Nevada prepares new blueprint for education

A plan that lays out Nevada’s education goals for the next decade includes mapping where the best educators work.

Tracking talented teachers is a requirement for the state Department of Education under new federal law. The state must detail where the highest-rated teachers work and seek to make sure students of all backgrounds have equitable opportunities.

“Do our lowest-performing schools have the same access to high-quality teachers? That’s a new obligation the department has to track,” said Brett Barley, deputy superintendent for student achievement.

The “New Nevada Plan” is the department’s latest guiding document. The plan complies with the Every Student Succeeds Act, passed in 2015 under the Obama administration. Increasing student proficiency in English and getting parents more involved in the schools are among other goals for the state.

Through March 1, the department is seeking public input on the draft plan. The plan will be final after the U.S. Department of Education approves it, before rolling out across the state during the 2017-18 academic year.

Officials praised the new law as a much more flexible program than its predecessor, the No Child Left Behind Act, passed under the George W. Bush administration in 2002.

“No Child Left Behind was a prescriptive law that set targets for states and students based around proficiency,” Barley said. “Under the new law, a lot of that responsibility has been diverted to the states.”

An advisory committee made up of administrators, teachers, community members and parents helped shape ideas in each of the areas.

Among the committee’s desires: easily understandable information about test numbers and a stronger emphasis on preparing high school students for college and careers.

The state plans to change the five-star school rating system to reflect the plan’s focus. The changes will be a great benefit for parents, said Felicia Ortiz, a state board member who served on the advisory committee.

“A lot of people make decisions on where they live based on that. Knowing how that rating is derived is important for parents,” she said.

As a civics teacher, John Tierney said the plan returns some power to local communities.

Under No Child Left Behind, there were only a few strategies the federal government allowed if schools weren’t making progress based on test scores. States can now use any method they see fit.

“It’s exciting to see that roll back to the state,” said Tierney, who teaches in Elko County and was the state’s 2016 teacher of the year.

Nevada is one of a handful of states looking to meet the April deadline to submit the plan to the Department of Education for review.

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

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