Las Vegas Sun

April 29, 2017

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Education panel advances plan to qualify for $175 million

Sun Coverage

The Silver State is inching a step closer to qualifying for as much as $175 million in federal education dollars.

To qualify for the “Race to the Top” grant program, a U.S. Education Department initiative that is expected to distribute $4.35 billion, states must allow teachers to be evaluated using student test data.

In 2003, Nevada lawmakers passed a last-minute bill that explicitly prohibited using test data in teacher evaluations.

The Legislative Committee on Education today approved a preliminary bill draft that would remove from the statute language that prohibits schools from evaluating teachers using student test data. The proposed change still needs to win legislative approval in a special session, which can only be called by Gov. Jim Gibbons.

Nevada is one of a handful of states with similar prohibitions. California changed its law in November, and New York’s prohibition expires in March.

The revised language approved by the Education Committee would allow student test data to be as a key factor – but not the sole determinant – when evaluating teachers.

Gibbons’ deputy chief of staff, Stacey Woodbury, told the Education Committee that Nevada already has missed the deadline to submit a letter of intent for the first round of funding. However, the second round of funding deadline isn’t until June, and that gives Nevada time to put together a thoughtful and comprehensive application, Woodbury said.

Potential funding is determined by the size of the state’s student population: California, Texas, New York and Florida are each eligible for $350 million to $700 million. Nevada could be eligible for $60 million to $175 million.

Even though the first deadline has passed, Nevada might still get its full amount, education officials say. The state is also eligible for tens of millions of dollars specifically intended to turn around its lowest performing schools, and for public-private partnerships intended to foster innovation and reform.

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