Does NHS Prepare Its Students?
By Dharma Batram
Novato High School’s purpose is to educate its students and prepare them for their next steps of life. This raises the question; how well does NHS fulfill its responsibilities?
Principal Matt Baldwin thinks that NHS definitely sets up students for success.
“I think Novato High does a fabulous job of putting its students in a position to have to demonstrate skills that are necessary for success that goes beyond a classroom, and translates to college and career success,” wrote Baldwin in an email. “We have definitely grown considerably in the last 4-5 years on addressing the skills essential for success in life. The next step is making sure we develop a global and comprehensive way of measuring those skills, and include student voice and choice during that process.”
The Western Association of Schools and Colleges, better known as WASC, reviewed Novato High this year in order to assess the school’s achievement of goals.
This year’s WASC evaluation corroborated Baldwin’s assertion. The last time WASC visited, in the 2014-2015 school year, Novato passed at the lowest level, meaning WASC would be returning in two years. This year, NHS passed with flying colors and will not be visited by WASC for another 6 years, which is the maximum amount of time given.
However, not all students agree with what WASC concluded.
The annual survey taken by all students showed some dissatisfaction, rising by the grade level, according to a member of the Student Advisory Counsel with whom the data was shared. NHS administration was not able to provide this data, so The Swarm is not able to publish specific figures.
Senior Chloe Winnett, who will be attending UCLA in the Fall on the pre-med track, expressed that she does not feel as though Novato High set students up to get into a good four-year university or live a self-sufficient life.
“In order to get into a good college, you really have to go above and beyond the outlets and resources Novato High gives you. I’m not saying that Novato doesn’t adequately prepare you, it does, but you really have to put in a lot of extra effort,” said Winnett. “Novato High, with the exception of a few teachers, really does not respect its students or treat them like human beings with autonomy. Policies like the tardy policy are borderline dehumanizing.”
One of the shortfalls of the public school system is the lack of funding and unmanageable ratio of students to counselors, making the college application more difficult for students. Winnett elaborated, explaining where NHS could make improvements and where they already excel.
“I wish I had had better guidance as a junior about what I needed to complete over the summer. I got back to school and was one of the only people who hadn’t written all of her essays yet. I couldn’t afford a college counselor. That was a major disadvantage and it should not have been,” said Winnett. “All of this being said, I very much appreciate the effort people like Mrs. Grillo put into preparing us for college application season and supporting us through it. I appreciate how the counselors are consistent and dedicated. We have an advantage over other high school students because our adult allies are informed and generous.”
One measure of how well NHS serves its students is how they are fairing post-graduation.
Data would suggest that NHS prepares students to take the next step in their education, as the rate at which graduates have continued their educational career has hovered around 94-95% over the course of the past four years. While college is not a part of everyone's life path, this is evidence that NHS nurtures life-long learners.
Chloe Pace, former ASB Vice President and 2016 graduate, currently attends Chapman University and feels as though NHS prepared her for college, but could have done a better job at providing life skills.
“NHS was successful in preparing me for college but when it comes to being an independent adult, you can only learn that from experience,” said Pace. “At the same time, it would be extremely helpful to have some sort of home ec. class that taught basic cooking, budgeting, and other skills like that because that really would have helped me ease into living on my own.”
Pace explained that while NHS sets students up to attend college, it is up to the individual student to take the necessary steps to be accepted to a good university.
“I feel that NHS prepared me for a good college and provided me with resources but at the same time you have to put in the work yourself and do the work of looking into those resources,” said Pace.
Grace Beckman, a 2017 Novato High graduate who is currently attending Santa Rosa Junior College, was able to express the information she wishes she was provided with.
“There could be more to prepare students for what college will be like, but the JC isn't much different than high school so I felt relatively prepared,” Beckman said. “I think explaining more about what college is like in the classroom and at different types of schools, like what junior colleges are like versus a university would have been helpful.”
Baldwin feels as though NHS absolutely prepares students for the future, regardless of their path.
“The whole point of education, in my opinion, is preparing students how to take on the rigors of the ‘real world’ and be prepared for anything that comes their way. While the learning modalities of students varies, as does teacher preference with specific pedagogy, we still need to create a learning environment where students are asked to apply what they have learned in ‘real world’ context. That makes the learning come alive and allows for students to retain the information for much longer than just simple lecture,” explained Baldwin.
While Novato High is an above-average institution, it certainly has some areas it can improve upon. Continually listening to students’ voices is the first step in making a positive change.