As code words were tossed around and iPads showed charts and graphs of different ways students learn, the most impressive statistic of the day was announced early on when organizer Ben Hayes, director of research and evaluation for the Washoe County School District, flashed the number 70 on a screen behind him representing the district’s high school graduation rate.
“We are very encouraged,” said Superintendent Heath Morrison. “That puts us 20 points ahead of the rest of the state and right at the national average. But it still means three of every 10 students aren’t graduating. We have a lot of work to do.”
Not only did the graduation rate increase by 7 percent, from 63 percent in 2009-10 to 70 in 2010-11, academic performance was made throughout the district by achieving “adequate” status for Adequate Yearly Progress, or AYP. This meant the district met substantive student growth and a reduction in the portion of students who scored below proficient. The district demonstrated gains in the percentage of proficient students in grades 3 through 8. In math and reading, the district also outperformed the state at all school levels, according to a report compiled by Hayes.
This year, the summit included representatives from several sectors of the community, including parents, teachers, administrators, board of trustee members, community leaders, association leaders and senior staff members.
As the 58th largest school district in the nation, the WCSD operates 101 schools serving urban, suburban and rural areas. The district has 62 elementary schools, 14 middle schools, 13 high schools, two K-12 schools, two combined middle and high schools, one online K-12 program and eight district sponsored charter schools.
The data summit concept was started three years ago as a way to create a new strategic plan for the district, Morrison said.
“We’re focusing on areas we want to get better at,” he said. “We’re going to look at opportunities to improve, and there’s a lot.”
Principal Jason Childs of Florence Drake Elementary School in Sparks attended Tuesday’s summit and appeared encouraged by its message of opportunity and improvement.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity to share all aspects of data our district is collecting,” Childs said. “It gives us more in-depth understanding of data that we can use to improve the school instruction and culture and provide insight to areas for us to improve on.”
John Mayer, a school board trustee, former Sparks city councilman and longtime educator, also attended Tuesday’s summit. Mayer said he always keeps a close eye on what happens in the district and is interested in improvements.
“This is wonderful,” he said. “It absolutely helps improve (the district). It’s such a diagnostic tool to see where kids are, where they’re going. It’s really good.”