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EDITORIAL: Clark County School District test scores remain stagnant

A recent survey revealed that nine in 10 parents believe their children are doing just fine in their studies. Meanwhile, national testing data show fewer than half of all kids are up to grade level in both math and reading.

Something is disturbingly wrong with that picture on a variety of levels.

The poll, conducted by the national education group Learning Heroes, found the parental cluelessness to be prevalent regardless of ethnicity, race or income status. The group’s founder called the findings “shocking,” according to NPR.

Now, a cynic might argue that this is all by design in an effort to head off a parental revolt in response to the educational establishment’s malpractice. But that would ignore the reality that far too few parents are truly engaged in the academic progress of their children.

At any rate, a similar phenomenon no doubt exists in Clark County, where achievement levels are below the national average. Social promotion, grade inflation and higher high school graduation rates tend to mollify parents and disguise certain pathologies. But let’s hope Tuesday’s news regarding 2017 test scores serves as a splash of cold water to the face.

The state Department of Education revealed this week that just 46 percent of Clark County students in grades three through eight are proficient in English. That’s down 1 percentage point from 2016. The news is worse in math. Only 33 percent of district kids scored high enough in the subject to be considered at grade level, a slight uptick from 31 percent the year prior.

Scores across the state were similar, though Washoe County fared slightly better than Clark. It’s also worth noting that students at state charter schools attained higher scores, with 57 percent proficient in English and 47 percent up to speed in math. Not great, but better.

“We are now set to dig in and really appreciate how we can capitalize on this data,” said Steve Canavero, the state’s superintendent of instruction. “There’s a reason we set a goal to be the fastest-improving state in the nation. We know we can make the type of improvement needed.”

We can only hope. It’s always easier to show “improvement” statistically when your baseline is set so low. But after decades of stagnant test results, any flicker of optimism is welcome.

The scores also highlight the importance of finding an inspirational replacement for Pat Skorkowsky, the outgoing superintendent of the Clark County School District who announced his retirement last week. School trustees must ensure that attacking these achievement deficiencies instead of making excuses is the next superintendent’s top priority.

Part of that agenda could include more aggressively communicating with parents about the academic standing of their children.

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