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Turning Around Failing Schools
Turning Around Failing Schools

AIR DATE: June 28, 2010

West Prep Academy was by all accounts a model for failure in the Clark County School District. Poor performance and safety problems led the school to be labeled as "persistently dangerous."

But, when CCSD associate Superintendent Edward Goldman and former school board member Shirley Barber took it upon themselves to turn the school around they found great success. Now, all 43 of the schools seniors have plans to go to college.

On the flip side a new report from Education Week Magazine puts Nevada dead last in graduation rates in the country at 42%. So what led to West Prep's success? And how can that be replicated district wide? We continue our summer series on education in the Clark County School District with a look at how to turn around failing schools.   

CCSD Associate Superintendent, Edward Goldman and West Prep Academy Principal, Mike Barton join us. Parents and teachers if you have a story about a failing school we want to hear from you, post your comments below.

Edward Goldman, Associate Superintendent, CCSD
Mike Barton, Principal, West Prep Academy
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    I'm still very frustrated at the lack of exploration of the STUDENT BODY aspect of this. THIS IS ABSOLUTELY CRUCIAL to understanding the success at this school. Please follow up and post the answer: How much did the student body change???
    Katie OJun 24, 2010 10:05:26 AM
    When you brought up my previous comment to Mr. Goldman, he obviously missed my point. IF the teacher was able to get work out of the kids four days a week that he (or she) otherwise could not, then that was a reasonable solution to behavior problems, under the circumstances. Better four days of work than five days of goofing off.

    Perhaps this knee-jerk, simplistic blame and inability to see the nuances of the situation is why I have heard some very bad things about Mr. Goldman's previous tenure as an area superintendent.

    ArtiJun 24, 2010 10:02:25 AM
    Please address the issue of the student body. This is huge when it comes to turning around schools. It is important to know: has there or has there not been a major change in WHO ATTENDS this school?
    Katie OJun 24, 2010 09:53:01 AM
    This is a great discussion that highlights some of the key issues when we talk about educating all children. For one thing, schools can't waste time--the example of "movie Friday" at the old West Prep is a perfect example of how too many schools, particularly schools that enroll large percentages of children from low-income homes, waste time. When you provide "structure," as the principal Dr. Barton said, and teach the kids, they will learn.

    This is exactly what I have found whenever I have visited high-performing high-poverty and high-minority schools.

    Karin Chenoweth, author, It's Being Done: Academic Success in Unexpected Schools and How It's Being Done: Urgent Lessons from Unexpected Schools

    Karin ChenowethJun 24, 2010 09:51:44 AM
    Mr. Goldman demonized the teacher who showed movies on Fridays. That's what happens when teachers are not supported by administration. If the teacher was able to produce four good days of work in exchange for the fifth, that was a legitimate solution to a problem that the administration obviously wasn't dealing with. Please don't blame a teacher for an administrative failure.

    -Arti, a teacher

    ArtiJun 24, 2010 09:50:42 AM
    We've been hearing about some of the changes that have gone on, and what West was like before. Could you please give us some nuts and bolts on what, exactly, was done to bring about changes?

    Also, it was mentioned that attendance is voluntary. Does that also imply that the school is able to say to disruptive students, or to those who do not care about academics, that they should "choose" to go elsewhere?

    It is wonderful for those students in that area of town who actually want to get an education. However, please do not give the impression that it has taken the entire student body it had previously and transformed it, if that is not the case.

    Students are a big part of the equation. If you change the student body significantly, it can explain much of the success.

    Katie OJun 24, 2010 09:33:59 AM
    Another question, as I'm listening, but unable to reread a transcript.

    Did Goldman say something about the demographics of the school shifting greatly? If so, what was it he said? Could you pursue that a little?

    KatieJun 24, 2010 09:19:29 AM
    "all 43 of the schools seniors have plans to go to college. "

    I don't understand. Forty-three seniors? Forty-three? What happened to the rest of the students in that neighborhood?

    Are you going to dig around and ask what they can do that other schools don't? Can they kick students out, unlike at other schools? Are you going to bring up their per-pupil funding, which may be far higher than at other schools?

    Please do not compare apples to oranges and *gush* over how wonderful they are, and imply that the people running the school are better at their jobs than others in the district, if they don't have to abide by the same rules as other schools in terms of who they accept and allow to stay, and if they don't have the same money limitations.

    I ask again, where are all the other teens from West Las Vegas? This is hardly the size of the typical high school grauating class in Las Vegas. Or is your number of graduating seniors wrong?

    KatieJun 24, 2010 07:35:17 AM
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