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August 4, 2015

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education:

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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