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September 2, 2014

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State BOE approves new standardized tests for Nevada high school students

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Paul Takahashi

Carlos Leyva-Alvarez, 18, teaches studies at UNLV’s Summer Bridge program on Tuesday, July 17, 2012. The new program helps incoming freshmen avoid costly remedial math courses by preparing them for five weeks over the summer to pass a math proficiency exam that places them into a college-level math course.

Nevada’s K-12 education leaders today approved requirements for four new standardized exams being developed for high school students.

Earlier this year, the Nevada State Board of Education began phasing out the current High School Proficiency Exam in favor of new assessments aligned with more rigorous academic standards, called the Common Core State Standards.

Starting with the current crop of freshmen (Class of 2017), students must pass four end-of-course exams to graduate. Unlike exit exams, which are administered at once in a given school year, end-of-course exams are administered after a student completes a course.

Two exams will be in English language arts, testing students in reading and writing. These tests will be administered in the ninth and 10th grades.

The remaining two exams will be in math. One will test students on their knowledge of Algebra I and the other will test students in geometry. These exams may be administered immediately after the students finish their algebra or geometry courses.

Beginning with the current crop of seventh-graders (Class of 2019), the Nevada Board of Education is looking at combining the two English language arts exams and adding a science exam, which will be more rigorous than the current science section of the High School Proficiency Exam. The board may also add a fifth exam – testing social studies knowledge – in the future.

Students will be able to take the new exams as many times as needed to pass. The Nevada Education Department is looking at charging local school districts for the retakes, starting with the second or third retake.

Students may take the new exams immediately after they complete the necessary course instead of waiting until their sophomore year to take the exam. The Nevada Education Department also is considering administering portions of these new exams after each semester.

State school board members will begin discussing in February what passing scores should be on the new exams. The board is deciding whether to require students pass each of the four tests or adding up the scores on the four exams and setting up a cumulative score they must exceed.

Current sophomores, juniors and seniors still will have to pass the old High School Proficiency Exam to earn their high school diploma.

The state board of education also is considering several tests – such as the ACT – to serve as a college and career-readiness exam for Nevada high school juniors. Such an exam won’t count toward graduation but will help schools prepare students for the workforce or post-secondary education.

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