Partial Common Core test data show Nevada kids lag in math

LAS VEGAS — Most Nevada students aren’t proficient in math and reading, according to partial Common Core test results released Wednesday following a massive computer meltdown that left most of the state’s students unable to participate in the federally mandated annual assessment.

The Nevada Department of Education said there are English scores for approximately 71,000 students, although only about 65,000 of them finished both the math and English portions. More than 213,000 students were expected to take the computerized exams but most of the Las Vegas-based Clark County School District couldn’t even log on. The fifth largest school district in the country makes up 70 percent of the state’s students. A total of 329 schools in Nevada have asked the state for leniency.

Steve Canavero, interim state superintendent, cautioned that the latest data can only be used for informational purposes because it represents just a third of Nevada students and it’s uncertain how valid the scores even are given that tests were halted statewide in April, with some riddled by ongoing disruptions.

Those limitations aside, the preliminary statewide results show a majority of Nevada students in grades three-through-eight were not proficient in either subject. Most students performed at “novice” or “developing” levels in math, including 79 percent of eighth-graders. About half performed at “proficient” or “advanced” levels in English.

The bulk of the data reflects students in the Reno area. Ben Hayes, Washoe County School District’s chief accountability officer, said he believes the results can be broadly interpreted, even if they may not be exactly right or reliable.

“Although we can’t fully trust them, it’s a worthy conversation to have,” he said.

Hayes also said some of the math scores might be skewed because top students taking algebra in middle school likely would have taken an accompanying subject test in lieu of the general math portion of the state exam in question.

But he also acknowledged that educators across the country had braced for this downward shift in test results because the Common Core-aligned standards are more rigorous, and likely a more accurate depiction of student achievement.

“Whereas we used to be assessing basic skills, now we’re assessing kids on a college ready pathway,” he said.

The northern Nevada school system intends to share the results with students and families, although it’s unclear when it will be made available. As of Monday afternoon, yet another glitch was reported with the troubled Measured Progress test vendor. The process is usually completed by the end of summer, but Clark County has already said it will not release data to families because it was too severely impacted.

“Some students had to take it multiple times, and by the fifth or fourth time, we don’t know if they would still be comfortable or frustrated with the test,” said Michelle Booth, spokeswoman for the Las Vegas district.

Since the testing debacle, Nevada has cut ties with Measured Progress for future tests. The state filed a breach of contract notice that resulted in a nearly $1.3 million settlement. It also filed a formal complaint against the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, which is now working on an independent study to determine the validity of the scores that were produced in the states affected, including Montana and North Dakota. Those results are expected early next year.

Nevada is also asking for a rare exemption from the U.S. Department of Education on a mandate tied to federal funding that requires at least 95 percent of all students to participate in an annual statewide test. Nevada, like most states, adopted the controversial Common Core standards for their test, something critics have railed against as tantamount to federal overreach.


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