A Reno School's High Hopes on the 1st Day of Classes - KTVN Channel 2 - Reno Tahoe Sparks News, Weather, Video

A Reno School's High Hopes on the 1st Day of Classes

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Another first day of school…another classroom full of excited 5th grade students. What's different at Anderson Elementary? For Reno Mayor Hillary Schieve, everything. She spent time today in the very same classroom where she attended 5th grade. Of course, time has a way of changing memories. As she told us, "When I walked in, I couldn't believe how small it was!"

And the terminology is different. What used to be called "underperforming" schools are now referred to as "rising stars." Principal Mike Martindale says words have a powerful effect: "Well given our state performance, going to stars...it’s nice to set apart schools that are showing growth."

And what used to be a high-poverty area school, where almost all students are eligible for free lunch, is now a "shining star school," and the only one in the Washoe School District. As 5th grade teacher Kim Garmin told us, "A shining star school shows excellent growth in our student achievement."

Anderson Elementary did it by going the extra mile. The people who work the trenches there tell me it's all about the outreach. To have students who are living in poverty, and they are in this neighborhood, get good grades and achieve academic success. Garmin says, "We focused on speaking and listening for all of our students, but especially for our language learners." Like the student who often didn't show up to school. After extra attention, “He just turned it on, and he went from a 1 to a 3, which is passing in both subjects. And you could really see the confidence in him at the end of the year."

Struggling schools can make big changes, but one important element they need to do that is involvement from parents…especially with attendance. Garmin says, "Getting them to school on time and getting then here every day, which is really the most important thing."

Principal Martindale hopes the positive nature of the "shining star" designation will somehow translate into even better performance. Success or failure grows, from a state of mind. As he put it, "Knowing that we're a Shining Star school acknowledges that extra effort that goes into what we do every day here at Anderson."

It is still a rough landscape for Washoe County public schools, still over-capacity and still using temporary portable classrooms, with wear and tear still noticeable in older buildings. And outside the schools, almost 1 of 4 children lives in poverty in Nevada. But a battle is being won at the corner of Lakeside and Berrum. As Mayor Schieve said of Anderson Elementary, "There's a lot of camaraderie in this building, so its pretty exciting for them." Principal Martindale agrees. "They're excited. One student told me, 'I go up at 6:00am and I kept asking my mom, when's school start? When's school start?'" 

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