How Does it Feel to be the Worst?


According to Education Week’s study of P-16 Council effectiveness called Diplomas Count 2008, Nevada has the worst graduation rate in the country. In 2005, only 45% of students graduated, that was 25% below the national average. In the four years prior, Nevada had actually decreased its grad rate by over 9% while the national average saw an increase of nearly 3%.

Diplomas Count 2008 State Chart

My first thought after reading this was, does knowing this change anything about how I approach teaching these kids?

I work at an online charter school which attracts a wide variety of students, many though, and possibly the top tier of kids who choose to attend our school, have failed out of their zoned school and are hanging on by a thread. These are at-risk kids in the purest form, they are almost ready to quit the system and have found us as a last alternative. I knew that already, but what I didn’t know before this report was that we had one of the worst districts in the country so our students have been failed by the system at the highest levels.

So, does it change how I approach teaching these kids?

This report confirms that our school does not have it easy. It validates some of the reasons our staff has quit on these kids. It proves that our task of educating is as difficult as any in the country. What it doesn’t do though, is change how I teach these kids. I’m not bowing out of this fight now that I found out its even harder than I imagined.

I’m not trying to come off as some sort of higher-than-thou evangelist, I hope it doesn’t sound that way. It’s just that so many of the people I work with quit. So many of them have lost faith in these kids, and it’s a lot easier to do that than to fight for them.

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  1. #1 by Beth Still on June 15, 2008 - 9:31 PM

    Hi Cory. First, let me say I enjoyed the video with the students discussing Web 2.0. It seems like your students have fairly unrestricted access to all kinds of sites. My service unit is working hard to put together an AUP that accommodates the needs of students, but still does not give them completely unrestricted access to the web. I am with the camp that wants to only keep the filters that are required by state statute. I want my students to be able to collaborate using some of the tool that your students discussed.

    My main focus at NECC is to be to learn about all of the cool tools that are out there. OK….maybe not all of them….but as many as possible.

    How large is your school? My alternative school is very small—-just two teachers until now. We covered the four core areas by teaching outside of our endorsements. We increased staff to four so we can begin teaching online this fall. I hear you on how teachers quit these kids. It takes an incredibly special educator to work with at-risk kids. It is like you said—we are not better than anyone else, but we do have special set of skills that most teachers just do not have. At-risk kids should not be taught by teachers who have lost hope because it will surely cause them to fail. It is very hard to work with people when you know they are part of the problem. More on that in Texas…..

  2. #2 by mrplough07 on June 16, 2008 - 9:36 PM

    Yes, our students do have access to many sites and of course, accessibility plays a huge role in education. We definitely don’t have a problem with that. Sorry, I know that is a major issue in districts around the country.

    We have an annual starting enrollment of 725 students in our HS. By the end of the year that number drops about 25%, out of the remaining 600 or so another 20% are failing almost all of their classes. So basically by the end of the year, about half the kids that enrolled are still working.

    We have about 25 HS instructors. Most of which came out of traditional districts with limited technology skills or training in online teaching. If you don’t take the job too serious, its a great place to work. :)

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