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September 1, 2014

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CCSD students’ proficiency up in science, reading but down in math

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Leila Navidi

Science teacher Sergio Lopez leads a science proficiency exam tutoring session for seniors at Chaparral High School in Las Vegas on Monday, April 23, 2012. Seniors have one more chance this school year to pass the proficiency exams, which are mandatory for graduation.

Updated Tuesday, April 23, 2013 | 5 p.m.

Clark County School District students made significant gains in reading and science, but dropped precipitously in math, according to this year's proficiency test scores.

The Nevada Department of Education recently released the results of the High School Proficiency Examination, which is first administered to students during their sophomore year. Students must pass all four sections – math, reading, writing and science – in order to graduate.

In March, Clark County had about 22,000 sophomores take the proficiency exam for the first time. The exam covers material taught mostly in ninth and 10th grades, and students may take the exam up to six times before June of their senior year.

Clark County improved by 6.7 percentage points in each of the reading and science sections. This represents a 14 percent and 13 percent increase in test scores, respectively, from the previous year.

In reading, 54.4 percent of students passed on their first try. In science, 58.7 percent of students passed on their first take.

Students in the School District showed slight gains on the writing section, improving about 1 percentage point from the previous year. About three-quarters – 76.3 percent – of students passed the writing portion, which is administered for the first time during their junior year.

However, the number of Clark County students deemed proficient in math plummeted.

Just 32.2 percent of students passed on their first try. The district declined by 20.2 percentage points from the previous year.

Clark County wasn't the only one. Across Nevada, math scores fell dramatically amid a statewide push to increase classroom rigor.

In 2008, Nevada's 17 school districts began preparing for a tougher proficiency exam. To help districts transition to the more rigorous test, the state temporarily lowered the "cut score" in math from 300 to 242 out of a possible 500 points.

This year, the passing score was returned to 300 points, raising the proficiency bar on the harder exam. This explains the sudden drop in math test scores.

School districts across Nevada experienced similar declines in test scores when the proficiency bar for the reading section was raised in 2011. Clark County's pass rate in reading fell 30 percentage points that year, from 78 percent to 48 percent.

These high school proficiency test results may soon become a moot issue, however.

Nevada is considering eliminating the High School Proficiency Exam in favor of a new computerized assessment that is aligned with the new Common Core curricula being rolled out nationwide.

Nevada is one of 45 states that has adopted the Common Core State Standards, which proponents say better prepares students for college. These even more rigorous learning standards come with a new online test, which is being developed by the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium.

Nevada lawmakers also are considering making either the ACT or SAT college entrance exams the new high school exit exam. Assembly Bill 288 would replace the High School Proficiency Exam with a "standardized, curriculum-based achievement college entrance examination" – most likely the ACT.

Here are the schools with the highest and the lowest first-time pass rates on the High School Proficiency Exam this year:

    • Reading

      Top 5 high schools with the highest pass rates:

      1. West Career and Technical Academy (93.5 percent)

      2. Advanced Technologies Academy (92.9 percent)

      3. Veterans Tribute Career and Technical Academy (86.5 percent)

      4. Northwest Career and Technical Academy (83.6 percent)

      5. Southwest Career and Technical Academy (82 percent)

      Bottom 5 high schools with the lowest pass rates:

      41. Chaparral High School (36.9 percent)

      42. Cheyenne High School (35.5 percent)

      43. Western High School (32.1 percent)

      44. Desert Pines High School (27.4 percent)

      45. Sunrise Mountain High School (26.3 percent)

    • Math

      Top 5 high schools with the highest pass rates:

      1. Advanced Technologies Academy (75.8 percent)

      2. West Career and Technical Academy (71.8 percent)

      3. Las Vegas Academy (60.1 percent)

      4. Coronado High School (59.2 percent)

      5. Southwest Career and Technical Academy (57.1 percent)

      Bottom 5 high schools with the lowest pass rates:

      41. Cheyenne High School (13 percent)

      42. Desert Pines High School (12.7 percent)

      43. Eldorado High School (11.5 percent)

      44. Mojave High School (11.4 percent)

      45. Sunrise Mountain High School (9.1 percent)

    • Science

      Top 5 high schools with the highest pass rates:

      1. Advanced Technologies Academy (94.6 percent)

      2. Veterans Tribute Career and Technical Academy (94.6 percent)

      3. West Career and Technical Academy (91.5 percent)

      4. Northwest Career and Technical Academy (87.4 percent)

      5. Las Vegas Academy (85.3 percent)

      Bottom 5 high schools with the lowest pass rates:

      41. Chaparral High School (38.7 percent)

      42. Mojave High School (38.6 percent)

      43. Desert Pines High School (36.9 percent)

      44. Sunrise Mountain High School (33.7 percent)

      45. Western High School (32.9 percent)

    • Writing

      Top 5 high schools with the highest pass rates:

      1. Southwest Career and Technical Academy (98.1 percent)

      2. Northwest Career and Technical Academy (98 percent)

      3. Las Vegas Academy (98 percent)

      4. West Career and Technical Academy (97.2 percent)

      5. Veterans Tribute Career and Technical Academy (96.8 percent)

      Bottom 5 high schools with the lowest pass rates:

      41. Mojave High School (61.3 percent)

      42. Eldorado High School (60.5 percent)

      43. Sunrise Mountain High School (59.1 percent)

      44. Western High School (59 percent)

      45. Desert Pines High School (56.7 percent)

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    1. Obviously, the lowest performing schools all seem to be poor in every category. It's obvious we need to re-assign the present teachers, and bring in teachers from the high performing schools. Sure, we'll get similar results at the low performers, but hey-it's the teachers fault. Right?