Parents voice concerns about late-start days |

Parents voice concerns about late-start days

Some parents of Nevada Union High School students were confused by a recorded message left on their phones alerting them that school would start later than normal on Wednesday.

Meant as a time for teachers to gather and work to improve instruction, the change means students who ride the bus have some free time on their hands once they get to school.

First period, which usually starts at 7:35 a.m., begins at 8:20 a.m. on the day set aside for teacher collaboration sessions. Buses run on the regular schedule, however.

Students have extra time to hang out in the library, cafeteria or socialize under the supervision of school staff.

One parent believes the free hour is a recipe for disaster.

“In a way, it’s kind of confusing. What are they letting kids do or get into? To me, it doesn’t make sense,” said Cynthia Nicholson, whose daughter is an NU student.

Nicholson’s household did not receive a written explanation of the change but was notified that more information could be found on the school’s Web site.

The change led to heavier traffic and several students were late to class, but no significant problems such as truancies or behavior issues resulted, said principal Marty Mathiesen.

“Any time you change a schedule a little bit, there’s going to be some alterations,” Mathiesen said.

In the planning stages for 1 1/2 years, teachers have agreed to meet for 40 minutes on 24 different Wednesdays throughout the school year to discuss student performance and how to help students excel on state standardized tests.

“What we’re looking at is getting those (students who are behind) caught up and moving,” said principal Marty Mathiesen.

A challenge facing the high school is its large student and staff populations.

“The way the system is set up, it’s a very independent setting. But what I didn’t see was consistency of instruction throughout,” Mathiesen said.

The school can handle the plan for teachers to gather because it exceeds the number of minutes of instruction the state requires each day, he said.

Data-driven instruction has become the school’s goal. By using scores from last year’s state standardized tests, teachers assess students throughout the year, with entry-level testing and common assessments made in each department, Mathiesen said.

The teaching is a switch from a style based on an individual teacher’s passions about a certain subject.

“That is negligible anymore. You’re favorite doesn’t count anymore. What matters is what the state wants to know. We have to get kids proficient or above,” Mathiesen said.

“We need to have goals with measurable results,” he added.

To contact Staff Writer Laura Brown, e-mail or call 477-4231.

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