Carson City Schools will stress learner-centered model in 2018
January 4, 2018
For the Carson City School District, 2018 is a year to continue to build and improve programs it has worked to create in the past several years.
LEARNER CENTERED MODEL
One of those projects is the learning centered model implemented throughout 2017, which allows students, teachers and families to work together towards student success.
This learner-centered model was implemented from tools and programs created from the district's Race to the Top grant. The five-year grant allowed the district to develop programs and systems to apply to student learning after the grant period ended.
"I think we are in a great place for this improvement," Superintendent Richard Stokes said.
One of the biggest takeaways the district has begun to develop this year from the model is a comprehensive student data system. It gives the opportunity in real time to check students' progress throughout the semester.
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Stokes said by doing this, teachers, students and parents can monitor and catch any problems a student is having before they begin to fail a class.
"So if a student starts to fall off, the school staffs and even the superintendent can initiate support for the student to get help before they get too far behind. When a student fails classes they feel hopeless and feel like they can't continue with their students so we want to put an end to that — help them get the grades and the credits necessary to graduate.
"It takes a lot of support to make sure that student is successful and we are excited for that and look forward to the future."
Stokes said this also helps parents to be more involved in student learning because they can get detailed reports on what's going on in the classroom.
"It is a great tool for parents to have instructional conversations with their students," Stokes said. "It helps allow them to guide discussion with their students and reflect on their thinking of that day at school."
With this learning model, the district has also been working this year to update their teaching materials and tools to help students better work with society's changes.
For instance, as a learning tool, over the past several years, the district has gotten every student in 3rd through 12th grades a laptop computer to incorporate more technology-based learning.
"Tech is here to stay… so every student has access to the wireless network to learn how to use email, do research and find good digital sources for how to gather information in the modern age," Stokes said. "Certainly things in the world of academics will always stay the same: we will always learn history and math and English, but now we have the advantage of technology in schools to teach the future workforce to think on their feet, teach them where to look for reliable and valid information and to learn to work in an environment that has real work applications.
"So our materials are being modernized, aimed at current best practices to incorporate technology."
For the district, the coming year will be about improving these practices they implemented over the past several years.
"Right now, because there is such a large amount of change in education in general, educators are going through initiative fatigue, so we feel through the work in the district, we are in a good place but we recognize the work we are doing needs to be perfected first."
One way the district has been able to measure the success of this learner-centered model is through their graduation rates. Since the Race to the Top grant was implemented in the district, they have seen a steady increase in graduation rates in all of their secondary schools.
"One of the things we attribute this growth is the learner-centered model with the Race to the Top program," Stokes said. "It is achieved because we are doing everything possible for the kids by the schools, teachers and families. We aren't content to see our students fail and more and more in today's world students need high school diplomas for their post-school next steps."
District-wide, graduation rates have increased near 10 percent since 2014- from 74.3 percent graduating to 83.9 percent graduating from Carson High School, Pioneer High School and the Adult Education program in 2017. The biggest increase in graduation rates they have seen has been from Pioneer High School, nearly doubling their graduation rate since 2014 from 45.6 percent to 80.9 percent in 2017.
"We are very proud of it," Stokes said. "We are in a four year upward trend with our graduation rates. There has been a pretty significant area of growth at Pioneer High School and shows that applying the conditions and processes with Race to the Top has had a powerful influence on Pioneer."
Graduation rates for Carson and Pioneer are calculated on the incoming freshman class to count how many students finish the 12th grade in Carson or another school district.
This is also the first year that the Adult Education graduation rates have been factored into the district's totals. In 2017, they saw 23.3 percent graduating from the adult program.
"This is a very good thing for our high schools," Stokes said.
As a part of 2018, the school district also is looking to continue building initiatives outlined in their Strategic Plan. This has been the first full year of implementation of the plan since its creation at the end of the 2016 year.
"This first year has been a success, we have had good support from the community and the nice thing with having the document is the expectations are stated so we can try to have our decisions in the district based on the goals and objectives, so that helps us focus our work," Stokes said.
The Strategic Plan emphasizes five goals: exceptional staff, curriculum that matters, engaged parents and families, healthy generations of Carson students and a community in full partnership.
"The document is intended to be a living and breathing blueprint for accomplishing concepts important to our community," Stokes said.
Stokes said the district has seen success with the community partnership objective. The district has had more than 100 community partners contact and work with the schools to involve real world application to the students' studies. And this past year they have been working diligently to create that college and career readiness in all students, not just the high school students.
"With STEM and our community partners who have created interesting lessons in math and science that applies to grade school that has been very popular," Stokes said. "We hope to continue that idea and incorporation for more work-based learning in schools do will do so by involving members of the community and leaders in business to work with our schools and students."
Stokes said the community applications to studies have been well received from both students and teachers at the various sites.
"Students are highly engaged in that real work application to the things they are studying in school," Stokes said. "So one of the outcomes we hope for is to introduce career opportunities that exist in Carson City to our students."
"We are fortunate to have citizens and businesses who want to help build that qualified work force to help the economy in our town."
One of the processes to make sure the Strategic Plan is being implemented to the satisfaction of the community is a quarterly meeting to review and discuss ongoing programs and applications of the plan.
"These meetings are focused on meeting the goals, objectives and strategies of the strategic plan," Stokes said. "So the community input helps drive decision making with the five goals that ultimately benefit students. It is a great way for the community to become involved with the schools."
Anyone in the community is welcome to attend the meetings. The first 2018 meeting will be Feb. 21 at 6 p.m. in the Carson High School library.
Though the programs inside of the schools will stay the same through the next year, the community can expect to see the outside of the schools changing soon.
The district has a number of capital projects scheduled for the upcoming year to better accommodate the students and school sites.
In the spring and summer, the district will start construction on Fremont and Mark Twain Elementary Schools to expand the buildings. At Mark Twain, 3,500 square feet will be added for kindergarten and pre-k students and this will remove the portable classrooms. At Fremont it will enclose the entire campus under one roof, instead of having three separate buildings on the site.
"Our promise was to work on removing the portable classrooms, which is what this will do," Stokes said. "…And at Fremont, you will be able to walk from one end of campus to the other under a ceiling whereas right now you have to walk outside to do that."
The funding from this comes from a 10-year rollover bond that the district purchased in 2010.
In addition to the elementary additions, Carson Middle School will also be getting a remodel to add a STEM wing to the school.
This will include a new lab where it will be project-based learning that falls under the umbrella of the STEM curriculum. This will allow students to learn about science principles as well as applied math and technology.
This year, the district will begin to look at adding a school site with the development of the Lompa Ranch subdivision.
"We are carefully watching the growth of Carson City and have a committee of community members to make a decision of what type of school we will need to build," Stokes said. "As you can imagine, students don't move to a new community all at one level so as we get more students moving here we will figure out what kind of school we need."
Already this past year, the district had an increase of 116 students in attendance-the highest growth of the last 10 years. The Lompa Ranch project is proposed to build 189 single-family homes and 350 apartments.
Because of this and the anticipated new city growth officials will be looking at attendance zones and population numbers to determine how to best accommodate all students.
However, the city wouldn't see construction start on this new building until at least 2019.