Washoe Schools Sup. Martinez delivers annual address

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Washoe Schools Sup. Martinez delivers annual address

Soe

WCSD

An individualized, data-driven approach to teaching, more accountability to the community and a full embrace of reform policies--those were some of the hallmarks of Wednesday night's State of Education Address.

An individualized, data-driven approach to teaching, more accountability to the community and a full embrace of reform policies--those were some of the hallmarks of Wednesday night's State of Education Address, delivered by Washoe County School District Superintendent Pedro Martinez.

Martinez says there's much to celebrate. Graduation rates for the class of 2013 increased to 72 percent. The ultimate goal is 80 percent by 2016. The district is also outpacing the nation for participation in SAT and AP tests, and aggressively expanding specialized middle school programs among others; that's all while preparing for new national standards known as the Common Core, which demand more attention to data.

In light of that, the district is launching a new data warehouse system that compiles information on a student's test scores, attendance records and progress in every subject through detailed graphs and other features.

Martinez says it can be used to help a teacher and a parent pinpoint a student's weaknesses.

"Think of the power of us going to a parent and saying, 'look if your child can practice these 50 site words... this is what your child needs today.' And unfortunately our system is so large and everything has been so manual we haven't been able to garner this information in one place. I'll tell you teachers are spending hours and hours gathering this information."

Martinez was also candid about the district's shortcomings, especially with two subgroups of students. For 2013, students with disabilities only graduated at a rate of 26 percent. For English Language Learners, the rate was even lower at 21 percent.

"We are looking at everything. It's back to the basics. We are looking at the materials we are using, the instruction; we're looking at interventions--do we need more time with the children?"

On the administrative side, the district will release a new website that lists all of the district's financial information: the budget, line items and even checks that are being written. School Board President Barbara Clark says it's partly a response to the failure of the school repair tax.

"We do want to have the public aware of what we are doing. It's selfishly motivated, as well, because we know we are going to have to go out for bonds eventually and for new schools, certainly for facility funding that we need our community on our side."

That site will be available to the public once it's up and running at the end of this school year.