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May 6, 2015

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With ‘No Child’ no longer in play, Nevada looks to its own strategies, goals

After months of reviews and revisions, U.S. Department of Education approved Nevada’s waiver from the stringent requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act.

The waiver no longer binds Nevada’s struggling schools to the 2001 law’s key mandate that all Nevada children be 100 percent proficient in math and reading by 2014.

Instead, the waiver announcement on Wednesday heralds a new school accountability system for the Nevada Department of Education, said state Superintendent Jim Guthrie.

The new accountability system includes a different method of measuring student achievement, more rigorous national standards and new school and teacher evaluation systems, he said.

“The time for excuses has stopped,” Guthrie said, citing a recent national report that ranked Nevada dead last in education. “By 2020 — on every important measure of student achievement — Nevada will be at least at or better than the national median.”

Nevada’s waiver application outlines some of the new strategies the state plans to implement to meet Guthrie’s bold goal. Here are 10 of those proposals:

    • This past school year, Nevada implemented the “growth model,” which tracks a student’s academic progress over time. The model has been adopted by 18 states and emphasizes how much a student has improved on standardized tests year over year — instead of by a one-time test score.

    • Nevada is now entering the final year of a three-year rollout of the Common Core Standards, which have been adopted by 45 states. Proponents argue that Common Core benefits school districts with a high transiency rate — such as Clark County — because the more rigorous curriculum standards are uniform across the country.

    • To comply with the waiver request, Gov. Brian Sandoval tasked the Teachers and Leaders Council with developing a new teacher evaluation system. The council is expected to present a final report in December, Guthrie said.

    • Nevada is in the process of implementing a statewide school rating system, which would appraise public schools on a one- to five-star scale.

      This school performance index would measure student achievement and growth, average daily attendance, graduation rates and other indicators of college- and career-readiness, such as participation in college-level coursework and average ACT and SAT scores.

    • Under the new statewide school rating system, Nevada’s high-performing schools will be rewarded with greater autonomy. Low-performing schools will be given greater oversight but also support, such as leadership and teacher development.

    • Nevada has new performance benchmarks for math and English to meet a new goal of increasing proficiency rates from the 50th to the 90th percentile by the 2016-17 school year.

    • Nevada plans to better focus on closing the achievement gap between different student groups — such as low-income students, English-language learners and students with disabilities — by identifying and establishing “focus schools.”

      These “Focus schools” – which have demonstrated low growth among challenging subgroups — will be given additional support and interventions over a minimum three-year period. The school and district will use data to identify the cause of low performance and develop steps to solve problems.

    • Nevada changed the way it classifies and combines challenging student subgroups, increasing the number of schools responsible for low-income, English-language learner and special education student performance.

      There are now more than 100 additional schools responsible for their special education student population, more than 70 additional schools responsible for the performance of their English-language learner students and more than 40 additional schools responsible for the performance of their low-income students.

    • Nevada will identify its lowest-performing schools as “priority schools” and ensure that school districts implement interventions at those schools, similar to the “turnaround” schools.

    • Nevada will continue to report student achievement, graduation rates and how well it met performance targets in an annual “report card” for each school.

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    1. Until school becomes a choice instead of a mandate, and until the union no longer rules the system, education will not improve.

    2. Education in Nevada will NOT improve because of a succession of predatory Tea/Republican Party Governors who could care less if children are educated. Because they place more emphasis on money, than the future of Nevada and the health, welfare and education of its youth.

      This may be admirable for the education leaders to talk tough, but all I see is yet ANOTHER new policy. After many, many policy decisions before all met with failure.

      This trying to address the problem from the bottom up is not going to work.

      Sure, the teachers and the students are a key in making it work, but when you have politicians who are all pointing fingers all the time, refusing to work with the education system in Nevada AT ANY LEVEL AT ALL, then whatever these administrators decide to do is going to be met with inaction. Because the politicians are all seeking to take more and more money away from the school system, yet they pay lip service.

      Governor Sandoval, besides dragging his feet on Medicaid here in Nevada, could care less about education.

      As far as he's concerned, it's only switched from "no child left behind" to the new program called "no child left a dime."

    3. Nevada schools ranks 50th in the nation in the Kids Count report. I guess we can be optimistic. There's nowhere to go but up.

      I'm encouraged by the emphasis on Focus Schools. Homogenizing special-needs children with all students in the classroom is an impediment to average and better students.

    4. Until parents are held responsible for their children's education, nothing will ever change. Period. Show me a parent who cares about his child's education, and I will show you a highly successful student.

    5. Education will not improve until you get rid of the unions that are ruining it.

    6. There's no point in talking about improving the schools until pension reform takes place. NVPers pays pensions based on the assumption that its fund will grow at a Madoff 8% per year--so schools have to assume that budget cuts will increase by 8% per year just to cover pensions to people who are no longer working.

    7. @Colin - Liberals have had control of our entire education system for half a century, but it's conservatives who are at fault? Did you even read the article? "We'll be in great shape by 2020 ... blah blah blah" Yeah, great liberal strategy as usual - aim for the middle!

    8. 'No Child' spent money on testing, not teaching. It's requirements forced all graduates to learn what many can never learn in this era of distraction: simple math. It was an educational program designed by bean counters and wasted time and money.

    9. Richard Dean: "Liberals have had control of our entire education system for half a century, but it's conservatives who are at fault? Did you even read the article? "We'll be in great shape by 2020 ... blah blah blah" Yeah, great liberal strategy as usual - aim for the middle!"

      You are taking a problem and talking generalities. As it relates to the entire United States of America.

      The problem we are talking about here, at this point in time, Statewide in Nevada, cannot be just explained away by bloviating vague stuff and playing upon people's emotions and misperceptions. It don't work like that.

      FACT: For the past fourteen years, we have had a succession of Tea/Republican Party Governors who have basically GUTTED our education system. And given the money saved to corporations in the form of tax breaks.

      To point fingers at your so called boogeyman "liberals" is incredible partisan politic thought.

      My whole point is that our education system in the Great State of Nevada has ABSOLUTELY NO CHANCE of getting better when you have Governors who look at education as a problem, and not a solution to a problem.

      For years and years and years all we have heard is illegal immigrants this, the kids in Nevada are rotten, the teachers here in Nevada are not performing, they're lazy, blah blah blah woof woof woof.

      The fingers are pointed everywhere. Except at where the real problem is.

      Public education needs to be funded properly. To give kids a chance to succeed. And for teachers to be successful.

      But when the Government of Nevada refuses to participate in the whole process, remains silent, comes up with nothing, even refuses to sit down and realize it is a problem that encompasses politics, the education system and the participation wholeheartedly of students/parents, then it's doomed to failure.

      FOR FOURTEEN YEARS, the education system has been whittled away from money.

      This is a campaign issue for Governor Sandoval.

      I see a game change coming. People are sick and tired of living in an ultra-conservative alternative universe where they could care less if kids are educated or not.

      We're tired of this stupid Tea/Republican Party crap that gets us nowhere except to take pens and pencils out of students hands, and essentially replace them with guns and knives.

      So, talking in vague generalities only serves the predators in power right now here in Nevada. "Liberal" this, "liberal" that. And other buzzwords. Gimme a break.

      We get rid of the ones who caused this problem and start over. It needs to be fixed from the top down. Not this bottom up garbage that will only lead to inevitable failure.

    10. So can we FINALLY START with teaching them to READ AND WRITE? They must read and write by age 8 or 9 or there is little to no chance of any real education. And teaching reading and writing is not rocket science. We used to do that routinely at very LOW COST.

    11. I'll be curious to see if other than short term improvements are realized.