The Clark County School Board supports the state in seeking a waiver from the federal requirements of No Child Left Behind, according to a unanimously adopted resolution on Thursday.
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.
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, calling No Child Left Behind an “impediment” and “disincentive” for educators. He urged all states to apply for exemptions — and expects many will — when the option is made available in September.
Nevada will take up the offer, said Keith Rheault, state superintendent of public schools.
States must replace No Child Left Behind with an alternative, though, and the system must still hold schools accountable for meeting standards. Nevada and others are suggesting something called the “growth model,” which the School Board also supported in its resolution.
“It’s really about fairness,” Clark County School District Superintendent Dwight Jones said. Schools and teachers who should have been “celebrated” for bringing low scores up were punished because students hadn’t reached grade level.
Nevada revealed the results of a growth model pilot program on Aug. 15. It places priority on students’ 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 students or schools for academic growth that may fall short of proficiency. Students and their scores either make the cut or not.
Clark County students learn at a rate on par with other Nevada schools, according to the growth model’s tracking of fourth-graders through eighth-graders in math and reading. The model compares students’ annual test scores from 2009-10 to 2010-11, but a cutoff hasn’t been set yet for minimum acceptable growth.