EDITORIAL: State education progress must ultimately be measured by test scores

For many, the dawn of a new year marks a time for reflection and offers a canvas of hope and optimism. State education officials have apparently been overcome with such spirits.

As 2017 comes to a close, Superintendent of Instruction Steve Canavero says he’s confident the state is on track to meet aggressive goals intended to turn Nevada into the “fastest-improving” in the nation when it comes to education.

Among the benchmarks Mr. Canavero cited as having shown improvement: rising graduation rates; a higher number of disabled students participating in early childhood learning programs; and an increase in Nevada students completing career and technical education programs.

In a state that consistently turns up at the bottom of national education rankings when it comes to student test scores, any improvements mark progress. But ultimately, real progress entails improving academic outcomes — and the so-called “metrics” in that regard continue to be dismal.

For instance, the Review-Journal’s Meghin Delaney reported last week that the state “is in the red — or warning — category” when it comes to ACT scores, which have remained at a low level for the past three years. Results show that almost 90 percent of Nevada students earning diplomas aren’t considered ready for college work in at least one of four vital subject areas.

In addition, state officials deemed progress on various standardized tests as “yellow,” or too soon to tell.

Rising graduation rates and more interest in career and technical programs are encouraging, as are reforms such as the decentralization of the Clark County School District. But ultimately, true progress toward becoming the “fastest-improving” state must be measured by major advancements in the number of Nevada students who successfully learn what they’re supposed to learn when they’re supposed to learn it.

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