Throughout the Clark County School District’s recent history of academic underperformance, middle schools have been anchors on achievement, unable to remedy deficiencies from elementary school or adequately prepare students for the rigors of high school.
When the district debuted its school rating system in 2012, no middle schools received five stars, the highest possible rating. The vast majority were generously awarded three stars or fewer.
So this week’s news that Rogich Middle School was named a national Blue Ribbon School — one of just 335 public and private schools to earn the honor for 2015-16 — was especially remarkable. The designation shows that middle schools don’t have to be liabilities for the nation’s fifth-largest public school system. They can be a strength.
As reported by the Review-Journal’s Neal Morton, Rogich requires struggling sixth-graders to take two math classes. It offers a longer school day so that all students can enroll in a fine arts or language class, and the school emphasizes literacy in all classes. The result is a school where race, English proficiency and socioeconomic status have little bearing on achievement. The Summerlin school blows away state averages in math, reading and science, with more than 70 percent of students meeting or exceeding standards.
And it’s worth noting that Rogich achieved Blue Ribbon status despite being one of the worst-funded schools in the state. In 2012-13 (the most recent data available), Rogich spent $5,196 per student, with just $3,907 dedicated to instruction and instruction support. By comparison, Bailey, Bridger and Guinn middle schools spend more than $7,000 per student per year, with varying results. More money, by itself, will never guarantee excellent schools.
“It’s all about the culture,” Rogich Principal Suzie Harrison said. “We have a culture of high expectations and achievement. The teachers understand it, the parents understand the students want to do well.”
Two Henderson schools also were named Blue Ribbon Schools by the U.S. Department of Education: Glen Taylor and Morrow elementaries. With Rogich, they’re the only schools in Nevada to make the list this year, and it’s the first time the Clark County School District has had three schools earn the honor in a single year. Huge congratulations are in order for these schools and the leaders, teachers and families who’ve made them great.