Holding back students a tough call for district
Retention is the buzzword these days at Douglas County School District.
The district is in the early stages of investigating ways to identify and hold back elementary school students who have not grasped core subject material, Superintendent John Soderman said during a report to the board of trustees last week.
“It’s kind of been a taboo,” Soderman said. “It’s one of those things in education because of parent concerns, student concerns and staff concerns (that) people just didn’t do it. Now everybody in standard-based systems has to deal with it.”
Retention is evident in the adult world but not in elementary education, he added.
“What do you do if it’s a driver’s license?” asked Soderman, whose evaluation is scheduled for an Aug. 13 board meeting. “You don’t (pass) but it’s a little different working with young people.”
In the eighth grade, students must take a test to show their proficiency in English and math in order to move to high school.
Students who continue to pass grades but need instructional help “hit a very solid brick wall in eighth grade” when they take the test.
“If they haven’t passed English or math they can’t go on to ninth grade, period,” Soderman said.
For the first time, the district has instituted a three-week summer school reading course for struggling sixth-graders. About 50 children are enrolled in the program, which starts this week.
The goal is to model future classes after the 2002 graduating class at Whittell High School. The class was the first to graduate under the district’s standardized system, where a student needs at least 23 units to pass high school.
If a student fails a class, the unit for that class is lost.
In the 2000-01 school year, there were 50 high school dropouts, Soderman reported. Last school year there were 16 dropouts.
“It’s incredible. Through all that the kids rose to the standard,” Soderman said. “It’s impressive all the way round. It’s probably one of the most difficult diplomas to get in the state of Nevada.”
— Contact William Ferchland at (530) 542-8014 or firstname.lastname@example.org