Fate of Douglas schools in their stars
It has been years since Nevada schools have had consecutive testing data they could rely on to assess their work.
“We haven’t had an eye on the data in five years,” Superintendent Teri White said Wednesday. “We haven’t had two years of really good data so we know where we need to dig in.”
Last week, the Nevada Department of Education released star ratings for Nevada’s 17 school districts.
Douglas County had four schools achieve 5-star ratings, including both county high schools.
The top-rated school in the district was Zephyr Cove Elementary School, which received an index score of 90.5, a point above Douglas High School’s 89.5.
Piñon Hills Elementary School and Whittell High School rounded out the county’s top four schools.
White pointed out that the high schools are assessed differently from the middle and elementary schools.
“Zephyr Cove has worked really hard, but so has Douglas High School,” she said. “It’s worth noting that elementary and middle schools are evaluated differently from the high schools.”
While high schools use ACT achievement tests, the lower grades use smarter balance math, science and reading assessments in third through eighth grades.
The district also had three two-star schools, including Pau-Wa-Lu Middle, Scarselli and Jacks Valley elementary.
“We have some concerns at Pau-Wa-Lu,” she said. “We’ve spent a lot of time with the new administration ensuring we’re teaching the standards and making sure when we assess them. Pau-Wa-Lu has a lot of work to do. They’ve got some ground to make up.”
She said that there are some bright spots at Scarselli and Jacks Valley, but the goal is to see progress over time, something the district hasn’t really been able to track effectively until now.
“My goal is to have all five-star schools, or at least shoot for four- and five-star schools,” she said. “We need to make sure every student is growing, and closing the gap for those students who aren’t proficient.”
Nevada Department of Education spokesman Greg Bortolin said the delays in implementing the program were the result of a glitch in the system.
“Only a quarter of the kids statewide succeeded in getting smarter balance scores,” he said.
That prompted a lawsuit against the vendors and a settlement.
“The state was compensated, but we couldn’t recover the consecutive years of data to measure growth,” he said.
The last time the state issued new star ratings was 2014.
In the meantime, he pointed out there has been a change in the federal guidelines on issuing the stars.
“It is much harder to be a three-star school today than it was in 2014,” he said. “If someone saw a star rating today, it would be natural to go back and see how it was rated before, but it’s much more rigorous.”