From the principal’s office: Big-school offerings, small-school environment | SierraSun.com

From the principal’s office: Big-school offerings, small-school environment

Joanna Mitchell
Special to the Sun

TAHOE CITY, Calif. and#8212; Many high schools today are searching for ways to provide a and#8220;small schooland#8221; experience for their students though smaller learning communities, or SLCs. SLCs may include grade-level academies, thematic academies, and#8220;houses,and#8221; or schools-within-a-school. These configurations in turn create a reflective community that fosters strong connections amongst students and between students and adults. They focus on the development of the whole student, supporting their physical, emotional, and academic growth.

Many of these qualities that other schools are striving for are not only present but also nurtured within Tahoe Truckee Unified School District through North Tahoe High School. NTHS has all the benefits of a small, local high school with a diverse population. With a student body of 325, NTHS is able to provide the culture and instructional innovation of a small learning community alongside the extra-curricular opportunities of a larger high school. This combination is rarely found in high schools today.

North Tahoe is a small community in which students know each other and the staff. We are able to respond immediately when students are struggling with academic and personal issues. Additionally, we have built structures to ensure that students are connected to an adult who is their advocate and monitors their progress through an Advisory program. In Advisory, students meet in grade level cohorts to promote reflection, review pertinent grade-level information including college and career information, develop self-management skills, and meet with a teacher about their progress on both academic and personal goals. Furthermore, we have developed a student-centered, positive approach to discipline and behavior modification. Through this approach, we focus on supporting students through tough decisions, correcting mistakes, and facilitating conflict resolution. As a result, we have cut our number of out of school suspensions in half since 2007. We are looking forward to being able to further support the various needs of our students with the addition of a site Wellness Center later this year.

The staff of North Tahoe High School is devoted to providing an instructional approach that is centered on student learning and promoting 21st century skills. Teachers work in professional learning communities, or PLCs, that involve teachers collaborating around student performance and designing next steps to support students who are struggling as well as provide deeper, enriching experiences for students who excel. Furthermore, many teachers have been trained in Project Based Learning, which organizes curriculum into specific projects that often require students to utilize the 21st century skills of problem solving, collaboration, and communication through technology. We are using frequent, formative assessments to gauge and respond to student learning and providing multiple opportunities for students to demonstrate proficiency in the essential standards. Co-teachers in several classes help support this differentiation. We also provide after-school tutoring with transportation on Tuesdays and Thursdays. In addition, we have added three new Advanced Placement (AP) courses to our schedule this year, making a total of 10 AP course offerings, a truly impressive number for a school of our size. Furthermore, we have worked to get all of our courses approved for University of California acceptance.

Amongst all these benefits of a small high school come a great number of opportunities similar to those found at large high schools. NTHS’s band program is amazing. It involves 134 students and consistently wins awards at the state and regional level. We have an award-winning art program and a Regional Occupation Program (ROP) supported career and technical education program that offers an internship program in Culinary Arts. In addition, we have a plethora of clubs for students to join including Leadership, Yearbook, Mariposa, Environmental Club, Interact, CSF, Youth in Action, and Academic Team. Students can participate on a variety of sports teams including football, soccer, tennis, volleyball, golf, cross-country running, cheerleading, alpine or Nordic skiing, basketball, baseball, softball, and track and field. Many students are able to play multiple sports throughout the year.

NTHS is a remarkable school that offers students incredible opportunities. Our students are nurtured, challenged, and prepared for life after high school. Ninety-eight percent of our students graduate and 80 percent of our students go on to college. Each year we have students enter some of the most prestigious universities in the country including UC Berkeley, Stanford, UCLA, Cal Poly, UC Davis, and NYU. NTHS is always welcoming new students; come see what we can offer you!