Commentary by Ray Bacon: Refocus schools on students | NevadaAppeal.com
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Commentary by Ray Bacon: Refocus schools on students

Ray Bacon
Special to the Nevada Appeal

We are just days from the end of the regular 2011 Nevada Legislative session, but we still have opportunities to improve our K-12 schools in spite of the dire economic conditions. Our Assembly passed Assembly Bill 222, AB 225 and AB 229, but they await action in the Senate as of this writing.

The bills create a stronger teacher and administrator evaluation system which will consider student achievement for both. The proposed system is not perfect because in some subjects we don’t have consistent state-wide measures on student achievement. For decades our operating system has not properly rewarded and compensated the best and most effective teachers, while too often protecting those few who are ineffective. Change is needed to challenge every kid to reach their real potential, to have them be proficient readers before 4th grade, to have solid arithmetic skills by 5th grade and to graduate.

We all suffer when we fail our students. While the status quo can be tough to change, no one in Nevada should be satisfied with our years at or near bottom ranking on K-12 quality. Many believe the depths of our economic troubles are directly related to our prior years of poor K-12 performance. This legislative session is the best chance to change our performance in a couple decades. Please don’t let your legislators walk away again with our current and future kids at a disadvantage for more decades.

In our budget crisis, many real reforms cost little or nothing. Policies like “last in, first out” will result in knowingly dismissing effective teachers in some cases. Changing LIFO has little or no cost. Governors Laxalt, List, Bryan, Miller, Guinn, Gibbons and now Sandoval have all wanted some power over K-12 in Nevada, yet effectively had none. The quality of our schools falls to about 100 school board members and 18 superintendents with no one clearly accountable and responsible for statewide results. AB 548 would have put the governor in charge of K-12 as recommend by the Gibbons’ Blue Ribbon Task Force. That bill died for lack of action in the Assembly, but its concepts are still needed if you want better schools. It too has little or no cost. It is time for our legislators to “man up” or “woman up” as appropriate to refocus our schools on students and student performance rather than adults.

• Ray Bacon is executive director of the Nevada Manufacturers Association.adsf