From the Washoe County School District:
More than 3,300 students earned their high school diplomas during the 2012-2013 school year, setting a new record for the Washoe County School District (WCSD). The graduation rate rose three percentage points to 72 percent in the WCSD in 2013.
"The Board of Trustees appreciates the hard work and tremendous dedication by our staff, students, and families to achieve this graduation result," said Barbara Clark, president of the WCSD Board of Trustees. "A high school diploma is crucial to future success in college and highly-skilled careers. This year, more than 3,300 of our students achieved that milestone, and we are proud of everyone who played a part in their success."
"We must never forget that behind every percentage point and every statistic, there are children who have a better chance of succeeding in life because they have reached this academic goal," said Superintendent Pedro Martinez. "As a District, we are dedicated to ushering Every Child, By Name and Face, to Graduation. We are making strides toward that goal, and this is a positive step forward. The credit for this success rests with the staff members at every one of our schools who have devoted their professional lives to the education of our children. We are celebrating their contribution to the lives of our students as well as the hard work of the graduating Class of 2013."
In 2013, 3,301 students received diplomas — an increase of 184 students over 2012, when 3,117 students earned their diplomas. This increase in the number of graduates is larger than the total increase over the past three years combined in WCSD.
Martinez also announced an increase in the number of students receiving honors and advanced diplomas. In 2013, 1,615 students received honors and advanced diplomas, representing 49 percent of the graduating class. This compares to 1,511 students the year before.
"It's important to note that our standards and requirements for graduation remain rigorous and unchanged since last year," said Martinez. "We are holding our students to these high standards because we want them to succeed in their studies and their careers after they leave high school. This diploma must be the first step into higher education and the working world, and in Washoe County, it is a meaningful first step."
District officials say the increase in the graduation rate is due to targeted programs that are proving effective in helping students find success in the classroom. Those programs include:
Graduation Initiative provides academic support to high school students through mini-grants that fund after-school academic support and Saturday schools.
Academic personalized plans are tailored to meet each student's individual needs and concerns, including academic, economic, and personal challenges.
Better data systems allow the District to more effectively monitor every student's academic progress, challenges, and successes, and tailor their educations to those needs.
"Making a personal connection with our students and their families is making a big difference as well. Teachers, principals, counselors, and staff tell me great stories about how they are building relationships with our students, which allows us to get to know their individual stories and help them succeed," Martinez said.
Incline High School and Hug High School recorded the largest graduation rate increases in 2013. Incline graduation rate climbed 10 percentage points to 87 percent, and Hug's rate increased eight percentage points to 59 percent.
Hug High School Principal Lauren Ford said the graduation initiative proved effective at providing the necessary funding for Hug's staff to provide the extra support students needed. Saturday and after-school tutoring sessions were used to provide support for the High School Proficiency exam and for tutoring students who were struggling in their core academic courses.
"We are so excited to see these results," Ford said. "Some students just need that little bit of extra support, and with the graduation initiative, we are able to provide all of the support a student may need. I am proud of every student, teacher, and staff member at Hug for working so hard to achieve these results."
Achievement Gaps Shrinking
The latest graduation data also shows progress in closing the achievement gap between 2012 and 2013 for many groups of students, including:
Graduation rates for Latino students rose five percentage points, from 56 to 61 percent.
Graduation rates for African American students rose nine percentage points, from 44 to 53 percent.
Among Native American students, graduation rates rose seven percentage points, from 53 to 60 percent.
Graduation rates for Pacific Islander students rose seven percentage points, from 56 to 63 percent.
Among English Language Learners, graduation rates rose four percentage points, from 17 to 21 percent.
Among students from low-income households—students who receive free and reduced lunch— graduation rates rose from 56 to 58 percent.
"We are encouraged by the gains we have made in the past year," Martinez said. "But we know more hard work lies ahead. We will continue to provide support and resources for all of our students, and especially those for whom the achievement gaps are still too wide—our special education students and those who are learning to speak English."
WCSD has instituted a number of programs to help narrow the achievement gap between groups of students:
Cultural Competency through the efforts of Diversity, Equity, and Leadership Training (DELT), which works at schools to promote positive behavior, understanding, and tolerance.
Family Engagement establishes positive relationships between students, their families, and the District.
Climate Surveys allow the public to provide consistent feedback and input on District programs and services.
Multi-Tiered Systems of Support provide special education services and resources to students who need that support to succeed.
Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) teaches important life skills to students which can enable them to succeed in their later studies and in their lives.
Martinez also discussed the direction in which the nation is heading – toward an 80 percent graduation rate – and expressed that WCSD needs to make this a target as well. He said the District is working toward its 80 percent goal by focusing efforts not just on helping high school students get on track to graduate, but identifying younger students who are just beginning to have challenges in the classroom and providing them with the support they need. The initiatives in place are already making a difference, and efforts to help students at every level of their academic careers will continue.
One way the community can get involved is by volunteering for the annual Door to Door for Student Achievement campaign. On Sept. 28, hundreds of volunteers from across the community will visit the homes of students who are in danger of failing to graduate from high school. These volunteers will join District personnel in offering support, resources, and follow-up services to students who are struggling to finish school and earn their diplomas.
"We have worked hard to help more students succeed, and the statistics show that our efforts are paying off," said Clark. "But to continue the upward trajectory, we need the continued support of the community. There are a number of ways people can get involved, and we encourage them to do that."
For more information about how to volunteer and participate in Door to Door for Student Achievement, visit http://www.washoecountyschools.net/door-to-door/
From the Washoe County School District