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January 31, 2015

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Clark County schools improve on No Child Left Behind benchmarks

Nevada transitioning from federal law to own accountability system

Sun coverage

For more than a decade, Nevada’s public schools were required to meet annual academic benchmarks set by the federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2001.

The goal was to improve every year until all American students became 100 percent proficient in math and reading by the 2013-14 school year.

It was a noble goal, but one that educators found soon enough to be unattainable. As testing standards were raised higher and higher each year, it became harder and harder for schools to meet the law’s “adequate yearly progress” measure.

As the years went by, more and more schools across the country were deemed “failing.”

In 2008-09, nearly 60 percent of Nevada public schools made “adequate yearly progress.” By 2010-11, just 45 percent of schools made the grade.

However, the Silver State reversed the downward spiral despite tougher standards.

Last school year, 49 percent of the state’s 688 public schools passed No Child Left Behind, which represents an increase of 4 percentage points. It was a remarkable improvement for a state that will soon replace No Child Left Behind with its own education accountability system by next school year.

Nevada’s rebound was fueled in large part by significant gains in the Clark County School District, which experienced increases in graduation rates and test scores last year.

Those improvements translated to a 3-percentage point increase in the number of Clark County schools making “adequate yearly progress” — from 40 percent in 2010-11 to 43 percent last school year.

Still, the fact remains that the majority of Nevada and Clark County schools are deemed “failing” by the federal government.

Last school year, Nevada schools were supposed to hit the benchmark of having 77 percent of students proficient in math and 76 percent of students proficient in reading.

Of the 368 schools in Clark County, just 156 (43 percent) met those targets, according to the most recent data released by the Clark County School District on Monday.

It’s difficult to meet these targets because, under No Child Left Behind, schools had to demonstrate achievement in all student subgroups. Failure to show improvement among any student group — even challenging ones such as English Language Learners or special education students — means that the entire school fails.

This all-or-nothing policy became a source of frustration for educators, who complained their students were making immense strides but still didn’t quite make the proficiency cuts.

However, Nevada recently received a waiver from the federal government, freeing it from the ever-rigorous No Child requirements. This waiver paves the way for Nevada to finish implementing a new system of accountability for schools.

“(Adequate yearly progress) was a train wreck for the whole country,” said Ken Turner, an education consultant who is trying to reform the Clark County School District. “We’re replacing it with something better.”

Nevada can keep its waiver as long as it adopts a statewide school rating system, develops a more-rigorous Common Core curriculum and implements a new teacher evaluation system that accounts for student performance.

Nevada will have to report "adequate yearly progress" for one more year until it meets these three requirements. But the state is well on its way.

Last year, the Clark County School District implemented a school rating system, which measures schools on a 100-point scale that largely hinges on students’ academic growth and proficiency scores.

Nevada will pilot a new teacher evaluation system by the end of this school year. The state is also entering its final year of a three-year rollout of the Common Core Standards, which will bring a new state standardized test that proponents argue will better evaluate students’ critical thinking skills.

Although No Child Left Behind’s “adequate yearly progress” will likely be a thing of the past, its focus on school accountability will endure in Nevada, Turner said.

“We believe raising the standards and ratcheting up expectations is just right,” he said. “We still know there’s a lot of work ahead — we’re still not faring the way we should be. But, along with Colorado, Nevada is leading the nation in improvements.”

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  1. Break up the school districts. Henderson will lead the way, with stellar performance, while LV and God help us NLV will trail. It's all about the parents (parent in NLV). Teachers can't change culture.

  2. It's not 'annual yearly progress.'. It's adequate yearly progress. Annual and yearly are redundant.

  3. "Less than a third of Clark County schools made the grade under No Child Left Behind in the 2011-12 academic year, marking a new low for the country's fifth-largest district."
    "Although a record low, the decline in local schools meeting federal requirements is nothing new."

    "Last school year, 49 percent of the state's 688 public schools passed No Child Left Behind, which represents an increase of 4 percentage points. It was a remarkable improvement for a state that will soon replace No Child Left Behind with its own education accountability system by next school year."

    Who's telling the truth?

  4. Readers need to understand how No Child Left Behind could never work: every year, although there is growth, the STANDARD was raised, so all the schools had to do 5-10% EACH year, compounding the expected rate. Can we ever expect, with all reason and all givens, that ALL the students (including students born with half to a tiny part of their brain functional)enrolled in public schools, including those with profound life and learning challenges, to ever read or do math at 100% in 5, or even 10 years?

    The FACT is that No Child Left Behind had an impossible to achieve goal to begin with, and those who truly profitted from this ill conceived educational agenda were: the publishers, test makers, score analyzers, "consultants", administrators in every sector involved with education, etc.

    No Child Left Behind, authored by Diane Ratevitch, denounced it later and claimed it to be a terrible mistake.

    Education in the United States of America is under the influence of corporate billionaires. No Child Left Behind and (the competition for educational funding) Race to the Top are promoted by these Billionaires as well as these Billionaires are also receiptiants benefitting from publishing, testing, analysis, other industries, etc. Can you see how the very wealthy, powerful, elite billionaires of the USA, are are unfairly influencing public education? To uncover this little known truth, please take the time to read the Winter, 2011, Dissent article, "Got Dough? How Billionaires Rule Our Schools," by Joanne Barkan.

    Futher read:

    This responds to (Governor Sandoval's Educational consultant) Michelle Rhea(StudentsFirst) and the anti-public education movie, Waiting for Superman, and this article in Disent sets the facts straight about WHO is really controlling public education...and it ain't the public!

    Part 1 of 2
    Blessings and Peace,

  5. Continued, Part 2 of 2:

    From the Dissent article, Ms. Barkan writes, "All children should have access to a good public school. And public schools should be run by officials who answer to the voters. Gates, Broad, and Walton answer to no one. Tax payers still fund more than 99 percent of the cost of K-12 education. Private foundations should not be setting public policy for them."

    See the YOUTUBE interview:

    Thomas Friedman, in Other Voices with the Las Vegas Sun's article found on,

    stated, "There is a quote attributed to the futurist Alvin Toffler that captures this new reality: In the future "illiteracy will not be defined by those who cannot read and write, but by those who cannot learn and relearn." Any form of standing still is deadly."

    No Child Left Behind leaves children behind. It did not take long for Nevada and CCSD to realize that it was a recipe for disaster. In response, they began to look at options as the Growth Model, which deals with the given realities educators and students face. Finally, we are on the road to not only recovery, but success for our students.

    Blessings and Peace,

  6. Tick,

    You do realize Clark County is not the only county in Nevada right?

    Both stats are correct.

  7. Thanks for the catch, Nancy (@ASadTeacher). We've updated the story.

  8. I am so sick and tired of hearing how our schools are failing because of "single family homes" or because of the parents. Yes, part of the situation is a direct result of homelife, but 2/3 of our students cannot pass a MINIMUM BASIC SKILLS test! A single family home makes the difference between a C- and an A+ or even a D- and an A+, but complete failure? No way. Besides, that's the job folks! These are the students you're paid to teach. TO TEACH! And you're not getting the job done. I would LOVE it if just for once a teacher came forward with one idea about what they are going to do to overcome the obstacles they are complaining about. Truth: It's not because they're hungry, or shy, or bulllied, or because mommy is a cocktail waitress. It's because YOU aren't teaching them - for whatever reason. Stop using the exceptions to justify your failure to educate the majority.

  9. Skeptical about the hype coming out of the school district, past and present hype. It is NOT rocket science to teach reading, writing, rithmetic. We continue to spend a fortune on each and every student in public K-12 but with abysmal results. Richard Dean says it well. Sounds like teachers need to emphasize teaching the basics--before grade 4--or that student is all but lost and we CANNOT AFFORD REMEDIAL programs for everybody. Longer school days and longer school years are clearly necessary. The public is saturated with complaints from teachers who don't perform. I understand the challenge for reporters covering education--to not alienate the teachers while trying to explain the issues. But enough with the cries for more money. They're not using the fortunes they get each year, not using the money to TEACH OUR KIDS TO READ.

  10. Tanker: The rural counties get more money per student because they cannot function without it. What do you do with 11 kids in 6th grade? Just 11. So the class size IS smaller. How does an SD pay a teacher for 11 kids? With a few bucks more from DSA. And consider that rural counties get nothing from LSST / Sales Tax funding--which CCSD gets in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

  11. Tick, Tanker, the world: NRS and even the Nevada Constitution do have requirements but those LEGAL REQUIREMENTS CAN BE CHANGED. K-12 in CCSD and many other places is DYSFUNCTIONAL. Past time to change the way we do K-12. Let's start by subsidizing parents who home school--give them a stipend of at least half the dsa funding the school district would get. Ditto for teachers sacrificing to send kids to private / parochial schools--could even "require" the school have a performance record equal to or exceeding CCSD.

  12. Whatever amount the district spends per each pupil should be attached to the kid, then let the parents decide which school to spend the money at, either private, public or charter.

    Public (government) schools will not improve until the money is attached to the students and the parents have real school choices.

  13. Gee, Noindex, that would be $11K-$15K per year depending on inclusion of cost of school construction. That's why I say we spend a small fortune on each and every student--upwards of $150,000 for K-12. The status quo is simple unacceptable. Money will not fix this unless it means taking money away. Catholic schools are able to teach it all in much larger classes, upwards of 60 students in some places. More parents would opt into alternatives if we INSIST ON RESULTS.

  14. Some readers would benefit from visiting their neighborhood school and observe what is going on. In the first few weeks of school, there are benchmark assessments ALL teachers in the trenches are mandated to do. Students are returning from their summer break, or any extended break from school, needing remedial practice because they have not bothered to read or do a few math practice exercises in the interrim. There are new students coming in from outside schools that may present other dynamic issues (unbeknowst to their new teachers).

    Education is not a "one size fits all," deal. There is a place for ALL avenues of education, other than the classic neighborhood school classroom setting. Some of these avenues may be more appropriate and least restrictive for some students. Citizens need to do whatever works for them and their child(ren). No matter what, all children in our country deserve and are entitled to an education and should be equipped to LEARN.

    Blessings and Peace,

  15. Since Government Schools are a Marxist concept, and since Karl Marx adhered to the "principle of Reversal," keen observers have known right along that the real meaning of "No child left behind" is "EVERY CHILD LEFT BEHIND." :-D