School District employees subpoenaed in testing investigation

Seven Clark County School District employees have been subpoenaed in the state’s growing investigation of a Las Vegas school where student test scores rose dramatically in 2011-12, according to a source with knowledge of the investigation.

Clark County Superintendent Pat Skorkowsky on Thursday refused to comment on the investigation of irregularities on state-required tests at Kelly Elementary School, near Lake Mead and Martin Luther King boulevards, or confirm the subpoenas. School Board President Carolyn Edwards said Thursday she had no knowledge of the subpoenas and wouldn’t comment.

Within minutes of news breaking about the subpoenas during Thursday night’s School Board meeting, Edwards abruptly called a “three-minute recess” without explanation, and all five School Board members present rushed into a private backroom with their attorney and the district’s attorney.

The state’s open meeting law forbids elected officials from holding secret meetings when a majority of board members are present. The School Board consists of seven members.

Edwards denied calling the recess to discuss Kelly in secret and said she met with board member Patrice Tew, who was leaving for a family emergency, as the other board members were in another room.

“We don’t discuss business in the backroom,” Edwards said.

School Board attorney Mary Ann Peterson said the same. “No business was discussed.”

The “three-minute recess” lasted 20 minutes.

Although district officials wouldn’t publicly discuss the state’s investigation of Kelly, Skorwkosky issued a written statement shortly after the Thursday meeting and said the “district immediately notified the Nevada Department of Education in writing” in August 2012 when it noticed Kelly’s swing in test scores and requested a full review.

Nevada school districts are required by law to report any suspected cheating or unusually large improvements in test scores to the state.

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 school.

In reaction to Kelly’s drastically improved test scores, district officials took the precaution in the spring of 2013 of sending central office administrators to oversee the administration of state assessments at the school.

In previous years, 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.