The Nevada State Education Association has been the voice of Nevada educators for over 120 years. We are commenting on agenda item 7 regarding statewide assessment results for last school year.
As reported in the Nevada Independent, “Nevada students’ mathematics and English Language Arts skills tumbled since the pandemic began… exceeding national downward trends.” This reporting was in contrast to a press release from the Superintendent’s office downplaying the statewide test results.
Over the years, NSEA has frequently raised concerns about an over-reliance on standardized tests that have shifted the focus in the classroom away from student learning toward a culture of high-stakes testing. We have been actively working to reduce the burden of standardized testing, including whole-heartedly supporting SB83, which would have authorized a temporary waiver on mandated student assessments during the COVID-19 pandemic and SB353 requiring a review of student assessments. Standardized tests have failed to foster the improvements in student achievement they were intended to deliver, and we believe education administrators place far too great importance on test results at the expense of actual feedback from classroom educators.
With that said, reading from the Independent, “Nationally, the ELA proficiency rate dipped 5 to 6 percentile points for elementary students, but the declines were even sharper in Nevada (10 to 11 percentile points). A similar trend occurred with math proficiency rates: The national dip for elementary students was 11 to 12 percentile points, while, in Nevada, the downward slip was 15 to 19 percentile points. State education officials, however, pointed out that Nevada’s declines would be in line with national trends if excluding Clark County School District scores.” (The Clark County School District educates about 320,000 students or about 2/3 of all Nevada students, including overwhelming majorities of Nevada’s at-risk students, English learners, and students with disabilities.)
In July, this Board adopted its vision and goals to support student success. Your first goal was to reach the top 10 in Education Week’s K-12 Achievement Index. Superintendent Ebert even said, “Nevada typically receives a negative perception in national rankings, but our student achievement levels continue to increase year-over-year. We are proud that our students have attained the 18th ranking nationally and are committed to supporting them in equitable achievement gains in the coming years.”
Setting aside that Nevada ranks near the bottom in just about every other education metric, including overall education quality, Nevada’s reversion on test scores indicates we are likely to freefall in this cherry-picked metric in the coming years. This is even more apparent when we consider the successful interventions like Zoom and Victory schools and early literacy supports, largely responsible for past improvement, have been defunded. Perhaps the Board could revise your goal to stay out of the bottom 10 in this one metric.