Kids in our county get a good education. A student in the Lincoln County School District has a solid opportunity to do well.
Superintendent designate Steve Hansen believes the teaching staff is a main reason for the success of the local students.
“They are a very talented group, and we know that teachers can have a great effect on kids,” he says. “There is no perfect teacher, and we can always do better. We understand we have to make adjustments to reach the individual. Year after year change comes in, and you have to be really flexible at your trade. What you did one year you can’t do the next just because of the different dynamics of the make up of a classroom.”
With that knowledge, he says teachers in Lincoln County are pretty good at making those assessments and needed adjustments.
The success of the program also shows in the graduation percentage. The county has been in the mid-to-upper 90s for many years. “The state,” Hansen says, “is down around 47 percent.”
A 1977 graduate of Pahranagat Valley High himself, Hansen says it was a strong system even then. “I felt like, and still feel this way, you can get a very good basic education in Lincoln County. If your desire is to go on to a four-year institution or university, you’ll be prepared to do that. If you desire to go into career-tech degrees, apprenticeship programs, or certificate programs, it will prepare you for that. We have good vocational programs as well. We can help you enhance your academic skills, acquire essential life skills to ensure your success and to begin your exploration of the career and major that are best for you.”
A newly established star rating system for Nevada has given schools in the county high marks and ideas for making even more improvements in the future.
Another unique feature started by the three schools in Pahranagat Valley in 2004, initially as just a half-year experiment, was going to a four-day school week. It proved to be so successful that in 2005 the schools switched to the four-day week for the entire year. The program was adopted district-wide in 2008.
Hansen said part of the reason for the success of the four-day week is how it allows students and parents to do things on Fridays and not miss any school. Kids involved in sports don’t have to miss a day of class to travel to an away game, parents don’t have to take younger kids out of school for the family to attend the same game (except for an occasional Tuesday contest). And parents can make out of town doctors appointments and shopping trips on Fridays.
“We made this change in part because of our remoteness,” Hansen said. “We have to travel quite a bit for athletic events, and the four-day week has really helped.”
By dedicating four days to education, with a little bit longer school day, he said the district has seen “attendance go up, absenteeism go down, substitute teacher costs go down and our academic test scores have remained relatively high.”
There are probably few places where all the kids love going to school all the time, but Hansen says in Lincoln County the kids are “pretty much self-motivated.”
It helps to have options during and after school. Hansen notes, “There are a lot of reasons for them to be at school. It’s an enjoyable place, there’s lots of extra curricular activities. Co-circular activities are also really strong, which are the vocational areas and electives taught during the school day, but not part of what is required for graduation, auto shops, wood shops, family consumer science, and business classes. The extra-circular activities are the ones outside the school day, such as sports, dance, drill, drama.”
If a person wants to participate in the extra-curricular activities, they have to keep their grades up, so the motivation is there as well.
Something new is being tried this year. “It’s a documentation tool we use to keep information on kids,” Hansen says. “When they start in first grade, through some screening assessments, we can see where the student is at. Then year after year, the assessments are recorded as to the progress of the student. We keep track of all the ways and methods we have used, as needed, to help them do better.” In time, the sixth grade teacher will be able to easily track what has been done to help the student since the first grade.
The district is doing this new program voluntarily; it is not one mandated by the state.
So what makes the Lincoln County School District run well? Hansen says the main reasons are, “strong kids, strong families, a good curriculum, and our teaching staff.”
This article was originally published in Lincoln County Magazine. Visit a local store to pick up your copy.