1999-2000 Progress Report

         on the Nevada School District Accountability Program:

         Review, Analysis and Recommendations





         School accountability legislation is intended to improve student academic achievement in Nevada’s schools.  In the view of the panelists who conducted the review, this year’s Nevada Accountability Report represents progress toward improved academic achievement for Nevada’s seventeen county school districts.  Overall, data are accurate and focused.  Nevada school leaders have demonstrated a strong commitment to meeting the challenges, finding solutions to the teaching and learning problems, and reporting their progress to the public.


         The Nevada legislative and executive branch leadership and staff should be commended for their tenacity and will in putting this accountability and reform system in place.  Accountability is working and it is making a demonstrable difference in the educational achievement of the children in this state.




         The Nevada Department of Education (NDE) produced a Handbook for School Accountability (Accountability Handbook) in October 2000, to aid school districts in preparing the accountability reports for the 1999-2000 school year.  The introductory pages from that handbook provide the context for this report and are therefore quoted in this report.


      “During the 1993 session, the Nevada State Legislature passed a School Accountability bill (NRS 385.347 revised) requiring all school districts in Nevada to inform the public on the performance of public schools throughout the state.  The Legislature passed a further revision (SB 386) of the School Accountability law during the 1995 session, and further revisions were included as part of the Nevada Education Reform Act, or NERA (SB 482) of 1997 (See Appendix B).  


      In Nevada, school accountability is accomplished through a system of reports to the public.  The Boards of Trustees of all school districts in the state annually are required to report to the public during March concerning school site accountability information, as well as to report to various agencies and departments within the state. The accountability reports to the public must contain the following information:


·  Educational goals and objectives;

·  Comparisons of student achievement for the current school year with previous school years;

·  Number of students taking achievement tests under regular conditions and under special conditions, the number of students exempt from taking achievement tests for special education (IEP) or language (LAS) reasons, and the percentage of eligible students taking achievement tests;

·  Ratios of elementary students to teachers, core secondary class sizes, and other data concerning licensed and unlicensed employees of the district;

·  Comparisons of teacher assignments with the qualifications and licensure of teachers;

·  School expenditures per pupil and district sources of funding;

·  Curriculum employed by the school district, including any special programs for students at an individual school;

·  Record of attendance of teachers;

·  Records of attendance and truancy of students and grades 9-12 school dropout rates;

·  Efforts to increase communication and participation with parents of students;

·School incidents involving weapons or violence, and suspension and expulsion of students per statutes involving weapons, violence, and distribution or use of alcohol and controlled substances;

·Transiency rates;

·For high schools, the percentage of graduates enrolling in remedial reading, writing, or mathematics courses at an institution within the University and Community College System of Nevada (UCCSN);

·Technological facilities and equipment available;

·Number and percentage of high school pupils who graduate with a standard high school diploma, and adjusted diploma, or a certificate of attendance;

·Number and percentage of pupils who did not receive a high school diploma because the pupils failed to pass the high school proficiency examination; and

·Number of habitual truants who are reported to a school police officer, law enforcement agency or advisory board to review school attendance.


         The Nevada School Accountability Law charges the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, in consultation with representatives of various educational associations in the state, with prescribing the forms for the reports and ensuring the implementation of a uniform system of reporting that provides comparable information for schools across the state.”


         A large number of data elements have been considered for inclusion in the accountability reports.  In choosing data elements, it was necessary to find a balance between all of the potential information available and efforts to keep critical information from being obscured in the accountability reports by lengthy tables of statistics.  Undoubtedly, there are certain data elements and information of interest to educators or to certain segments of the public that do not appear in the Handbook.  In the end, the requirements of the School Accountability Law and judgments about the information of greatest concern to most parents of Nevada’s school children took precedence in making final decisions on the data elements featured in the present Accountability Handbook.  See Appendix B for the current version of the Accountability Law.


1999-2000 Accountability Review


         In summer of 2001 the Legislative Bureau of Educational Accountability and Program Evaluation (LeBEAPE) developed a Request for Proposal (RFP), and conducted a competitive review of the proposals submitted to conduct a review of the 1999-2000 school accountability reports.  The contract was awarded to George C. Hill, a professor at the University of Nevada, Reno. Dr. Hill employed a review panel of Nevada university professors to review the reports of the state’s 17 school districts for the 1999-2000 academic year.


         The school districts submitted the three parts of their 1999-2000 accountability reports to the NDE and LeBEAPE, as well as the other entities to which they were required to send these reports.  The LeBEAPE staff and NDE staff prepared data tables for the data elements required under the statute.  The data tables, based on 1999-2000 Accountability Reports, are in a document entitled, School Accountability Data Tables 1999-2000 School Year (State Data Tables), which was available in the spring and early summer of 2001.  These tables are the source documents for this review.  One additional review component was undertaken at the request of LeBEAPE:  Review of Superintendent’s Report to the Governor and Legislature dated December 2000.  The purpose of this review was to determine if there are indications or evidence that the Nevada Department of Education and the State Board of Education are utilizing accountability data in their efforts to assist the schools and school districts in increasing the academic achievement of pupils in the state.  The findings are addressed later in this report.


         Each district is required to submit the following reports (these reports are referred to throughout individual district review reports):


         Part I:  Individual School Accountability Reports


         Each school, including charter schools, in Nevada is required to provide parents of students enrolled in their school with a report that identifies specific characteristics and performance indicators for the school and for the school district as a whole.  Exceptions, definitions, and directions for reporting individual school information are reviewed in this section. 


         Part II:  District-Wide School Accountability Reports


         Each school district in Nevada is required to provide the general public with a report that lists specific characteristics and performance indicators for each school in the district and for the district as a whole.  As in the preceding section, exceptions, definitions, and directions for reporting the district-wide school reports are reviewed in this section.

         Part III:  Reports on Effectiveness of Accountability Program 


         In addition to forwarding the above reports, each school district and each charter school is required to provide the above entities with a report on the effectiveness of their accountability program, efforts to correct any deficiencies identified, and plans for improving student achievement at the schools.  This section provides a general discussion and guidelines for district reports of effectiveness.  (Handbook for Implementation of NRS 385.347 School Accountability Legislation)


         Analysis of the Accountability Reports


         There are four components which make up the balance of this accountability review and about which the review panelists have made recommendations: (1) the effectiveness of the School Accountability Program in the state; (2) the status of each school that has been designated as “Demonstrating Need for Improvement;” (3) the evidence of the school district’s use of accountability information to improve the academic achievement of pupils in each school; and (4) the analysis of school accountability data for 1999-2000.


         The review panel analyzed the school districts’ data elements by examining five categories of the accountability program and making recommendations in a sixth section.  This portion of the review will highlight summaries of the Review Panel’s findings in each of five categories.  The categories are as follows:


1.      A summary of the student performance and school characteristics deemed relevant to the evaluation of the district’s school performance based on data submitted to the State Board of Education and LeBEAPE in Part I school reports and Part II district-wide reports.  


         Information found in the review of each district is a statistical profile of the district as well as data from required achievement tests, namely the 4th grade, 8th grade, and 10th grade TerraNova tests for both the 1999-2000 and 2000-2001 school years (SYs).  In addition to the TerraNova tests, the High School Proficiency Examination (HSPE) data for 1998-1999 and 1999-2000 were compared, as well as the 4th and 8th Grade Writing Proficiency Examination for SYs 1998-1999, 1999-2000, and 2000-2001.  Definitions of terms, along with year-to-year comparisons of state mandated tests, are found in Appendices Band D respectively.  The data reported by districts was compared to that found in the State Data Tablesand, in the case of enrollment in remedial classes, a UCCSN report.


2.      Areas the School District’s Part III Reports identified as examples of exemplary achievement at the school site and/or areas of improvement in outcomes from those reported in the previous year and evidence that the areas were exemplary or improved.


          Information found in the review of each district contains district reports of exemplary performance or where major improvements were noted.  As before, all reports are compared to data found in theState Data Tables.

3.      Areas the School District’s Part III Report identified as in need of improvement at the school site(s) and evidence for any deficiencies addressed.   


         This section of each district review compares individual school reports (Part I) and the districts’ Part III reports to determine if identified needs are congruent with data found in theState Data Tables.


4.      Summary of the School District’s plan for improvement at the school site.


         This section of each district review examines districts’ Part III reports to determine if plans for improvement are congruent with data found in theState Data Tables.


5.      Sources of information to be used in determining effectiveness of the plan for improvement. 


         Reviewers expected to find reference to TerraNova test scores, the High School Proficiency Examination, 4th and 8th Grade Writing Proficiency Examinations, recorded data (attendance, dropout rates, truancy rates and school violence rates) and in some cases, district criterion-referenced tests (CRTs).


6.      Missing or incomplete data.


         Any required data that is not found, or data that is incorrect when compared to theState Data Tables, is noted in this section


7.      Recommendations of Panel members for improving analysis and use of accountability findings at the school level and, if applicable, at the district level. 


         This section contains the review panel’s recommendation(s) for improving the reporting system for subsequent years.  It contains a commendation for an excellent effort where appropriate.


Review of the Superintendent’s Report


         There were few indications and little evidence, based on the previous Superintendent’s report, that the Nevada Department of Education and the State Board of Education are utilizing accountability data in any meaningful way to assist the schools and school districts in increasing the academic achievement of pupils in the state.  Future reports need to contain specific language regarding what strategies are in place how the data is being used to foster student achievement in low performing schools.





General Observations and Recommendations - Statewide


1.      A summary of the student performance and school characteristics deemed relevant to the evaluation of the district’s school performance based on data submitted to the State Board of Education and LCB in Part I school reports and Part II district-wide reports.


         Each of the seventeen county school districts made an effort to report and use the required accountability data.  Though not all of the seventeen county school districts provided all of the data and analysis required for a comprehensive databased decision making system, it is noted that virtually all of the school districts made improvements from their 1998-1999 to 1999-2000 reports.  Some school districts, such as Clark County, Douglas County, and Elko County, produced reports that required building-site leadership to use the data to focus attention on deficiencies and make improvements in student achievement.  These three districts also developed excellent models for collecting and analyzing accountability data; they should be considered models for other districts.  In every district, there was evidence of resolve by the leadership to make this system of accountability work.


2.      Areas the School District’s Part III Report identified as examples of exemplary achievement at the school site and/or areas of improvement in outcomes from those reported in the previous year and evidence that the areas were exemplary or improved.


         Almost all of the districts cited examples of exemplary achievement at school sites.  The most commonly cited examples were reading, writing or mathematics instructional programs.  In some cases, districts noted professional development activities or homework programs to which school staff attributed improved results.  Both the school districts and review panelists tried to highlight areas where there appeared to be growth and where there appeared to be problems.  The 1999-2000 accountability reports present more definitive responses to the issue of “exemplary achievement” than was evidenced in previous reports.


3.      Areas the School District’s Part III Report identified as in Need of Improvement at the school site(s) and evidence for any deficiencies addressed.


         The designation of “Demonstrating Need for Improvement” is assigned to all Nevada schools with more than 40 percent of their students falling within the lowest national quarter on all mandated subject areas of TerraNova.  The designation is not given to small schools where fewer than 10 students participate in regular testing at the mandated grade. For the 2000-2001 SY, the number of schools meeting the criteria for designation of “Demonstrating Need for Improvement” continued to be low with only seven schools designated as such.  Those schools are Fitzgerald, Martinez, and Lynch elementary schools; Martin and West middle schools and Odyssey Charter School in the Clark County School District; and Gateways to Success Charter School in the Churchill County School District.  (A graphical display of the three-year testing history of all seven schools is found under Appendix A - Low Performing Schools.  In addition, definitions of testing terminology used in reporting is found under Appendix C) Although a relatively low number of schools were designated, seven schools represent an increase from the five reported during the previous school year.  Those five included four elementary schools, Booker, Fitzgerald, Lunt and Madison in Clark County and Mineral County’s Schurz K-8 School.


         Each of these school sites has received special state-funded grants for implementing approved remedial programs, to help improve student achievement.  A reference to approved remedial programs can be found in Appendix D. In addition to the special grants, staff from the NDE and the LeBEAPE has monitored each of the school sites during the 2000-2001 SY.  Evidence that school districts are “using accountability information to improve the academic achievement of the pupils in each school” is included in each of the review documents prepared by the panel reviewers.


         The review panelists noted most of the school sites in which there was a pattern of low performance in one or more of the content areas (reading, mathematics, language arts, or science).  If fewer than 60% of the students scored at or above the 26th percentile compared to national norms in any of the content areas and the school did not focus on those areas in the plans for improvement, reviewers recommended those areas for inclusion in the improvement plans.  The review panelists highlighted these areas in each of the individual school districts’ reports.


4.      Summary of the School District’s plan for improvement at the school site.


         Each of the seventeen districts and charter schools submitted school-site improvement plans.  District improvement plans focused on the areas where the data showed there were problems in reading, language arts, mathematics, or science.  In cases where school sites were doing well, the emphasis was on continued improvement.


         In general, greater attention was placed on reading and mathematics especially at the elementary level, which was evident in district planning.  Test scores were the impetus for this focus.  Statewide, improving school attendance rates continued to be a stated concern.


         There appears to have been a concerted effort made in most districts to assist school site leadership staff in the collection and use of achievement data to identify problems and to engage the full staff and community in resolving the problems.  In many cases, panel reviewers recognized that this process is working in Nevada schools and, where it was not, the reviewers noted it in their reports.






5.      Sources of information to be used in determining effectiveness of the plan for improvement.


         The major source of information concerning effectiveness of the plan for improvement was the standardized norm-referenced state-mandated test, the TerraNova.  Districts are also using the Nevada writing tests, as well as the High School Proficiency Exam, as indicators of improvement and in some cases district tests.  Other data included dropout rates, truancy rates, statistics on student violence, and a variety of other indicators that are required under the provisions of the accountability law.


6.      Missing or incomplete data.


         In almost all cases the reviewers noted data in district reports that was inconsistent with that in the State Data Tables.  This continues to be a problem with some district reports showing more data reporting errors than those found in the previous year.  This finding may be partly due to a number of new data elements being required under the accountability laws.


7.      Recommendations of Panel members for improving analysis and use of accountability findings at the school level and, if applicable, at the district level.


         NOTE:  It is time for districts to move beyond traditional reporting and analysis of data centered around standardized test scores in their accountability report.  Two areas that the panel recommends for immediate inclusion in future Part III Reports are the issues of high numbers of recent graduates enrolled in remedial classes in the UCCSN and school violence.  Schools and districts should be addressing these areas in the same manner as low test scores are currently being addressed.  This would include recognizing a deficiency and articulating a strategy that addresses the problem(s).  The number of Nevada graduates who are enrolled in remedial courses is high and this is a real cost to both the student and the public.  Districts should make this issue a very high priority.  Safe schools are imperative to a good learning environment and asking each district to articulate a plan to address violence issue(s) is in the public’s best interest.


         The panel’s review of statewide data led to the following observations and recommendations being made:


a.      That continued assistance be given to schools when over 40% of the students are scoring in the bottom quarter in one or more TerraNova subject areas.  Every year there are a number of schools very close to the designation of “Demonstrating Need for Improvement” and every effort must be made to move these schools up the achievement scale.

b.      That the rules be reviewed and revised as necessary, to clarify the status of 10th graders.  It appears that a number of chronological 10th graders are not being tested because they have not achieved 10th grade credit status.  This practice may be misleading to the public.


c.      That the Nevada Legislature consider requiring additional school information/variables be analyzed with test scores, such as socioeconomic status (percentage of students eligible for free and reduced lunches) when reporting achievement scores.  This recommendation is congruent with new federal No Child Left Behind Act Title I requirements as well.

d.            That districts be encouraged to fully utilize the services/expertise of regional professional development programs for staff development.  While there was mention of this practice by some districts, the review panel raises the concern that it is hard to determine the extent to which districts with low performing schools are actually utilizing the available expertise based on the district reports.

e.             That school districts report any information related to special practices such as the special class size reduction program occurring in the Elko County School District.  The public and policy makers need to be informed of the effectiveness of such practices.

f.              That districts be required to report UCCSN data regarding the number/percentage of recent graduates enrolled in remedial coursework instead of district compiled data.

g.             That districts be encouraged to report activities and progress toward alignment of curriculum with academic standards and particularly how accountability data are being used in their efforts.

h.             That both the NDE and individual districts be encouraged to assist charter schools in complying with accountability reporting efforts.  While the review panel notes improvement in this effort, most charter school reports are minimal at best.

i.       That the law dealing with reporting of habitual truants be clarified so as to be usable or scrapped.      

j.              That districts be encouraged to provide accurate information to the public.  A number of incidences of erroneous data due to misplaced decimal points are noted in individual district reports.


Recommendations from Previous Reviews


         There are past recommendations that the review panel believes are viable and remain appropriate to this accountability review process.  These are:


a.      Statewide, the need for validation of test scores, at the school level, when wide differences are found from year-to-year needs to be formulated and implemented.  The reviewers have noted a few school sites where large differences exist in the present year scores to the previous year.  Any number of variables could account for such differences.  A validation plan needs to be implemented.  It is recommended that this effort be given high priority.

b.            The Part III reporting requirements for charter schools need to be aligned   with district report requirements.  The panel found a wide variation in the reports from charter schools and often found that the reports were heavy with financial data and light with student achievement information.

c.      Need for improvement in the area of mathematics at both the elementary and secondary levels continues to be a theme in this current review.  The panel recommends further attention to the enhancement of the mathematics curriculum.  In areas where curricula mapping and teacher training has not occurred, the panel recommends that those steps be taken as soon as possible.  It is strongly recommended that the Regional Professional Development Programs be fully utilized in these efforts.

d.      The panel continues to express concern about student attendance rates throughout the state.  It is recommended that attention be given to the provision of appropriate incentives for students to attend school.  In addition, consideration should be given to the provision of other alternative means whereby students may progress in their educational programs.  With the statewide average attendance rate at 94.1%, the average student in Nevada is missing 11 days per year.

 e.     Data included in the District Part III Reports should be focused on current SY data and efforts; this is a continuing recommendation.  While major improvements are noted this remains a valid concern.

f.       That efforts should continue to reduce the ratio of students to computers across the state, as well as ensure that each school is connected to the Internet.  While the ratio of students to computers has declined significantly over the past few years, some ratios are still much higher than is desirable and a few schools are not yet connected to the Internet.

g.     Again, the panel cautions readers to not be overly concerned about the seemingly low scores on the 4th Grade Writing examination.  This is a fairly new test and is more of a diagnostic tool than a true achievement test.

h.             Superintendents and local school boards must give high priority to professional development activities for school-site personnel.  Among the goals of professional development should be helping teachers better understand testing and assessment, including test taking and test preparation skills for their students (SB 3 of the 17th Special Session).  School districts must also give attention to the skills teachers and other school-site personnel will need as the higher and more rigorous content and performance standards are incorporated.  The review panel’s understanding is that staff development days are no longer counted as teacher absences (SB 70 of the 1999 Legislative Session).

i.       That the State Board of Education and the Nevada Department of Education begin to report the extent and the manner that they are using accountability data/information to inform practices and policies.  There was no indication of this, in any meaningful way, in the most recent Superintendent’s Report to the Governor and Legislature.


Other Recommendations


         There are a number of other recommendations concerning the review process itself and the way in which data are analyzed that need to be considered for future reports. They are:


a.      The panelists recognized the difficulties experienced by some rural districts in the time and resources needed to prepare the report.  Districts might consider hiring regional consultants who could assist in the interpretation of test data, and, if necessary, the actual preparation of acceptable reports.  Senate Bill 3 of the 17th Special Session contains language requiring professional development programs for “training for teachers and school administrators in the assessment and measurement of pupil achievement and the effective methods to analyze the test results and scores of pupils to improve the achievement and proficiency of pupils.”  Districts are urged to take full advantage of this opportunity to be better prepared to fully utilize testing and accountability data.  This was recommended last year and continues to be a pertinent and valid recommendation in this review.

b.      Districts should continue to make certain that the district goals are specifically focused on improving student achievement and that all of the building-site goals are aligned with district goals.

c.      Superintendents and local school boards should continue the curriculum alignment process in each school district that will take into account the new standards in mathematics, English/language arts, science, and social studies.  These standards were established by the Council to Establish Academic Standards and adopted by the State Board of Education.  Districts should use those standards and related state Criterion Referenced Tests (CRTs) as benchmarks for their curriculum.  Significant differences from the current curriculum are very likely, and the new standards must eventually have classroom related assessments.

d.     Those school districts that are developing, or that have developed district-level tests or other valid and reliable achievement tests, should report the scores in the school level accountability reports, even though the reporting of such tests is not required.  Future reviewers of accountability reports will want to compare and review state CRTs scores with TerraNova scores.  The district leadership should also review their district-level tests to ensure that they are linked to the new state standards.  Ideally, this linking process should be developed and approved by the state.  The process should be technically sound and meet all the requirements of validity, reliability, and comparability.  There are a number of curriculum development and integrated assessment activities underway in Nevada school districts. These developmental curriculum and assessment activities should be interrelated, complimentary, and comprehensive, rather than unrelated, fragmented, and superficial.  The NDE will need to work with the districts in the development of this process.


The Accountability Review Panel’s District-By-District Analysis


         The following section of this report includes the analysis of each of the 17 county school districts by the review panel.  Superintendents were given draft copies of the reviewers’ reports.  They were asked to review the reports for errors of fact and to submit any corrections to the contractor.  The superintendents expressed appreciation for having the opportunity to review the drafts.  In those instances where errors were found, they have been corrected.  When reading the reports, please note the following:

·        Clark County and Washoe County school districts are large and complex (educating over 80% of the state’s school students); this poses problems for the review panel.  Because of the size of these two districts, it is impossible to mention every school and/or individual best practices.  To do so would make this review lengthy and cumbersome.  On the other hand, the small size of several of the other districts allows specific schools and exemplary practices to be more fully reported.

·        Charter school information is included in the district report in the district where they are operating.  For the year being reviewed, charter schools operated in Churchill, Clark, and Washoe County School Districts.

·        Contemporary terminology has been used for low performing school designation.  “Demonstrating Need for Improvement” is used throughout this review for consistency even though the term “In Need of Improvement” and “Inadequate” were the legal terms used previously.

·        Several districts provided clarification to reviewers’ questions when they reviewed draft reports.  Any clarification is noted in the district report.


         The review panel cautions policy makers against reading too much into year-to-year test scores comparisons where the number of students tested is very low.  Too many variables beyond the instructional program can confound results.  Looking at long-term trends is more appropriate and informative.