Carson High School Principal Bob Chambers’ vision is a 96% graduation rate when everything is “firing on all cylinders” — no pandemic and no holds barred on attendance, programs or opportunities for all students to achieve their best.
Chambers noted 2022’s graduation rate of 92.3% exceeded 2021’s 88.7% and happily acknowledges his staff and community members for making that happen. The school had a total of 451 graduates, including adult diplomas and adjusted diplomas and 405 standard diplomas reported in November’s count.
“That is a lot of hard work of all of our stakeholders,” he told the school board in his annual report April 11. “I’ve done this job for 24 years, and it’s a lot of work on the parental side to make this happen.”
But the school’s American College Testing (ACT) scores experienced a brutal hit from 2019 to 2022. CHS had 537 students test in 2019, receiving scores of 17.3 in English, 18.5 in math, 19.2 in reading and 18.6 in science for a composite of 18.6. In 2022, testing applicants gradually had gone down to 505, with scores dropping down to 15.9 in English, 16.8 in math, 17.6 in reading and 17.8 in science for a composite of 17.2.
“The ACT is part of our continuous improvement plan,” Chambers said. “It’s not something we shrug off. … The students can attest to it; we breathe it in their ears.”
Trustee Mike Walker said long term, he didn’t believe the district could stay with the ACT exam as a requirement for all students.
For now, the test continues to be a component of a student’s career as a junior and as a college and career readiness assessment, Walker told the Appeal in a followup.
“There has been discussion about the state continuing to fund ACT for students choosing to take that exam,” he said.
The Nevada Department of Education, responding to a request from the Appeal in this matter, said a request for proposal process has begun for a potential new vendor.
"Federal law requires all states to administer an assessment in English Language Arts and Mathematics to all high school students. Nevada currently uses the ACT assessment to fulfill that requirement and it is administered to 11th grade students. This assessment also fulfills the state requirement for a College and Career Readiness (CCR) assessment and, per state law, is a requirement for graduation. There is currently a mandated Request for Proposal (RFP) state procurement process to identify a potential new vendor/assessment, which the ACT vendor may apply for. Once an assessment is identified through the RFP process, the recommendation will be sent to the State Board of Education for approval or rejection."
Chambers said the high school's attendance is improving, with chronic absenteeism rates — generally counted for students missing 10 days when they’re in school for 100 days — decreasing from 42% in 2021-22 to 32.5% in the current school year, thanks to the reinforcements of daily robocalls, ParentSquare messages, e-mails, student conferences, home visits and other methods.
“We as a community created some really bad habits of not attending — and that goes from adults all the way down — we got comfortable not attending public things any more, and so it’s just trying to break that cycle of getting back into a building,” he said.
Students only recently began returning to their typical high school years, board President Laurel Crossman said.
“They haven’t had a normal high school experience until this year,” she said.
Although Chambers didn’t address specific behavioral issues, he said the atmosphere feels “night and day” compared to last year.
“That dark cloud has been lifted,” he told the board. “It feels great.
“Our school climate has improved over the last year. We have really focused this year on respecting each other. We have had specific lessons on how students view respect and how adults on this campus view respect. We survey the students and from the student perspective the school overall is improving with regards to respecting each other.”