There's no lack of irony to this year's No Child Left Behind report in Douglas County. The district had a stellar 2011-12 school year, during which all schools made Adequate Yearly Progress, but the gains come at a time when NCLB requirements themselves are being phased out.
Evolving methodology, however, shouldn't diminish the accomplishment.
"I just want all teachers and kids to be proud of how hard they worked," said Superintendent Lisa Noonan. "I'm really happy for everybody and that the last year of a 10-year system was so positive."
Three schools in the "in need of improvement" category in 2010-11, Jacks Valley, Minden and Meneley elementary schools, made sufficient academic progress to meet requirements this year. Because the law requires two years of AYP before a school can move up from the lowest category, the three schools were effectively placed in "hold" status.
Of four schools placed on the federal watch list in 2010-11, three made it back into the adequate designation, including Douglas High, Pau-Wa-Lu and Carson Valley Middle School.
Scarselli Elementary, which was on the watch list the year before, jumped a category and made it into high-achieving growth status, joining Gardnerville Elementary School.
George Whittel High remained a high-achieving school.
Enacted in 2002, No Child Left Behind mandated 100 percent proficiency in reading and math in all subpopulations by 2014. Over the last decade, though, many educators across the country have concluded that the legislation, while well-intentioned, has set schools up for the inflexible stigma of failure.
"This year marks the last in which Nevada will report AYP results, signaling the transition to a new education performance system for K-12 accountability and support," the Nevada Department of Education stated in a September press release. "Students have been evaluated on limited indicators of student success - primarily whether or not a sufficient number of students passed the state assessments at established passing rates."
According to Nevada State Superintendent James Guthrie, the new system, called the Nevada School Performance Framework, will classify schools based on student growth, proficiency, and the closure of achievement gaps across subpopulations, among other factors. Each school will be rated on a 100-point index and assigned a corresponding 1-5 star rating.
"An effective education system not only supports the state's and the nation's need for a highly skilled workforce to rebuild and sustain a vibrant economy, but also creates educated citizens who participate actively in a civil society," said Guthrie.
The first transitional report under the new system is expected this spring. A full report should be available in September 2013.
"There are a lot of components, and there could be a steep learning curve," said Noonan. "But the new system has more features in it, which I think will be more insightful regarding how our teachers and students are doing."