Henderson ‘turnaround’ school gets partner to address off-campus issues

By Meghin Delaney / Las Vegas Review-Journal

September 1, 2018 – 12:04 pm

It’s a common refrain among educators: If the students aren’t here, I can’t teach them.

Resolving that predicament is the focus of a new effort this year at Robert Taylor Elementary School in Henderson, where administrators are seeking to push aside the issues kids face in physically getting to school every day to give them their best chance to succeed academically.

Last year more than 20 percent of the 670 students at the school — about 147 children — missed more than 18 days of instruction, earning them the label of “chronically absent.” That compares with a districtwide rate of about 12 percent.

The absenteeism contributed to a distinction that the school at 144 Westminster Way, near Boulder Highway, would rather not have: It was the only Henderson school to receive a one-star rating — the lowest ranking — in 2016-17 from the state.

The school only scored 13 out of 102 possible points on the rating scale, which also placed it among the bottom five elementary schools in Clark County. New data from the 2017-18 year is expected in the first two weeks of September.

It’s will be a startling point for Principal Kimberly Basham, who arrived at the school last year with marching orders to fix the problem.

School with a ‘reputation’

“This school always had this reputation, and I never really understood until I came here,” she said in an interview last week.

To understand what was going on, she pulled the census data for the 89015 zip code. It was great data, not the sort of financial and demographic numbers that would normally be associated with a low-rated school.

But when she looked more closely she saw that many of her students come from an area within the zip code that indicated they are living in poverty, as many of their families have for generations.

This spring, Taylor Elementary became a “turnaround” school, meaning the district is boosting support and providing new leadership in an effort to turn the academic tide.

The school also is getting assistance from the national nonprofit Communities in Schools, which provides a one-stop shop to help students, families and schools attack the underlying causes of absenteeism that can eventually lead students to drop out.

Some days that means providing shoes or alarm clocks. On others, it can mean sitting with a single mother to fill out a job application or signing up a student for free health care services. It’s all done in the name of making it to graduation.

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