In the coming months, Douglas County schools will make their debut in a new statewide grading system that values student growth more than cut-score proficiency.
"Growth and proficiency are not the same," said Brian Frazier, district director of assessments and grants. "AYP (Adequate Yearly Progress) said, 'Here's the proficiency rate,' and asked you to hit that bar. This model includes proficiency and asks how much the students have grown compared to other students with similar test histories, and how many have shown adequate growth."
The Nevada School Performance Framework is replacing No Child Left Behind as the state's school evaluation system. Preliminary rankings will be released this spring, and the first full report will be released this fall.
Every public school in the state will receive a star ranking, ranging from one to five stars, based upon a weighted 100-point index.
In elementary and middle schools, proficiency on state standardized math and reading tests will account for 30 percent of the total score. Student growth, measuring test performance over time and represented as a percentile, will make up 40 percent of the total score.
Twenty percent will be based on reducing achievement gaps in low-income, special education and ESL subpopulations. Unlike No Child Left Behind that mandated proficiency in all subpopulations, the new framework will judge elementary and middle schools by "adequate growth percentiles" in those same categories, meaning students will be expected to grow academically even if they don't reach the proverbial bar.
The last category of the index is labeled "other indicators" and accounts for 10 percent of the overall score. As of now, the category is based on average daily attendance, Frazier said.
High schools will be scored similarly but with additional factors like graduation rates.
Together, the criteria form what Frazier called "multidimensionality," a more comprehensive, if nuanced, view of any given school.
"Everybody has a chance to grow," he said, referring to both low- and high-achieving students. "This provides that additional data to see whether students are continuing to grow compared to other students in a similar cohort with similar test histories."
The new system is already affecting personnel policy. Administrators in the district have agreed to pilot a performance pay system starting next fall, in which they will receive raises for four- or five-star ratings.
State law has also mandated that teacher evaluations incorporate student achievement by 2014. Details will have to be negotiated between the teachers association and the district office.