Park Avenue sees biggest test scores increase in district |

Park Avenue sees biggest test scores increase in district

When the Park Avenue Alternative Site was created about five years ago, students who attended the complex of Depression-era buildings were often thought of as problem students who didn’t fit in with their counterparts at Bear River or Nevada Union high schools.

It’s a perception teachers and students have worked hard to change.

“We just make it an intimate, more quaint environment that the kids want to be a part of,” said Principal Mike Tambini as he waved goodbye to students in the parking lot on Thursday, calling each one who passed him by name.

Last year, the school increased its percentage of students who passed the California High School Exit Exam, and, according to figures released Thursday, made the biggest increase of any school in the Nevada Joint Union High School District on the statewide Academic Performance Index.

The school scored 509 points in 2007-08, up 49 points from last year’s score. The state has set a benchmark score of 800 that each school must meet.

Tambini attributes the school’s increase in test scores to creating a positive culture shift.

“We’ve become a school of choice,” he said. “People are coming here because it’s a viable option to graduate.”

At 200 students, the school is less than one-tenth the size of Nevada Union and roughly one-sixth the size of Bear River. Many of the students come to the school for its smaller class sizes and focus on individual attention.

Many students also come from nontraditional family backgrounds, Tambini said.

In 2006-07, the school graduated just five students. Last year, 26 donned a cap and gown. Most go to Sierra College or enter the job market when they graduate, but Tambini hopes one day to have the school boost its curriculum to include all the courses that will enable students to go to a four-year school once they graduate.

Instructors such as Ken Buchanan, who teaches history and calligraphy at the school, said students, by and large, want to come to the school.

“They come here and they have stability,” Tambini said.

Tambini said the school works in part because teachers can have a bigger influence in a smaller environment.

“I’m proud of our students,” he said. “They’ve put in the effort and bought into what we’re trying to do.”

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