Nevada ranks last in US for education, but officials upbeat

Updated January 17, 2018 - 1:23 am

Nevada has again ranked last in the nation for education — but state education officials don’t want the public to despair.

The Silver State landed at 51st out of the 50 states and the District of Columbia in Education Week magazine’s latest Quality Counts report, frequently used as a national comparison for the quality of public education in each state.

Like last year, the state earned an overall grade of D — below the country’s national C grade.

However, Nevada Department of Education officials cautioned that the grade reflects data from 2015, before Gov. Brian Sandoval’s massive investment in education took effect.

“It looks in the rearview mirror,” state Superintendent Steve Canavero said of the data in a Tuesday conference call. “It gives us a good indication of where we’ve been.”

But he said the ranking doesn’t reflect Nevada’s advances in education since 2015, which include nearly $500 million in educational initiatives. Those include Victory and Zoom programs for English language learners and those in poverty, a Read by Grade 3 initiative, money for a Great Teaching and Leading Fund and more.

The Quality Counts survey grades states in three areas — chance for success, school finance and K-12 achievement as determined partly by 2015 scores from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP. Nevada earned D+, D- and D in those categories, respectively.

But officials expect those rankings to improve once the report reflects more recent investments, including $343 million in new funding created in the 2015 legislative session and $152 million more added to programs in 2017, the department said.

Canavero expects scores from the 2017 National Assessment of Educational Progress to increase, too — particularly because elementary students improved their math scores on the Smarter Balanced test, with 40.65 percent reaching proficiency.

“If our scores on Smarter (Balanced) and the growth in math are any projections for the NAEP results, (we’ll) see the NAEP increase slightly as well,” he said.

Officials also stressed other recent achievements, including an increased graduation rate of 80.55 percent, and an increase in the percentage of students earning a score of three or higher on Advanced Placement exams.

The annual survey could show proof of Nevada’s improvement in its 2019 report, if it includes fiscal year 2016 data reflecting the more recent investments in education.

“There’s a lot of really exciting things happening here,” said Brett Barley, deputy superintendent for student achievement. “It’s just too bad that we’re only getting data from 2015 in the Quality Counts report that won’t have that in there.”

Contact Amelia Pak-Harvey at apak-harvey@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4630. Follow @AmeliaPakHarvey on Twitter.

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