Nevada school turnaround program needs more time to evaluate

Funding for the statewide school turnaround program should continue but warrants further analysis, the only one of seven education initiatives recommended for monitoring in a study presented to the Nevada Assembly education committee.

All seven of the initiatives from the 2015 legislative session need more time and more data to fully evaluate their effectiveness, officials testified Wednesday.

“With these programs, many of them are still very early in their stages of implementation,” said Chad Buckendahl, a partner with ACS Ventures, the firm that completed the study. “You need multiple years of data in order to evaluate trends for that.”

The 70-page study conducted with University of Nevada, Las Vegas, recommended a monitoring caveat for the turnaround program because of mixed evidence. The program funnels additional money to some of the lowest-achieving schools in the state.

“The participants in the program were generally positive about their experiences and supported the potential impact,” the study recommendation said. “At the same time, the program has been challenging to implement.”

The turnaround program may be best measured at a school level, as opposed to a state level, Buckendahl said, which can hinder the ability to confidently say the program is working.

The programs evaluated included:

— Zoom Schools, aimed at helping English Language Learners increase proficiency;

— Victory Schools, aimed at helping students in poverty;

— Read by Grade 3, aimed at making sure students read on grade level by the end of third grade;

— Great Teaching and Leading Fund, which helps fund professional development for teachers;

— Social Workers Grant to Schools, which provides grants for districts to hire licensed social workers;

— Nevada Ready 21, which provided technology grants;

— Underperforming Schools Turnaround, which targets the lowest-performing schools.

Gov. Brian Sandoval’s proposed budget includes recommends increasing or maintaining funding for each program.

A 2015 issue rolling out new statewide assessments hampered the study because data is unavailable from the 2014-15 year. Data from the 2015-16 academic year serves as a baseline, Buckendahl said.

Buckendahl and Gwen Marchand, an associate professor at UNLV, also recommended the state Department of Education standardize some implementation and evaluation methods to make it easier to evaluate programs.

“We think there’s an opportunity for efficiency,” Buckendahl said.

Contact Meghin Delaney at 702-383-0281 or mdelaney@reviewjournal.com. Follow @MeghinDelaney on Twitter.