State investigates testing irregularities at Kelly Elementary School

Not even a quarter of Kelly Elementary School’s fifth-graders read at grade level in the 2010-11 school year.

A year later, that more than tripled to 77 percent, according to state test results that spurred more questions than congratulations for the Clark County School District campus.

The Nevada Department of Education is working with the Nevada attorney general’s office to investigate whether there were testing irregularities at the school, near Lake Mead and Martin Luther King boulevards.

Education Department spokeswoman Judy Osgood confirmed the investigation but said no details could be provided until it is concluded. Nevada law grants the department many powers to investigate such cases, including issuing subpoenas to witnesses.

Nevada school districts are required by law to report any suspected cheating or unusually large improvements in test scores to the state. The Clark County district did just that for Kelly Elementary School, according to district spokeswoman Kirsten Searer. No changes have been made at the school because the district awaits the results of the state investigation, she said.

The Clark County School Board during its Thursday night meeting heard a presentation on how district schools performed on the state tests.

Leslie Arnold, assistant superintendent of assessment, accountability, research and school improvement, was one of the presenters.

However, the issue at Kelly Elementary School was not brought up during the presentation.

Superintendent Pat Skorkowsky after the meeting said district officials are working with the state’s Department of Education.

District officials don’t know when the investigation will conclude, Skorkowsky said.

School Board Vice President Lorraine Alderman said, “It will be very sad if things were not on the up and up.”

When the state Department of Education concludes the investigation, it will be its responsibility to “enforce the consequences,” she said.

Alderman believes the district has done what it can to be transparent with this issue. If something “smells fishy,” the district has to look into it and report it, she said.

Kelly logged statistically questionable scores not just on the reading test in fifth grade but also on the state’s reading and math tests taken annually by third- and fourth-graders. They all jumped.

In third grade, Kelly went from 44 percent proficient in math and reading in 2011 to 69 percent and 88 percent proficient, respectively, in 2012.

In fourth grade, 51 percent of students scored grade level or better in math, and 42 percent read at grade level in 2010-11. That jumped to 74 percent in math and 85 percent in reading in 2011-12.

Before that, Kelly’s tests results had remained consistently low for years.

Proficiency rates declined slightly last school year after Kelly’s sharp spike in 2010-11 but were still uncharacteristically high for the school. The fifth-grade class, which in recent years never had more than 24 percent of students reading at grade level, sat at 72 percent proficient in 2012-13 after the 77 percent high mark of the previous year.

Contact reporter Trevon Milliard at tmilliard@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0279. Contact reporter Yesenia Amaro at yamaro@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0440.