Fewer than four in 10 Clark County School District campuses received a rating of three stars or higher this fall under a statewide accountability system.
The topic arose during a school board meeting Thursday night where trustees heard a strategic plan update about student achievement.
Last month, the Nevada Department of Education released its latest accountability data, including school star ratings and standardized test scores. It’s the first time since before the COVID-19 pandemic that star ratings have been issued.
Superintendent Jesus Jara said he wanted to thank leaders in schools, as well as staff and teachers, for the results the district is seeing with student achievement.
“We’re not happy with the results in totality,” he said, but pointed to where the district is coming from and where it has been.
Jara also said the district has seen some great reports after kicking off the new school year. And he referenced the implementation of instructional materials.
“The future is bright for the Clark County School District,” he said. “Our teachers are working extremely hard and really learning the curriculum.”
Chief Academic Officer Dustin Mancl cited challenges related to student achievement such as a shortage of highly qualified teachers and chronic student absenteeism.
He said the district needs the community’s support to improve student attendance and that aligns with the new “Every Day Matters” campaign.
The school district missed all of the student achievement targets in its strategic plan, which was created in 2019 before the pandemic. It operated under distance learning for about a year before campuses reopened for in-person classes in spring 2021.
In total, 39 percent of the district’s campuses were rated three stars or higher — with five being the highest possible — on the Nevada School Performance Framework.
“The context to this measure is important, as it is applied to a school count,” Assistant Superintendent Greg Manzi said.
Schools across the district serve a variety of population sizes, he said.
Schools rated three stars or higher actually served nearly 50 percent of the district’s students, Manzi said.
The district’s strategic plan goal was to have 100 percent of schools have a rating of three stars or higher.
By comparison, 55 percent of campuses met that mark during the 2018-19 school year. And 42 percent of the Washoe County School District’s schools have a three-star rating or higher.
Standardized test scores
Third through eighth graders took the Smarter Balanced assessments in the spring. Statewide and in Clark County, students made gains in math but scores dropped in English language arts.
Overall, about 39 percent of the district’s students were proficient in English — down from 41.2 percent the previous year. In math, 28.2 percent were proficient — up from 26.4 percent.
Proficiency rates in both English and math for third through fifth graders and sixth through eighth graders dropped — in some cases, by about 9 percentage points — compared with the 2018-19 school year.
For third through fifth graders, who were in kindergarten through second grades during the onset of the pandemic, the impact on literacy is evident, Manzi said.
There was a “small year-over-year decline, with some student groups demonstrating improvement,” he said.
Students in sixth through eighth grades didn’t demonstrate year-over-year improvement in English, Manzi said.
He said there have been years of underfunding, as well as a delay in the Nevada Department of Education approving instructional materials for English language arts that has “impacted our student outcomes for literacy.”
In math, third through fifth graders saw two consecutive years of improvement, Manzi said.
He said the improvement was supported by the implementation of instructional materials and also the hard work of teachers.
“While our students are rebounding, we have additional improvement to gain before we see a return to our 2018 to 2019 student outcome levels,” Manzi said, noting that achievement gaps still persist across student groups.
Sixth through eighth grades didn’t rebound at the same rate as elementary schoolers in math, but observed improved rates across nearly all student groups, he said.
The proficiency rate was 23.4 percent, and it’s an area the district continues to work on, Manzi said.
During a public comment period, elementary school reading teacher Vicki Kreidel — who’s president of the National Education Association of Southern Nevada — said she teaches reading all day every day and it has helped her fall back in love with teaching.
She said she teaches in Heard Elementary School’s reading center and that watching children learn to love reading is the best thing ever.
Kreidel said the lessons are amazing and teachers are seeing growth in the children. She thanked the district for the reading center program.
Bill Hanlon said the district over the last four or five years has been setting students up to fail in math.
Hanlon, the former director of the Southern Nevada Regional Professional Development Program and former coordinator of the school district’s math/science institute, said math is unlike other subjects.
The order in which math is taught is important for mastery, Hanlon said.
The district’s policies, he noted, have gone against that.
“The idea of math being hard is just plain nuts.”
It was the third recent school board meeting where public commenters affiliated with Moms for Liberty called for the repeal of the district’s gender diverse policy that was adopted in 2018. Other commenters spoke in favor of the policy.
The national organization recently expanded into the Las Vegas area. It’s classified as an extremist group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
During a public comment period — which lasted about one-and-a-half hours — there was arguing at times in the audience.
At multiple points, Board President Evelyn Garcia Morales reminded attendees that it was a business meeting and there are rules for decorum.
She also said that if there are instances of bullying or threats, they should be reported to the proper authorities.
Garcia Morales noted the behavior of two frequent commenters by name, saying further action may need to be considered as a result of their behavior and pattern of disrupting meetings.