Shining star for middle school | NevadaAppeal.com

Shining star for middle school

Steve Ranson
sranson@lahontanvalleynews.com
Churchill County Middle School English teacher Nancy Deutscher assists her students Thursday morning in her class. CCMS has earned a 4-star ranking from the Nevada Department of Education.
STEVE RANSON / SRANSON@LAHONTANVALLEYNEWS.COM |

New performance marks for Nevada’s public schools have been released with Churchill County Middle School earning a 4-Star rating.

The county’s three elementary schools and Churchill County High School each earned three stars.

The state’s Department of Education released the 2013 Nevada School Performance Framework reports for all public schools across the Silver State and assigned a star rating to each school based on multiple measures of school achievement. According to the report, most of the schools received a three-star rating.

Each school was rated on a 100-point index and assigned a corresponding 1-5 star rating.

Churchill County Superintendent Dr. Sandra Sheldon said she was pleased with the county’s scores.

“The teachers worked really hard by focusing on teaching and the learning process,” Sheldon said. “We celebrate their successes.”

Wit the NSPF, she said each district is looking for systemic change that will involve every educator and student.

When considering the data, however, the Nevada Department of Education said a fair assessment cannot be made in comparing one school to another or one district to another. Every school and every community has its own unique makeup of students and families.

The new ratings are based on state assessments given to students in grades three through eight and grade 11 during the 2012-13 school year. The NSPC replaced the Adequate Yearly progress scores.

The final AYP designations for the previous years showed E.C. Best, Numa and Lahontan elementary schools as well as CCHS in Need of Improvement.

The recent four-star ranking for the middle school, however, showed a vast improvement from the previous year. Churchill County Junior High School, before it added sixth grade for the 2012-13 school year, had been tabbed as a Needs Improvement school for four consecutive years. Sheldon said Scott Meihack, who became the middle school principal last year, did a good job with his teachers and how the staff focused on the learning process.

Overall, she said the weekly collaboration time among teachers also made a big impact.

“What we’re trying to do as a district — and it was put in place before me — is for the teachers working corroboratively on Fridays,” Sheldon said.

Through the weekly collaboration work, she said teachers discuss what needs to be taught and how it is being taught and whether or not students learned the material. She said the entire learning process includes all grades, starting with the accountability at the elementary schools and then upward to the middle and high schools.

“This is a team effort from the whole system,” she added.

The assessments also examined schools on student growth and the reduction of achievement gaps for special population groups such as English Language Learners or students who qualified for free or reduced lunch.

Career and college readiness and graduation also measured each high school’s performance.

CCMS Principal Scott Meihack and Vice Principal John Johnson were also excited and how hard their teachers worked to improve the students’ scores.

“We narrowed the focus a little bit,” Meihack explained, adding that specific area were covered during the school’s Wednesday’s meetings.

He said first Wednesday of the month was designated for a general staff meeting; however, the second and third Wednesday after-school meetings center on team and department collaboration, while the fourth Wednesday covered areas the administration felt needed additional work.

“Our teachers do a good job on curriculum and collaboration,” Johnson said. “We need to get more documentation on what the teachers are doing with data and how they are using data, and then we move forward.”

Meihack said teachers, when they work in their groups, will look at the date, find where the holes are in student learning and rectify those areas.

“The next phase is we will look at ourselves,” Meihack said. “Then we’ll study what CCMS is doing and know what our kids can and can’t do.”

Both building administrators couldn’t praise their teachers and students enough for what they have done.

“Our staff has done a wonderful job, and we have a clear focus on what our goal is,” he added. “Our students also worked very hard.”

Their main concern is for the staff and students to be complacent with the recent scores; however, Johnson said that won’t happen.

“No more four, strive for five,” Johnson stressed.

They also said another goal is to communicate more with parents through phone calls and the school’s website.

“We can attribute the result of fewer schools receiving a five-star rating to the fact that Nevada has steadily raised expectations for student achievement over the last few years as part of its education reform agenda,” said Dale Erquiaga, superintendent of Public Instruction.

He said Nevadans can expect a continued but temporary downward trend in student proficiency as the state implements new and more rigorous standards.

“We can also rest assured that our students will be better prepared,” Erquiaga added. “Parents and businesses should know that these star ratings present an increasingly accurate and forward-looking picture of college and career readiness expectations.”

As for schools that achieve a one- or two-star rating, Erquiaga said the Nevada Department of Education will guide each school by designing a performance plan that addresses the poor academic performance and they will receiving ongoing support in implementing approved plans.

“We face a challenge as we transition to new standards and new assessments,” Erquiaga said. “We will focus our support and interventions n schools with these transitions in mind.”

NOTES — In Lyon County, eight schools received a four-star ranking and 12 earned three stars.

“We anticipated a drop,” said Lyon County School District Superintendent Keith Savage. “The encouraging piece was three of our high schools increased. We’re going to keep everyone moving forward with our Common Core curriculum, which is what our students are going to be assessed on in the future.”