EDITORIAL: More stagnant test scores for Clark County students on national exams

The latest batch of education rankings is out. Nevada remains mired near the bottom, leaving state and local officials to search for any semblance of headway.

The government last week released the results of the National Assessment of Education Progress exams, taken every two years by fourth- and eighth-graders to gauge math and reading skills. Nevada ranked no higher than 43rd in any category — well below the national average.

Just 31 percent of state fourth-graders scored high enough to be considered proficient in math. By eighth grade, the figure was down to 28 percent. In reading, only 31 percent of Nevada’s fourth-grade students were deemed proficient, dropping to 28 percent by the eighth grade.

On the positive side, those numbers were up slightly in all categories except fourth-grade math. In addition, the state’s Hispanic and African-American students improved in many categories.

But scores in the Clark County School District lagged behind others in the state, the numbers show. Still, district officials touted the news that Clark County ranked in the middle when compared with 26 other large urban districts across the country.

“These are some pretty solid results in comparison to these other large systems when you think about the dollars being spent,” said Mike Barton, chief academic officer of the Clark County School District. Mr. Barton noted that Los Angeles spends about 50 percent more per pupil than Clark County does, but its students fared worse on the exams.

Leaving aside the issue of what this says about the relationship between money and educational outcomes, Mr. Barton might want to take off the rose-colored glasses. The test results reveal that roughly 70 percent of the district’s fourth- and eighth-graders were unable to meet standards in reading and math. That’s hardly a “solid” performance. It’s dreadful.

Comparisons with other massive districts are a distraction. The reality that many urban schools struggle to educate their students is hardly a ringing endorsement for the current configuration of the nation’s fifth-largest district.

At the behest of the Legislature, the Clark County School District has enacted a number of initiatives intended to improve performance. Most are in the early stages of adoption and deserve time to show results, particulary the Read by Three initiative and efforts to decentralize the district by giving more autonomy to individual campuses. Another priority should be the implementation of a teacher evaluation system that doesn’t mock the intelligence of taxpayers and parents by concluding that 99 percent of all instructors are doing a bang-up job.

Stagnant test scores are not progress. The challenges facing the Clark County School District remain significant.

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