LAS VEGAS (CBS Las Vegas) – Clark County Schools are doing whatever it takes to improve graduation rates, including offering students iPods for taking proficiency exams necessary for graduation.
Each high school in the district will be given an iPod Shuffle that will be raffled off to one student who showed up to take the exam. Raffles will also be drawn for the county’s special needs and alternative schools.
In total, 43 iPods will be distributed, thanks to a donation from the Siegfried and Roy Foundation.
“We have a number of programs directly aimed at getting [our seniors] back in class to reclaim credits and graduate on time,” schools spokesperson Amanda Fulkerson explained to CBS Las Vegas. “It’s about getting our seniors in the seats to take the tests they need to graduate.”
The program – called “Prepare and Be There!” – was created as part of the district’s attempt to address a serious issue in their high schools.
“It’s not a secret – in Las Vegas, we have the lowest graduation rate in the nation. We’re only graduating about half the kids,” said Fulkerson. “It was time to be real about this. With that fact, we directed our reform … [toward] academic achievement and graduating kids.”
New superintendent Dwight Jones began his tenure over the reported fifth largest school district in the nation last December by running the numbers and “ripp[ing] the band-aid” off the facts surrounding their dwindling graduation rates.
Some are enthusiastic about the effects it could have on student attendance of the exams, which cover math, reading, writing and science.
“They might think twice about rolling over and shutting off that alarm if they knew, ‘Well you know, I might just win,’” Foothill High School Principal Jeanne Donadio told KVVU-TV.
Others, however, feel the motivation to take the exams should come from within – including some students.
“It’s sad that graduating is not enough of an incentive,” Brandon Mielcarek, a senior at Green Valley High School, told KVVU. “But unfortunately it is true that the kids need something other than the graduation itself.”
The exams began yesterday, and will continue until Thursday. Those who do not pass this time will have another chance in July, before being denied a diploma.