High school math scores better but still 'disappointing'

Student performance on first-semester math tests is still cause for embarrassment for the Clark County School District, but officials are pleased to see some progress since the disastrous results of 2007-08, when high school students achieved pass rates of just 9 percent in Algebra 1 and 12 percent in Geometry.

First-semester results on the district tests for 2009-10 show 21 percent of high school students passed the Algebra 1 test while 43 percent passed the exam for Geometry.

"There are still too many disappointing scores, but we are not to be daunted with discouragement," Superintendent Walt Rulffes said Wednesday. "You have got the wheel moving before you gain speed, and we'll keep pushing that wheel."

District officials also highlighted individual school accomplishments.

Liberty High School in Henderson was recognized for increasing its pass rate in Algebra I from 16 percent last year to 41 percent this year.

Arbor View High School improved its pass rate in Algebra II from 14 percent to 48 percent.

Tim Kanold, immediate past president of the National Council for Supervisors of Mathematics, is serving as a consultant to the district's Expert Mathematics Committee.

Kanold praised district officials for their courage in giving the math test and also for their candor in releasing the information during a Clark County School Board workshop Wednesday.

"It's so hard to get other districts to do this," said Kanold, who is a textbook author and a former superintendent for an Illinois school district.

Rulffes said he believes that "disclosure of our weak points along with our strengths will help all to fully recognize that measurable improvements can and must occur in the Clark County School District."

As an example of the weak points, Boulder City, Legacy, Moapa Valley and Sunrise Mountain high schools all got goose eggs in Applied Algebra II, with none of their students passing the exam.

For the district as a whole, the rate of students getting Ds or Fs in high school the first semester of this year was:

■ 57 percent for Pre-algebra.

■ 53 percent for Algebra I.

■ 40 percent for Algebra II.

■ 43 percent for Geometry.

In middle school, 33 percent got Ds or Fs in Pre-algebra and 9 percent of students in Algebra 1 Honors got Ds or Fs.

The district wants to lower the D/F rates to 10 percent by 2011-12. The district also has set a goal of improving its pass rate on the math assessment tests to 80 percent or above by the 2011-12 school year.

This year, it set goals of achieving passing rates ranging from 36 percent to 55 percent for Pre-algebra 1 in middle school, and from 22 percent to 50 percent for Algebra II in high school.

Eighteen of 59 middle schools met or exceeded their pass rate goals in Pre-algebra and Algebra I Honors.

Of the 42 high schools that gave the math tests, only Sandy Valley High School met or exceeded all the district's pass rate goals.

The rural school near the California border had 67 students take the tests.

District officials have tried to improve student performance by making sure students are taking the right sequence of classes.

As an adjustment to the curriculum, Algebra I is no longer given in eighth grade, except to those students taking honors classes.

The district has also used federal stimulus funds to pay for extra training for math teachers. He said the math teachers need to be recognized for their accomplishments.

He said "the only antidote" to the stress of striving for continuous improvement is "excessive and radical celebration."

Contact reporter James Haug at jhaug@ reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4686.