State Board of Ed worries ‘goal posts’ moving too far from proficiency

The Nevada State Board of Education worried at its latest meeting whether its own “goal posts” — its abilities to keep up with the federal Every Student Succeeds Act’s accountability measures to help students perform with competence — were being kept far out of reach for children and educators. Nevada students have not been making growth since the pandemic, causing state and district officials to rethink academic and innovation strategies to improve proficiency.

The Nevada Department of Education (NDE), which has released its school star ratings for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic, showed that students in all grade levels experienced a decrease in proficiency in the English language arts (ELA) and mathematics.

The Nevada School Performance Framework (NSPF) star rating system consists of multiple indicators to demonstrate how well schools perform, including the state’s Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) results and science assessments. SBAC summative assessments, a computer adaptive test, focus on a student’s knowledge in ELA and math.

Schools are given a rating of one to five stars based on student performance including their academic achievement, growth, English language proficiency, opportunity gaps and student engagement. A rating of one star indicates a school has not met the state’s standard for performance and a rating of five stars recognizes a superior school exceeding expectations for all students and subgroups. Ratings include non-academic measures, such as chronic absenteeism, based on points.

NDE’s Peter Zutz, administrator for the Office of Assessment, Data and Accountability Management, shared in a board presentation Oct. 4 that in 2022-23, the state’s SBAC scores experienced drops in ELA and math compared to the previous year. The Department of Education reported fifth graders had the highest level of ELA proficiency at 43.7%, followed by seventh graders at 42.1% and fourth graders at 41.7%.

Carson City School District’s ELA proficiency scores returned at 41.4% for elementary, 35.4% for middle and 43.4% for high schools while math scores were 37.4% for elementary, 27.6% for middle and 20.1% for high schools. Douglas County School District’s ELA scores were 50% for elementary, 43.6% for middle and 46.7% for high schools, and math came in at 40.6% for elementary, 27.7% for middle and 26.6% for high schools.

Zutz said the U.S. Department of Education offered a waiver due to the pandemic, so no statewide data is available for the two-year period between the 2020-21 and 2021-22 school years. However, the NDE showed a significant increase overall in the number of 1-star schools from 2017-18 to 2022-23, going from a total of 98 schools, or 12.2%, to 223 schools, or 25.8%.

Board member René Cantú, executive director of Jobs for Nevada’s Graduates, asked about the increase in 1-star schools, to which Zutz said the NSPF works as a school-level and district-level framework.

“We would have to unpack the data at each one of the schools and districts to understand what might be going on,” Zutz said.

Zutz said his staff met with at least two school districts and said one was unsure of what had happened for the state to see more lower-performing schools since COVID-19.

“It was obvious chronic absenteeism had run very high and (more schools) received 10 out of 10 points for chronic absenteeism,” he said. “The more we can ask the right questions of the data, the more we can answer the right questions.”

Superintendent of Public Instruction Jhone Ebert said she and her staff were intentional in how they developed their presentation of the NSPF and the star ratings, the SBAC results and its trends.

“We value growth in our state, more so than proficiency,” Ebert said. “Our students did not make growth these last few years in the data. That affects star ratings. It’s an entire system that needs to be looked at well beyond just what star rating did a school receive but what’s beyond the metrics that drove that outcome to be able to provide the support leaders need and the school superintendents.”

Ebert said the Oct. 4 meeting was about examining the data. Next month’s State Board of Education meeting would be about identifying the resources the state could provide to the schools to help them raise their ratings and boost outcomes.


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