Jack's Valley school no longer in need of improvement

Jacks Valley Elementary School celebrated the school's removal from a designation it has fought since January 2001 -- a school in need of improvement.

"I would say we're pretty excited. Elated," said Mary Whalen, English as a Second Language teacher. "We got a chocolate cake in recognition for all of our hard work. We'll keep on working. When something works, you keep on using it."

A literacy-based program has been implemented at the school to focus on improving reading skills.

Extended learning literacy is used with fourth- through sixth-grade students and California Early Literacy Learning is used from kindergarten to third grade.

Jacks Valley obtained the designation under the Nevada Reading in Excellence Act. The statewide act tested students on reading/language arts and math. The school failed in the reading/language arts portion.

Once a school is designated in need of improvement, it takes two years of consistent results to show changes have been made.

"We've been tracking test scores and noticing they've been going up," Douglas County School District Superintendent John Soderman said. "We kind of anticipated the school was going to be fine. But you know you don't count that chicken until it hatches, and you don't get complacent. Ever."

Testing under the Nevada act has been overridden by new legislation in the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

Under that act, any school designated as a school in need of improvement will have failed to meet statewide standards in one or more of 36 areas for two years in a row.

"It's two years to get in and two years to get out," Soderman said.

Those 36 areas include nine population groups, with five of those ethnic, crossed against reading, math, attendance and percentage of students tested.

Missing state standards in one of those areas means the school has another year to come to par. But missing two year in a row will put a school in the in need of improvement designation.

As No Child Left Behind replaces the previous act, the state is using its own combination of formulas to determine performance in transition.

No Child Left Behind uses criterion reference tests, which were recently reported incorrectly to the state by Harcourt Educational Measurements. New numbers have been sent to the district and will be coming home with students shortly, according to Janice Florey, Douglas County School District Director of Assessments, Grants and Projects.

Statewide, 21 schools were listed in need of improvement. None were in Douglas County. One was Empire Elementary in Carson City, and most were in Clark and Washoe counties.

If a school is designated in need of improvement and it is a Title I school, which is based on the percentage of students receiving free and reduced lunch, a school district must allow parents to sent their students to another school in the district.

Just one student, who never actually attended Jacks Valley, switched to Pi-on Hills Elementary School, according to Principal Pam Gilmartin.


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