Youngest readers scoring better, but overall academic process drops

Nevada’s kindergarteners made notable reading gains on their Measures of Academic Progress assessments between 2021-22 and 2022-23, but first- through third-graders declined in their scores, the Nevada State Board of Education learned on Oct. 4.

Board members received an update on MAP assessment data and spring-to-spring trends related to Read by Grade 3.

Read by Grade 3 is the state’s literacy act focusing on early reading instruction and comprehension targeting younger readers.

The program was passed through Senate Bill 391 in 2015. The Nevada Legislature updated it in 2019 through Assembly Bill 289 with additional funding and broadened to programming in all grade levels in all elementary schools and equipped campuses with a literacy specialist. Legislators also did away with the compulsory third-grade retention requirement with AB289 but was reinstated this year with Gov. Joe Lombardo’s omnibus education bill AB400.

Nate Jensen, vice president of district research for Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA), and Ann Marie Dickson, deputy superintendent of the Nevada Department of Education’s Student Achievement Division, presented the state’s RBG3 results to board members.

“Ultimately, my hope is the data can serve two aims,” Jensen said. “The first is to give a clear understanding of the state of the state in terms of achievement. The second is to help identify areas of success and certainly where additional support and intervention might be needed.”

NWEA bases its common assessments for student data on Nevada’s Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) study. Tests are computer adaptive and grade-level independent to meet students where they are academically and to help describe in context how exams are administered, Jensen said.

Students who score at the 40th percentile as a third grader in the spring would be expected to score at a level 2, or not yet proficient, on his or her SBAC test.

Overall, Jensen said about 30% more students, or approximately 133,000, tested compared to those who tested in 2022 (107,600 students), although he was unable to explain the increase.

In looking closer at the data, Jensen said 59% of kindergarteners in spring 2022 performed greater than 40th percentile mark. This went up to 61% the following year, a gain the state hoped to see across the upper grade levels.

However, first graders held steady at 54% above the 40th percentile for the spring 2022 and spring 2023, while second graders decreased from 56% to 54%. Third graders also decreased from 57% to 55% above the 40th percentile from spring 2022 to spring 2023.

Jensen said the data, broken down into subpopulations, including gender, race or ethnicity, showed disparities year over year. Asian students, for example, performed well above average at 68% and 66%, respectively, for 2022 and 2023 whereas Black/African-American students performed lower at 31% and 33%.

Students not eligible for free and reduced lunch status performed at 60% and 57% in 2022 and 2023 above students who were eligible for FRL status at 41% and 43% year over year.

Students not identified as English learners just made the 50th percentile at 52% in 2022 and dropped to 49% the next year as opposed to English learners who scored at 25% in 2022 and dropped to 19% in 2023. Students with an individual education plan followed similar trends over those who did not have one.

Jensen said additional attention and support would be indicated in these areas, highlighting NWEA’s partnership with the NDE for many years.

Board member Tim Hughes asked about any insight of using particular curriculum or materials leading to higher outcomes, and Jensen said NWEA did not offer a perspective on data showing such results.

Board vice president Katherine Dockweiler said it was “disheartening” to see the gaps between the student subgroups that still exist as they test and added the NDE does have a Read by Grade 3 team and a Read by Grade 3 Council available to offer future perspectives on professional development when the MAP data returns to the state board for discussion.


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