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Anticipating Obama decision, Nevada offers growth model

Nevada and the Clark County School District have long anticipated President Barack Obama’s offer Friday to allow states to waive No Child Left Behind’s requirements.

The Nevada Department of Education and district have seen this coming and have been working together on a replacement system to score school achievement. It’s called the Nevada Growth Model and was revealed in mid-August. The growth model will track students’ progress over the past three school years.

Nevada plans to take up the offer after a couple of other states go through the waiver process, said Keith Rheault, state superintendent of public schools.

States must replace No Child Left Behind with an alternative, and the system must still hold schools accountable for complying with federal standards. Nevada and other states propose adopting the growth model.

This system, if approved by the U.S. Department of Education, would place the importance of student growth ahead of grade-level expectations on annual tests. Testing proficient was just about the only scoring factor of No Child Left Behind, which doesn’t credit academic growth for students or schools that may fall short of proficiency.

The growth model compares students’ annual test scores from 2009-10 to 2010-11, but a cutoff score hasn’t been set yet for minimum acceptable growth.

Clark County School District trustees unanimously adopted a resolution on Aug. 25 to support the state in seeking a waiver and using the growth model. Attempts to reach Superintendent Dwight Jones for comment on Obama’s announcement were unsuccessful.

It’s up to the U.S. Department of Education to approve waivers from Nevada and other states. And federal officials are willing, said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan on Aug. 8. He called No Child Left Behind an "impediment" and "disincentive" for educators. He urged all states to apply for exemptions, and expects many will.

The district — whose students account for nearly three-fourths of all Nevada students — failed to make adequate yearly progress in 2010-11, as did the state as a whole. Adequate yearly progress is a set percentage of students who must score at grade level on the year’s standardized tests in math and reading. The percentage of students required to pass annually increases until 100 percent is reached in 2013-14.


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