School work

Last week, in our feature,Second Jobs,” we raised the issue of high school students working, and we questioned whether the Washoe County School District shouldn’t be involved in monitoring the amount of hours students work after or before school.

The fact is, in a perfect world, students shouldn’t have to work while they’re going to high school. It’s also true that students should be able to work a reasonable number of hours, if they choose to do so.

How stereotypical in the media is it that teenagers are lazy slackers? Industrious young people should be able to reach for their American dreams, and if they work for them, who should gainsay their efforts?

But those are two simplistic, high-contrast views. The truth of the matter is that working is a matter of survival for many students. Who would deny that there are many high school students in our community who left abusive or dysfunctional home environments, are living on their own, and are desperately struggling to remain in school?

Many high school students who became parents are in this boat. True, there are schools, like Washoe High, which allow students who are 17 years of age and work day jobs to participate in the evening adult program. Washoe High also has the Cyesis program, which is for pregnant teenage girls and new mothers and offers support and guidance for students. Child care facilities, as well as instruction in prenatal and infant care, are provided.

It’s almost ironic that while No Child Left Behind teaches teachers to teach to the test, the Academic Standards for Nevada,, forces students to learn skills that are more transferable to the workforce. The tools are there to help the schools that are having trouble making the grade—to some extent, at least—but where’s the help for students who have a tough row to hoe?

It’s almost become a cliché that the American school system is failing students. If nothing else, No Child Left Behind has shown this. For example, in the latest Adequate Yearly Progress report (a report released by the school district showing its compliance with NCLB standards) a whopping 40 schools out of 107 did not make the required progress as defined by the federal government. According to the school district, it’s the fault of the students, blaming their poor English skills or special-ed students’ need for Individualized Education Programs. It’s not like any other states are having increases in the number of students who don’t speak perfect English or that they’re also facing the issues caused by medicating students and broken homes.

But while we’re pointing out the problems, let us remember that 67 of Washoe County’s schools did manage to meet the onerous criteria of NCLB, and there are all kinds of success stories coming out of them.

All this goes to illustrate that it’s the students who most need support—those who are working because they have to, those with tough pasts and presents, those with children—who our school system is dropping out on.