Las Vegas Sun

September 23, 2017

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School districts to share cost of new testing

The Clark County School District has agreed to pay part of the cost for a new state-mandated exam next year.

In 2013, state lawmakers passed a law that required all Nevada high school students take a “college and career readiness” exam during their junior year. The test will likely be one of the two common college entrance exams: the ACT or SAT. Lawmakers said the exam would help high schools better prepare students for life after graduation. High schools can use the test results to determine if students should be placed in remedial, advanced placement or vocational classes during their senior year. Students do not have to post a certain score on the exam to graduate.

The new exam, however, was an unfunded mandate. The Legislature didn’t appropriate additional money for the test, because it believed the Nevada Education Department could pay for it using current funds for assessments.

The Education Department, however, is implementing several new tests next year. There is a computer-based exam for elementary and middle schoolers and four new end-of-course exams for high schoolers that are aligned to more rigorous academic standards.

And although the current exams are being phased out, the department must continue paying for the Criterion Referenced Test and the High School Proficiency Exam for students until the new exams are fully developed.

As a result, Superintendent of Public Instruction Dale Erquiaga told the Nevada Board of Education earlier this year that there is no money for the college and career readiness test.

The college entrance exam will help Nevada students apply for college, but it comes at a cost.

It would cost $2.4 million to administer the ACT to more than 35,000 high school juniors across the state. The SAT would cost $1.8 million.

In April, Erquiaga said he planned to raise funds for the exam through private donations and grants. Today, the superintendent announced an agreement that places the burden of paying for the new exam on the Education Department and local school districts.

Half of the exam cost will come from the Nevada Department of Education. The remainder will be shared between the 17 school districts in the state.

With this agreement in place, the state school board today unanimously approved allowing the department to issue requests for proposals for the exam. Clark County’s share of the testing cost will be determined after the bids from the testing companies come in.

Next year, Erquiaga said, the education department plans to lobby lawmakers for more funding to administer the test.

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