Students find success online | NevadaAppeal.com

Students find success online

by Maggie O'Neill
Appeal Staff Writer

Rick Gunn/Nevada Appeal Lacey Gascon, 16, works on an English project at Silver State High School. The charter school, in its first year of operation, has 147 students. This week is National Charter Schools week.

Andrew Carter doesn’t even own a backpack.

When he heads to Silver State High School to work on assignments, the 16-year-old tows along one green 80-page notebook. That’s all.

“I like the fact that I don’t carry around 30 pounds of paper in a backpack,” he said.

Carter is one of 147 high school students attending the distance-education charter school in Carson City and working toward a diploma.

As a sophomore, he is required to be at school from 8 a.m.- noon Wednesdays – other than that, he can come into the spacious computer lab whenever he wants.

And he does.

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Or he can work in one of the 18 cubicles in an adjoining room, built by a former telemarketing company. That’s where he was Tuesday at about 11 a.m. learning about congruent angles for his geometry class during National Charter Schools Week.

“It’s better (here) because you don’t have to compete with 30 kids for the teachers’ attention,” he said. “There’s more teachers to spread out among the students.”

Carter left Carson High School more than a year ago, went to California for a short period of time where he attended, and liked a distance-education school.

“It was pretty cool (that they’re open),” he said.

Silver State was approved by the Nevada Department of Education in August and opened within days.

As a student at the first distance-education charter school to be sanctioned through the department of education, Carter is taking classes in geometry, English II and American history.

The four hours each grade level is required to be at school each week can be used by teachers for particular assignments, like watching “Of Mice and Men” in one of the school’s two multi-media rooms, or just to interact with their students.

The students come from as far away as Las Vegas, Elko and Austin. Only students living within 60 miles of the school are required to be on campus four hours each week.

About 60 percent of the student body is from the Carson City area. Students from 10 of the state’s 17 counties are enrolled in the school.

As a charter school, it is free to parents and must meet state and federal standards, including the federal No Child Left Behind Act. Students are required to pass the Nevada High School Proficiency Exam.

The school uses a combination of curriculums developed by the University of Florida and University of Nebraska and geared toward each state’s standards. Silver State Principal Steve Knight, who worked formerly with the Odyssey Charter School in Las Vegas, goes over the curriculum with each of the school’s teachers to make sure the standards are being met.

“The cost of this curriculum is very, very high,” he said. “The University of Florida developed it through a $1.5 billion dollar grant through Gov. Bush to increase their school choices.”

Meanwhile, students find themselves operating in a cyberworld, instead of one teaming with social complexities. Their class syllabi, course assignments and reading are all done online.

Assignments are dropped into a student mailbox online and given back online. Chat rooms for Silver State students are available online.

Their grades are not only available online, but accessible by parents who want a constant update on their child’s progress.

Twelve students are scheduled to graduate June 10 at the Brewery Arts Center. Carter, who has two years to go, will “probably” spend the remainder of his high school time at Silver State – with neither backpack nor a pile of textbooks.

n Contact reporter Maggie O’Neill at moneill@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1219.

At a glance

For information on Silver State High School call 883-7900 or go to http://www.silverstatehs.org. To enroll, fill out an application as soon as possible. The waiting list includes 60 people. Those selected for enrollment when the school expands to an enrollment of 300 will be drawn by lottery, as required by state law.

Proficiency testing for juniors and seniors

• November 2004: Two students took the math test, one passed; four students tested in reading, three passed; 10 tested in writing, 10 passed.

• February 2005: One student tested reading, did not pass; two tested in math, did not pass; none tested in writing.

• April 2005: Results not available.

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