RENO, Nev. (KRNV & MyNews4.com) -- The graduation rate for Washoe County high schools is holding steady. It's down one point to 69 percent, but more seniors actually graduated than last year. The numbers are misleading because more students were enrolled. School officials say it's not good enough and there's a lot of work that needs to be done before students even get to high school.
"Our work is cut out for us this year, but I'm confident that we can do it," said WCSD Superintendent Pedro Martinez.
Only one of 16 Washoe County middle schools meets the adequate yearly progress standards.
Martinez says that's unacceptable.
"What it's going to take is us pushing the rigor at the middle schools, working with our principals," he said. "We saw some nice gains this year but we're still too low."
Ginny Knowles is the principal of Vaughn Middle School - it was below the A.Y.P. standards for five years before improving last year. She credits more collaboration and community support for the change.
"Our students and families have a lot of buy-in and so that's one of the reasons that I think we made such great growth," Knowles said.
Director of Research and Accountability Ben Hayes says it takes two years for a school like Vaughn to be classified as in need of improvement, and it also takes two years to recover from it.
"A school that is in need of improvement and makes A.Y.P. one year, then they go into in need of improvement hold, then if they make it another year in a row they go back to adequate," Hayes said.
Vaughn is one of four schools on hold that could earn adequate status again this year, and they say teamwork is key to that success.
"For example, the other 7th grade teacher and I, we make sure that we're working together so well that if something is going wrong in my class then I can ask him 'okay what did you do to make sure your kids were succeeding with that concept,'" said Amy Waters, a 7th grade English teacher at Vaugn.
Martinez is hoping schools learn from each other's success too because only 2,500 of this year's 4,300 seniors are on track to graduate - just about 58 percent.
"Our children lose hope," Martinez said. "What our data shows is that when we have children that are at risk of not graduating some of them perservere, but I'll tell you if they don't have a strong support system at home, strong friends around them, they lose hope. They give up."
Martinez says he's committed to getting 1,000 students who are on that bubble to graduation this year. The school district wants you to help those students succeed. On September 29th they need volunteers to go door to door to talk to students who are at risk of dropping out. You can sign up to volunteer on WCSD's website