Las Vegas Sun

August 21, 2014

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District faces tough task in lifting underperforming students

The Clark County School District struggles to remediate nonproficient students, according to last year’s school-level "growth" data released Thursday.

Last summer, the Nevada Growth Model replaced the "adequate yearly progress" measure under the federal No Child Left Behind Act, which emphasized proficiency scores over academic improvement on annual standardized tests.

No Child Left Behind punished schools that improved their test results but that failed to carry their students across the proficiency benchmark. The new growth model — mandated by the Legislature and approved through a federal No Child Left Behind waiver — will credit schools for making great strides in student achievement, even though they may fall short of being proficient.

The Clark County School District presented an updated version of the program at the school board meeting on Thursday.

“It’s having a healthy impact largely because of the system (No Child Left Behind) it is replacing,” said Ken Turner, special assistant to the superintendent. “Growth sets a different end point. It is not just to be adequate, it is to be ready for college or a career … and it says, ‘Are you on pace to achieve that over time?’ It stresses continuous improvement.”

The state education department and the local school districts released school growth data last year. This data became the basis for the Clark County School District's new school ranking system, which rated schools on a one- to five-star scale.

This year's school-level growth data is expected to be released by the state education department in November. The data will show the percentage of nonproficient students at each school who need to "catch up," the percentage of proficient students who need to "keep up" and the percentage of high-achieving students who need to "move up" to upper levels.

Last year’s growth data for Clark County show the School District is able to keep the majority of proficient students proficient but struggles to move nonproficient students to proficiency.

The data also show female students tend to improve more than males, the achievement gap between low-income and more affluent students has widened and the School District is closing the achievement gap between English Language Learners and native English speaking students.

Starting this October, Clark County schools will begin releasing student-level growth data for each student in grades 4-8 and 10. The individualized data will show how much a student improved on standardized tests and how his or her "growth" compares with peers across the state.

During parent-teacher conferences, parents will receive computer printouts of graphs illustrating how their child is progressing academically, much like pediatricians do when they show how much a child has physically grown on a growth chart. Officials said they hope the school and student growth model data will better illustrate how their children are doing academically.

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