Published: January 6, 2005
Standards and Accountability: Nevada has developed clear and specific standards at the elementary, middle, and high school levels for English and mathematics, and at the middle and high school levels for science and social studies/history.
The state offers tests aligned with those standards in every grade span in English and math. Standards-based science tests are given only in elementary and middle school. The state has no standards-based exams in any grade for social studies/history.
The state’s tests include multiple-choice items, as well as extended-response items in English, in all grade spans. The tests also include short-answer questions in elementary and middle schools.
Nevada holds schools accountable for student performance by publishing test data on school report cards and using the results to help rate schools. Schools rated as low-performing receive help. Schools that consistently receive poor ratings are penalized. The state lacks monetary rewards for high-performing or improving schools.
Efforts to Improve Teacher Quality: Nevada requires each high school teacher to have a subject-area major. Once teachers are in the classroom, they can receive additional subject-area endorsements from the state by acquiring at least a minor in each subject. High school teachers must also take subject-matter tests.
The state is developing a new middle school license. But this school year, Nevada’s middle school teachers may have a K-8 endorsement for which they do not need to complete a minimum amount of coursework. Those teachers also may pass subject-knowledge tests for the elementary level.
Nevada, however, is one of only a few states to require subject-specific-pedagogy tests for both elementary and secondary teachers.
The state does not require and finance mentoring for all new teachers—an omission that brings its grade down.
Nevada’s school report cards, though, include teacher-qualification data, and the state recently enhanced its teacher education program-approval and -review process.
Programs are now judged, in part, on data from surveys of school districts that employ individuals prepared by the teacher-preparation institutions. If surveys suggest that the performance of the graduates should improve, the institutions must submit improvement plans.
School Climate: Nevada performs near the back of the pack on school climate.
On the school choice front, Nevada has a limited open-enrollment policy, and a charter school law that is deemed weak by the Center for Education Reform, a rating that lowers the state’s grade.
Data on school size also hurt Nevada’s standing. The state has some of the lowest percentages of students in small schools at the elementary, middle, and high school levels.
Nevada is one of 11 states that do not help local districts pay for school construction or renovation.
On the plus side, school report cards in Nevada include all three elements tracked in this section—parent involvement, school safety, and class size—making Nevada one of only five states that provide all that information to parents on school-level reports.
Equity: Nevada scores the second-highest grade in resource equity, outdone only by Hawaii, which has a single, statewide school district. Nevada is one of only 10 states with negative wealth-neutrality scores, meaning that, on average, property-poor districts actually have more state and local revenue for education than wealthy districts do.
Nevada ranks first on the McLoone Index, which measures what it would cost to bring student spending in districts below the median level for per-pupil aid to that median. But Nevada is first on that indicator only because 69 percent of its students attend the Clark County school system, which has one of the lowest per-pupil spending rates in Nevada, at $5,215—the same as the statewide median.
Spending: Nevada ranks 48th among the 50 states and the District of Columbia in education spending per pupil. The state spent $6,380 per student in the 2001-02 school year, well below the national average of $7,734.
The state did, however, increase spending by 4.7 percent between the 2000-01 and 2001-02 school years. Fewer than 1 percent of students attend schools in districts that spend at least the national average.
Nevada ranked 44th on the spending index, which considers both the percentage of students in districts spending at or above the national average and how far below that average the spending for the rest of the state falls.
Vol. 24, Issue 17, Page 124