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Performance gaps clip star ratings of Clark County schools

Twelve Clark County middle schools received three-star ratings from the state Department of Education this year even though they earned enough points for higher rankings.

That’s because of a new designation for schools in the state with wide achievement gaps between their highest- and lowest-performing students. The designation — known as “targeted support and improvement,” or TSI — caps at three stars the ratings those schools can receive until they make progress narrowing that gap.

“This is a measure of achievement gaps basically, the difference in achievement between groups of students,” state Superintendent Steve Canavero said of the new list of 112 schools in the state.

Attempting to close achievement gaps is a focus of a federal education law passed under the Obama administration. The law, the Every Student Succeeds Act, requires states to address achievement gaps specifically between 10 subgroups of students: American Indians, Asians, blacks, Hispanics, Pacific islanders, multi-race students, Caucasians, English learners, students with disabilities and economically disadvantaged students.

So if a school has high-performing Caucasian students but a big performance gap between those students and the Hispanic students at the school, for example, it may be given a TSI designation even if the high-performing students do well enough to otherwise earn the school a lot of points in the state’s rating framework.

“Many of us have in our mission statements and vision statements a three-letter word that is very important: all, A-L-L,” Canavero said.

Of the 112 schools statewide designated as TSI schools in the star ratings released Friday, 76 are in Clark County. Statewide, 17 schools had their ratings capped at three stars as a result, including 12 Clark County middle schools.

Seven of the 12 would have been labeled five-star schools if not for the designation. Other than missing out on the top of the ratings, which many parents use to compare schools, there are no major consequences from the loss of stars.

Clark County Superintendent Jesus Jara said Friday that Brenda Larsen-Mitchell, who recently became the chief instructional services officer for the district, is going to work with the schools on the list to “dig deep into the data” and come up with a plan to address the performance gaps.

“The question is how do we start putting strategies into play,” he said.

If the schools on the list start making progress to close the gaps, meaning the lowest-performing subgroup starts improving compared with the highest-performing subgroup, they can be taken off the list and have the opportunity to earn more than three stars in subsequent state ratings.

If the schools stay on the list for three years and don’t make gains, they can be considered for state-level interventions instead of district remedies.

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

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