Disproving the "Failing" Label

Educators and staff at many priority schools have seen their school ranked, labeled and listed on a recurring basis that’s rarely positive. Kit Carson Elementary School is no stranger to that trend.

The school is located in West Las Vegas, Nevada, the state with the highest home foreclosure rate in the country. With an unemployment rate around 14 percent, Las Vegas is among the worst cities to find a job. The Clark County School District, which includes Kit Carson, is the fifth largest in the nation, and among the poorest-performing. The school is on D Street, in an aging neighborhood that has been ranked one of America’s Top 10 most dangerous. Eighty-three percent of the students at Kit Carson qualify for free or reduced lunch.

But these challenges haven’t prevented educators and staff at the school from standing strong in the community and leading their students to higher levels of success.

The school received its federal School Improvement Grant (SIG) in 2009 and adopted the turnaround model with the support of the Clark County Education Association (CCEA). One year after implementing the various requirements and programs associated with SIG, Kit Carson met Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) and demonstrated improvement in every subject area:

  • 41 % more students met or exceeded writing standards
  • 27 % more students met or exceeded science standards
  • 19 % more students met or exceeded math standards
  • 14 % more students met or exceeded reading standards

“The stereotypes are there,” said Kit Carson principal Cynthia Marlowe. “But once people come on campus, they get a feel for the students, the parents, and the teachers, then they have a different story.”

A School With Many Labels

Not all of Kit Carson’s labels are bad. The school is an Empowerment School, a magnet school, a SIG school, and an International Baccalaureate Candidate School.

The Clark County Education Association (CCEA) was instrumental in helping the Clark County School District secure SIG funding, through collaboration between district officials, school administrators and educators. “ We feel it’s important to have our voices in the school reform discussions as it’s occurring, not after it happens,” said Ruben Murillo, CCEA president.

The union’s work with the National Education Association’s Priority Schools Campaign has led to Kit Carson also being named an Intensive Support Site for the campaign, with additional resources being offered through NEA programs such as KEYS and ELL trainings. “The Clark County Education Association is involved with NEA’s Priority Schools Campaign because we see it as a bridge between the national, state and local associations,” said Murillo.

CCEA also initiated and bargained for the successful Empowerment School program, now involving 30 schools in the district. Empowerment Schools are designed to improve learning and student performance through increased autonomy and accountability, collaboration between teachers, administrators, students, families and community members, smaller class sizes, a longer school day and year, and more financial support.

Read the full story at NEA Priority Schools