Schools plan should get an ‘incomplete’
April 17, 2003
Nevada’s educators have laid out an extensive blueprint for improving the state’s schools, but lawmakers should send them back for more homework before cementing the plan in law.
The “iNVest” plan, funding for which is contained in AB266 and in Gov. Kenny Guinn’s budget, sees the need for nearly $900 million in additional spending on the state’s schools.
Formed over the past couple of years, the plan makes strong cases for such goals as retaining teachers, increasing spending on books and supplies, putting at-risk children in full-day kindergarten and keeping pupil-teacher ratios low. (You can read the 19-page plan by going to http://www.investinme.info.)
Where the plan is weakest, however, is where it matters most to taxpayers who are being asked to foot the bill: accountability.
Some portions lay out general accountability goals, such as improving test scores and reducing dropout rates among students who are still learning the English language. Others describe higher rates of students passing proficiency exams, better graduation rates for students in vocational programs, and “increased student achievement” from class-size reductions.
Unfortunately, most of the accountability statements are far too vague and none of them is included in AB266.
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The justification for granting annual cost-of-living raises for teachers, as an example, talks only about retaining more teachers and improving their job satisfaction. How obvious is that?
A couple more examples:
On full-day kindergarten, the accountability statement says, “Volumes of research show that early education has a significant impact on the achievement level of students, not just kindergartners, but in subsequent grade levels, as well.”
On more teacher development days: “A definite correlation can be shown between the amount of training a teacher receives and an increase in student achievement levels, not to mention the correlation between student achievement and time on task.”
Neither of those statements says anything about who is accountable, or how success or failure will be measured. Taxpayers want to know what they can expect to get for their $900 million.
Legislators should mark the school-improvement plan with an “incomplete” and send it back. The notation in the corner can say, “Good specifics on the dollars, but not enough detail on the goals.”