Students succeed in spite of higher-than-average poverty level
Appeal Staff Writer
In spite of higher-than-average poverty levels at Carson City schools, students are still making strides in improving test scores, according to the district’s superintendent.
Figures released Tuesday by the Nevada Department of Education show students eligible for free and reduced-price meals – considered an indicator of poverty – range from 20 to 80 percent at schools in the Carson City School District.
The district-wide average is between 35 and 40 percent, said Superintendent Mary Pierczynski.
“We are higher than the state average,” she said.
The state average of students eligible for free and reduced-price meals in 2006-07 was 38 percent.
A district official said Monday that the district average was above 80 percent, but on Tuesday corrected that figure saying it applies only to Empire Elementary School, which has the highest participation in the district in the free-and-reduced-price meals program.
The lunch program enrollment numbers are significant because they indicate poverty, and poverty in turn has a direct correlation with how well students perform, said Nevada Department of Education Superintendent of Public Instruction Keith Rheault.
“The biggest indicator of student performance is socio-economic status,” he said. “That’s tied to the free and reduced lunch program and it’s the most reliable factor.”
Empire Elementary, with more than 80 percent of the student population eligible for the meals program, last year made Adequate Yearly Progress as defined by the No Child Left Behind Act.
Adequate Yearly Progress is the term No Child Left Behind uses to show a school has met state reading and math goals. To determine a school’s aptitude, the state uses standardized tests for third through eighth grades and at least once in high school.
Three years ago, all 10 schools in the district failed to meet No Child Left Behind standards. The next year, only two schools – Empire and Fremont elementary – failed.
This year, Carson Middle School was the only school that did not make adequate yearly progress. At CMS, fewer than six special-education students failed, causing the entire school to fail.
“This shows despite the income level for the student, all students can learn,” Pierczynski said.
The number of students eligible for the meal programs shows a significant drop at Carson High School. At 20 percent, it is the lowest in the district.
“We don’t have as many kids in high school who qualify because they don’t fill out the forms,” Pierczynski said. “You see a pretty big difference between our elementary and high school.”
• Contact reporter Andrew Pridgen at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1219.
School % students eligible for free, reduced meals
Mark Twain 53.92
Carson Middle 37.16
Eagle Valley 38.63
Carson High 19.62
Pioneer High 25.51
District total 35.86