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October 7, 2015

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School District put on No Child Left Behind watch list

The Clark County School District has been placed on a watch list as more schools failed to show enough improvement in test scores, officials said Wednesday.

The School District fell short of making “adequate yearly progress” under the federal No Child Left Behind two of the past three years. The district had made adequate progress in improving test scores last year, but failed to make progress in 2009.

Adequate yearly progress is a measure of school improvement under 2001’s No Child Left Behind. Public schools receiving federal funding must hit annual targets to bring students up to 100 percent academic proficiency in math and reading by the end of the 2013-14 school year.

This year, schools were supposed to reach 66 percent proficiency in math and 64 percent in reading.

Of the 363 schools in Clark County, 224 (61 percent) did not make adequate progress this year. The number of schools failing to show progress increased by nine from last year.

Under No Child Left Behind, schools have to demonstrate achievement in 45 categories, such as graduation rates, socioeconomic status and academic achievement among students broken down by ethnicity, special education status, limited English proficiency and those qualifying for free and reduced-price meals.

Failure to show improvement on any one of the categories results in not making “adequate yearly progress.” This all-or-nothing policy has become a source of frustration for educators, School Board members said.

District officials attributed its lack of adequate progress to higher testing standards in reading, which lowered test scores this year by up to 30 percentage points.

Adequate progress may become more elusive over the next two years, as the School District starts using a higher testing standard in math and a more accurate way to measure graduation rates, which might lower its rates by 15 percent or more.

As standards rise, more and more schools across the country may be classified as failing under No Child Left Behind. Pressure to meet standards has been blamed for high-profile cheating investigations in Atlanta and Washington, D.C.

Many education leaders — including Education Secretary Arne Duncan — have said meeting a 100 percent proficiency goal in math and reading by 2014 is unrealistic, calling for reforms to the law. Some states are beginning to ask for waivers to skirt the goal, pending the law’s reauthorization, and at least three states have vowed to just ignore meeting federal benchmarks.

This month, Nevada will implement a new standard to measure academic progress called the growth model, which will measure each student’s growth instead of focusing on an annual test score. Nevada joins 18 other states using the model, including Colorado, where Superintendent Dwight Jones helped spearhead the model’s development.

“We see the growth model as the wave of the future,” said Pedro Martinez, the deputy superintendent of instruction. “Annual Yearly Progress is a one-year measure, and it’s either you did it, or you didn’t. The growth model is a much more comprehensive measure.”

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