Hug High School, in Reno, has struggled to ensure its seniors graduate on time. A new concept that creates small learning communities for freshman is making progress the rest of the state might want to emulate.
Ntalia Callahan teaches freshman math in a small learning community that groups the students together throughout the day. "It really gives the students a sense of belonging. They have the same students and they go to every core class: math, english, and science, everyday. I think it really helps them to create social environment."
The idea is to bring a student's education back to the basics: a group of 20-to-25 students will spend the day together for their core classes, and then switch for electives. Teachers say it creates a community, students say they feel a little more stability in a chaotic environment.
Edith Armenta says she wasn't sure about the idea at first, but she says she loves it now. "I think it's better to have small school because you don't get lost that quick... you have your classes in small buildings. You have your counselor next door, your teacher next door."
Halie Rakow agrees, saying she knows all of her classmates well enough to call them friends. "With all my classes, you're with the same exact people. So, you get to know those people better than if you had different people with you."
Assemblywoman Bonnie Parnell, of Carson City, says the concept can decrease truancy and improve the graduation rate. This keeps the kids in a separate building and allows them a counselor and vice-principal designated to each small learning community.
Shane Gilligan teaches freshman science. He says the program is keeping kids in school. "So, if a kid is struggling in science, it allows us to, what are they doing well in: english.... So, that we can work together to bring that student achievement up for all the students."
The teachers say the key to graduation is helping the students stay on track from day one as a freshman. They say the learning communities create an accountability among the students and teachers.