Scottsbluff Public Schools, Scottsbluff, Nebraska
Challenge: Scottsbluff’s graduation rate was barely 71 percent in 2011 and only 74 percent in 2012. The free- and reduced-price lunch rate has risen to 63 percent, while crime, drug use and child abuse continue to challenge the area. Mobility among residents means the community struggles to maintain its current population while schools face increased needs from English language learners.
Initiative: The district opened a storefront dropout prevention and recovery program called Reconnect that has graduated more than 130 16- to 21-year-olds. It also launched an alternative school where students participate in relationship-driven, hands-on learning. In 2013, a $29.2 million bond passed to “megarenovate” Scottsbluff High School into a comprehensive career academy with medical science labs, a recording studio, a greenhouse and live animal bay, and a construction trades area. At the “Wall-to-Wall” Career Academy, all juniors and seniors now enroll in one of six academies offering 24 pathways.
Impact: The number of students taking dual-credit courses and participating in internships has soared. The graduation rate has risen above 90 percent the last two years, and there is no longer a gap in the graduation rates for Hispanic students. Free- and reduced-price lunch students have graduated at a rate of 91.9 percent and 89 percent the last two years, respectively. Finally, the dropout rate fell from 2.6 percent in the 2011-12 school year (almost twice the state’s rate) to just under 1 percent in 2016-17.
Advice: “Work with professionals, parents, community agencies and employers to determine what your community really wants,” Superintendent Richard Myles says. “As educators, we need to get over ourselves and remember we don’t always know best.”