Nevada’s schools largely trended upward in accountability ratings for the 2018-19 school year as the number of its most poorly performing schools decreased, a shift that the state’s top education official marked as a “positive lift.”
The state rates schools from one to five stars based on factors including proficiency rates in English and math, graduation rates, student academic growth and chronic absenteeism.
Statewide, 53.3 percent of schools received a rating of three stars or higher, more than the 48.8 percent from 2017-18. The percentage of Clark County schools in that category increased by just 1.7 points to 50.8 percent, with about 8 percent of schools not rated. Some schools are not given star ratings because of small student populations and other factors.
English proficiency rates increased statewide across grades five through eight. Math proficiency rates also increased across the board with the exception of third grade, which dipped by just 0.44 of a percentage point.
“I think what’s very important in all of this is that No. 1, we honor the work of our teachers in the classrooms because this is a positive lift,” Jhone Ebert, Nevada’s superintendent of public instruction, said Friday, noting the need to replicate successful teaching practices throughout the state.
Meanwhile, the percentage of schools falling into two of three underperforming categories, “comprehensive support and improvement” and “additional targeted support and improvement,” also fell across the state.
The number of CSI schools — which fall in the bottom 5 percent of ratings, have a one-star rating or have graduation rates below 67 percent — dropped statewide from 6.8 percent to 3.6 percent. The number of ATSI schools, which consistently have severely underperforming subgroups of students based on race or other factors, dropped from roughly 13 percent to 5.5 percent.
Celebration at Triggs Elementary
Last week, Clark County School District officials celebrated a major highlight: Triggs Elementary’s jump from two to five stars.
Principal Sheila Cooper credited the jump to her teachers, new classroom resources and the rearrangement of students.
“It was time-consuming, but we have a lot of teachers who’ve worked here since the school opened,” she said.
“And they’re used to working hard, looking at data and collaborating with each other and always doing what’s best for students, not necessarily what’s convenient for adults.”
But the district as a whole still faces challenges. A little more than half of its schools fall into the three underperforming categories that highlight a need for improvement.
In previous years, some of these schools would have been at risk for takeover by a charter school or could have faced competition from a nearby charter school under the Achievement School District. But the Legislature abolished that initiative this year.
The district’s graduation rate increased by 2 percentage points to 85.2 percent as the state posted its highest graduation rate ever at roughly 83.2 percent.
State-sponsored charter schools once again showed largely positive results, increasing their proportion of four- and five-star schools from about 48 percent out of all their rated and unrated schools to nearly 61 percent.
“We still have room for growth in all of our schools, including some of our high-poverty schools,” said Rebecca Feiden, director of the State Public Charter School Authority. “But we are seeing a lot of our high-poverty schools start to really demonstrate that four and five stars are attainable despite some of the challenges that their students bring to the classroom.”
The authority absorbed former Achievement School District schools into its portfolio, including Democracy Prep at the Agassi Campus, which has a five-star middle school and a two-star elementary school. The only other former achievement school that was rated, Nevada Prep, received two stars for its elementary and five stars for its middle school.
Meanwhile, NV Virtual Academy staved off any immediate threat of closure by boosting its middle school rating from two to three stars. NV Virtual Academy has sued the authority over its accountability measures for the school, which require its middle and high schools to close if they receive below three stars for two years in a row.
John Lemmo, an attorney for the school, said the ratings bolster the school’s confidence.
“The new star ratings demonstrate that NVVA has met its goals and expectations, validate that both the middle and high schools are performing well, and underscore that there was no basis in law or fact for the SPCSA to impose the illegal conditions we seek to strike form our contract,” he said in an email.