Less Than Half Of Nevada Students Reading On Grade Level

Oct 10, 2017

Credit Alexa Ard

Less than half of all students in Nevada were able to score proficient on reading tests during the 2016-2017 school year. At the same time, only 35 percent of students were able to get the same score on math exams. That’s according to data released by the Nevada Department of Education. 

Paul, thank you for joining me.

I’m happy to be here…

So, the Nevada Department of Education recently released data detailing school performance around the state. The information includes the most recent scores for state reading and math tests. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

I will try. It’s a lot of data.

So, first, it’s important to remember that this data is based on how students did on tests last school year, and it essentially gives us a snapshot of how schools around the state are doing in general.

And, honestly, it’s not great.

As an average statewide, less than half (approximately 47 percent) of the students in grades three through eight are proficient and 35 scored proficient in math.

Like I said, It’s not great but it is on par with where the state was the previous year.

Breaking it down a little further, most schools saw some slight improvement in most of its math scores. Not huge improvements mind you. Maybe a point or two here and there.

Reading scores, on the other hand, dropped a bit. Again, not a lot, but some.

But to look at it from a different perspective, this is only the second year the state has had reliable data on how schools are doing. You may remember, the state updated their standards a few years ago and in 2014-2015, errors in testing invalidated all of the data. So the 2015-2016 school year was the first time the state was able to determine how students were doing on tests. Now with this data that was just released, schools can make actual comparisons to the previous year and make adjust student instruction as they see fit.

What data is included in this report card? Is it just reading and writing?

Well, that’s probably the largest portion of these scores. But this data includes a little bit of everything from daily attendance rates to the number of reported cases of school bullying per district.

And we saw some interesting data.

Overall, there are 473,000 students enrolled in Nevada’s 681 public schools. Hispanic students are by far the largest demographic. Schools are reporting a roughly 97 percent daily attendance rate.

However, the state’s graduation rate continues to lag behind the national average at roughly 73-and-a-half percent. But, overall, Nevada’s dropout rate is steadily declining.

At the same time, the number of teachers across the state continues to fluctuate. There were fewer teachers last year than the year before, and that could affect student/teacher ratios thereby harming student performance.

What about charter schools, are they included in this data?

They were. Charter schools in Nevada are considered public schools. They receive state funding and therefore are required to administer state tests.

What did we see there?

Well, when it comes to testing, it appears the charter schools were able to outscore the state averages in math and reading scores for grades three through eight as well as the ACT scores.

However, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows for the charter schools. You have to remember, this data also included information on student-teacher ratios, daily attendance, graduation and dropout rates, even certain types of reported bullying. In every single one of those categories, the average of the traditional public schools outperformed charters.

So, what happens now?

So, you may have noticed that one thing I haven’t talked about yet is the star rating. That’s the designation used by the state to tell parents exactly how well a particular school is doing. Five-star schools being the best, while one-star schools are – for lack of a better word – failing.

This report card released by the state does not include those ratings. It’s my understanding that the state Department of Education was going to release those ratings with this data, but after some concerns by district leaders across the state, they have reserved the right to withhold those ratings at this time, and they’re fully in their right to do that. Due to recent changes in federal law the state doesn’t have to release those scores until the fall of 2018.

Paul, we’ll have to leave it right there. Thank you so much for joining me.

Thank you…

For Reno Public Radio, I’m Michelle Billman.