Student-achievement database still isn’t close; some lawmakers upset

Nevada lawmakers expressed frustration Thursday over the slow pace of developing a statewide database to track student achievement, an effort that has been decades in the making and has cost millions of dollars.During a meeting of a Senate and Assembly joint money subcommittee, Sen. Debbie Smith, D-Sparks, said she’s tired of hearing session after session, “we’re almost there.”“I keep wondering if I’m going to live long enough to really enjoy all the investment we’ve made in this system,” Smith said, saying the state has spent $42 million over time to make it happen.“I still want to be alive when we can say we’ve reached some point where we want to be,” Smith said. “Generally speaking, I don’t know how much longer I can take it.”The Department of Education is requesting $4 million to build a database to allow tracking of student achievement from kindergarten through higher education and into the work force. Of that sum, about $1 million would go the Nevada System of Higher Education and $500,000 to the state Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation to link tracking capabilities. State Superintendent James Guthrie told the panel Nevada has made a good start.He said the system is modeled after Florida’s; that state has created a database that is able, for example, to pinpoint the achievements of students and trace them to which algebra teacher they had.“I watched it grow and was just stunned by it,” Guthrie said. “Nevada’s made a good start,” he said, adding that “we hope to bring this to fruition fast.” He estimated the system could be operational by 2014.Another part of implementing performance standards is a move to transfer oversight of regional professional development programs to the Department of Education.A new budget account would be set up with a base funding of $7.5 million a year for professional development and training not only for teachers but administrators and principals.That led Assemblyman Paul Aizley, D-Las Vegas, to question why administrators need training.“What are the colleges of education doing?” he asked. “Aren’t they training administrators?”Guthrie and other department officials said teachers as well as administrators need to be trained in new Common Core Standards methods and how they will be evaluated.“We’re asking teachers to have a far more rigorous curriculum,” he said, adding that on top of that, a new valuation system is being put in place.He said training is needed, for both teachers and administrators, “so it doesn’t blow up in our face with legal suit after legal suit.”


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