What's New in Nevada Schools?

A Case Study: Jacobson Elementary School

By Susan Balkenbush
  • Tuesday, November 1, 1994

At present, there are an estimated five to ten million youth identified as "at risk" in our country: children at risk of dropping out of school; of using, abusing or selling drugs; of getting pregnant of causing pregnancy; of contracting AIDS or other life-threatening communicable disease; or of living on the edge of homelessness and hopelessness from family strife or disability. These "at risk" considerations are often interdependent and often give rise to each other as a child "matures" both physically and emotionally in the school and social environments. Despite decades of effort by social service and government agencies, an expanding bureaucracy and mandated programs, the overall prognosis for these youth "at risk" are worsening rather than improving. These children are functional at the margins of society. They have little hope of ever experiencing our mainstream economic and social systems.

Our State of Nevada reflects the worst of the national problem with high school dropout rates that are among the highest in the nation.

Beyond the immediate, personal problems identified as belonging to "at risk" students, business and industry have charged that public schools are not providing suitable basic educational foundation for the employment needs -- requiring them to offer remedial programs to meet their minimum requirements for employment.

Francie Johnson, principal of Jacobson Elementary School, sought solutions to the problems of "at risk" decisions at their ultimate impact on mainstream society. She sought advice from her community, and went to develop a unique program in a predominately middle class school in Las Vegas which is centered on the principles of entrepreneurship and personal commitment. Her pilot program at Jacobson Elementary School grew to become Nevada's first experience with site-based management and school autonomy.

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