber
Special to the Bonanza

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November 7, 2012
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It is time to get engaged in Incline education

INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. - As the front page story indicated in last week's Bonanza (Nov. 1), a proposal for a NV-sponsored K-12 public charter school to be located in Incline Village was denied approval on Oct. 21. This proposal was first discussed in public at the Oct. 19 WCSD School Board candidates forum (though no members of the charter development team were present).

People have expressed concerns about not being aware of the proposal earlier and about its potential negative impacts to the WCSD public schools. As I understand, the charter proposal development team (mostly eLearning Cafe board members) plans to resubmit the proposal.

On Oct. 24, the WCSD Data Summit for Incline took place which I began to review in last week's column. I especially appreciated the well-orchestrated opportunity for community members to study the extensive performance data provided and to discuss and provide input to school development directions.

I encourage all readers to embrace these two developments as opportunities to engage more fully in education advancement for students and adults of all ages in our community. What do I mean by this? And what kind of positive engagement is possible?

Having studied the charter proposal and spoken with Kathryn Kelly and other supporters about it, I observe that the charter proposal has arisen out of a sincere perception that the public schools aren't meeting all of our students' needs and an alternative, blended learning public program will fill in the gaps and become an asset to the community by attracting new students and families who wouldn't otherwise come to live here.

This perception is supported by the current NV Governor (Sandoval) and Superintendent (Guthrie), who both believe that school choice and competition for students is one of the best ways to compel improvement of existing schools - or the closing of those that fall too far behind.

Though a few of us are working to create an executive summary of the performance data provided by WCSD at the Incline Schools Data Summit, I can point to a couple summary measures that we should probably focus on: WCSD's new assessment approach tracks individual students on their "pathway" to success - which means graduating and doing so with enough credits and skills for college and good careers.

At the moment, only 49 percent of Incline 2nd graders are currently considered "On Pathway" to reading success - compared to 64 percent of 2nd graders across the district. Similarly, the district's "Early Warning System" assesses graduation risk based on factors including state test proficiency, attendance, mobility, credit attainment, and retention.

In Incline, nearly 64 percent of middle school students (6 to 8th grades) appear to be at some risk of not graduating - with 35 percent considered at high to moderate risk of not graduating.

Unfortunately, the overall trends in student achievement growth rates and graduation likelihood do not appear to be going in a positive direction in our schools.

Could this correlate with Student Climate Survey data indicating that only 50 percent of high school students say they are academically engaged in their coursework?

Are these performance and engagement levels acceptable? What happens if the NV charter gets approved and WCSD students are attracted to the innovative and more engaging blended-learning ways of learning? Do we want and expect Incline Schools to become the flagship K-12 system in the district? If so, what can parents and community members do about it?

Come explore these important questions on Nov. 13 at the Vision 2020 Education Working Group official kick-off, taking place at the Donald W. Reynolds Community Non-Profit Center, 4-6 p.m. Objective: to brainstorm, discuss, define and align around a shared vision for education in Incline Village going forward. Come with an open mind to share and explore potential initiatives.

As always, I encourage your participation in these forums so that we might bring together and "synergize" this community's unique abundance of creativity, talent, time, and resources.

To access the Data Summit report and to share your questions and ideas on these topics, please visit the North Tahoe Education Forum at www.isaefforourkids.com/getinformed/ or contact me at mmeekalber@gmail.com.

Thank you for your support and engagement!

- Mary Alber has an MBA and a PhD in Transformative Learning and Change, formerly an information and technology strategy consultant with Anderson Consulting and independent business advisor. She is an Incline Village resident with two children in local schools and a passion to develop excellent education opportunities for 21st century students of all ages.


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Tahoe Daily Tribune Updated Nov 7, 2012 08:02PM Published Nov 7, 2012 08:01PM Copyright 2012 Tahoe Daily Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.