Education council OKs more rigorous standards
Nevada’s Council to Develop Academic Standards on Tuesday adopted a new set of education standards that supporters say will significantly increase what public school students must learn to progress through the grades to a diploma.
Nevada becomes the 37th state to adopt the nationally developed Common Core Standards for mathematics and English language arts.
“This is a monumental occasion,” said education advocate Ray Bacon, executive director of the Nevada Manufacturers Association.
Under existing standards, he said, “the performance of our students in the state of Nevada has been lackluster for decades.”
He and state Superintendent of Education Keith Rheault said the Common Core Standards agreed upon by the National Governor’s Association will increase the English Language Arts skills that students must achieve, putting more emphasis on critical thinking and decision making. The change in mathematics, he said, will be more dramatic, greatly increasing the skills needed to graduate high school.
The Common Core standards raise expectations for student achievement in practically every grade from elementary through high school.
Bacon said under the old standards, Nevada students were as much as three grades behind what the new rules call for in math education.
“This is going to raise the expectation for a high school diploma,” he said.
Rheault predicted more than 40 states will have adopted the standards by next year. He said every one of those states must use the same assessment system to determine how well students are doing not only from state to state but eventually down to the classroom level.
“If we’re down there, we’ve got no one to blame but ourselves for not teaching to the standards,” he said.
He said a common set of standards applied uniformly not only across Nevada but in other states will give a much clearer picture of how well the state’s school system is performing.
He said the data also will enable administrators and others to see how well each school is doing and even how each teacher is doing.
In addition, the Legislature changed state law during February’s special session to include student achievement data in teacher evaluations. Rheault said that will enable administrators and others in a school to identify and help teachers who are having problems teaching to the standards.
Bacon said the changes are something employers have been calling for for years because they need employees who have strong fundamentals in math, English and science.
Council chairman Sen. Barbara Cegavske, R-Las Vegas, said it was disturbing to find that even though the old standards were weaker, they weren’t being met.
“This is a huge step forward,” said Bacon.
But he predicted there would be “push back at some point” from parents and others who say the new standards are too strict. There were some serious protests when the proficiency testing was implemented a decade ago, with parents complaining about the math test in particular. And that test, Bacon said, was elementary.
Craig Stevens of the Nevada State Education Association said it will be important to make sure teachers are trained in the new standards so they can meet the challenge.
Steve Laden of Carson City moved for adoption of the new and stronger standards, saying he strongly supports the tougher rules. The motion passed unanimously.
Rheault said the state has until 2015 to fully implement the new system.