The National Assessment of Education Progress results released this week reveal Nevada students tested performed below the national average on reading and math tests. However, the results mainly represent the Clark County School District, which is home to 70 percent of the students in the state.
"Nevada is kind of unique that way," said State Superintendent of Education Keith Rheault. "Really the majority of the (test takers) come from Clark County. They really drive the average. Seventy percent of the results are from Clark County - really Clark County's average is the state average."
The national testing agency revealed that fourth-graders taking the test in Nevada fell 10 points behind the national average in reading, and eighth-graders taking the test fell seven points behind the national average. In math, Nevada fourth-graders scored seven points behind the average and eighth-grade test takers lagged eight points behind.
About 5,000 of the 64,500 fourth- and eighth-graders, less than eight percent, in Nevada last year were tested - the reason why disaggregating the results are difficult, Rheault said.
"I think it is a fair representation of our state, even though much of it is from Clark County," Rheault said. "It's a state-to-state comparison and you've got to look at it that way."
Overall 660,000 students from all 50 states and the District of Columbia took the tests. Rheault said of the five states with the highest non-English speakers - Alaska, Arizona, California, Nevada and New Mexico - four of those scored below average in reading, but in the same range with one another, excepting Alaska.
"If you have a baseball team, and the kids have never seen a baseball, it's pretty hard to have a high average," Rheault said.
While the state mandated participation in NAEP testing in 1997, it became a requirement of the federal No Child Left Behind Act. Students are chosen randomly at schools, but in proportion to groupings. For example, if 18 percent of students in the state are limited-English proficient, 18 percent of the test takers must be limited-English proficient.
"The selection is not made at the local level," said Carson City School District Superintendent Mary Pierczynski. "We also do not get results for our students in Carson City, so I can't tell you if our kids did well or poorly. We know that because Clark County has the majority of students, that it is only logical that the heaviest weight in our state is going to come from Clark County."
Four schools in the Carson City School District participated in NAEP testing last year. Approximately 90 eighth-graders from Carson Middle School and 90 eighth-graders from Eagle Valley Middle School took the reading and math tests in late January or early February 2005. All fourth-graders at Mark Twain Elementary School and Carson Montessori School, a charter school, participated in the math and reading tests.
Pierczynski said she believes the Carson City School District is performing better than the results reflect.
She said Carson High School students taking the American College Test and Student Achievement Test achieve above the average.
n Contact reporter Maggie O'Neill at email@example.com or 881-1219.
Nevada National Assessment of Education Progress statewide scores
Math 4th Math 8th Reading 4th Reading 8th
2002-03 228 268 207 252
2004-05 230 (237) 270 (278) 207 (217) 253 (260)
• The nationwide average for 2004-05 is in parenthesis
• The NAEP tests are given every other year
• The maximum of score is 500