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District to focus on English-language learners

TERI VANCE

Improving programs for students learning English will be the top priority of the Carson City School District in its attempt to meet federal standards, according to a plan being drafted.

“We’ve always placed students in (English-as-a-second-language) classrooms and that’s where we thought they would learn,” said Mike Watty, associate superintendent of educational services. “Now we realize that all classroom teachers need to work with these students at a higher level.”

The Nevada Department of Education announced Friday that Carson City was among 13 districts statewide that did not meet the requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

Those districts will all be placed on a national watch list and if they do not improve by next year, they will be labeled as in need of improvement.

As part of that distinction, districts will be required to create a district improvement plan. But Carson City has already begun work on theirs.

“As a district, we have always tried to leave no child behind,” said Superintendent Mary Pierczynski. “We will continue to work with the sub-populations who are struggling the most.”

Eight out of Carson City’s 10 schools failed to meet federal guidelines this year, mostly because of low scores among special-education and ESL students.

“We feel we already have in place several programs to benefit special-education students,” Watty explained. “We are working on a cohesive districtwide plan for our ESL population.”

And they’re not working alone.

Officials are working with representatives from Lyon, Douglas, Churchill and Mineral counties to draft the improvement plans as part of the Western Regional Professional Development Program.

“We’re trying to think regionally, not just locally,” Watty said.

Although he said he’s “cautiously optimistic” that the district will make adequate yearly progress this year, he can’t be sure.

“We know we have a long way to go to move the entire district off (the watch list),” he said. “Like all things in education, it’s not going to happen overnight. We’re looking at a three- to five-year plan.”

Contact Teri Vance at tvance@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1272.