In deferring No Child Left Behind, Nevada will now institute the Nevada School Performance Framework, an accountability system that will allow schools to be monitored more closely than using No Child Left Behind.
Jim Guthrie, state superintendent of public instruction for the Nevada Department of Education, said the prior system did not identify English Language Learning students or some categories of disabled students with the same precision that will be instituted.
“We applaud No Child Left Behind and we were never angry with its policies,” he said. “We have to have accountability in our consciousness and this new system allows us to track students in more fine-tuned gradations.”
Guthrie said Nevada would have been penalized for not meeting certain standards of No Child Left Behind that would have resulted in the loss of federal funding.
The new framework will abide by Common Core State Standards, a curriculum that Guthrie said will train teachers to national standards. The new system also means the institution of advanced expectations, resulting in more fervent classroom strategies in third through eighth grades in math, science, social studies, reading and other courses.
“For instance, for fourth-graders it means you will read more challenging books and math will be intensified a little bit,” Gutherie said. “We want to get them ready for algebra and geometry by the time they reach the seventh and eighth grades. There are a lot higher expectations for what students will be taught and what they will learn than we have ever had before.”
Kristen McNeill, Chief Strategies Officer for the Washoe County School District, said the effects of the waiver approval will be felt immediately with the continuance of the Title I Choice Program. The Choice Program allows students in a Title I (high-poverty) school the opportunity to switch to a school not delegated by the state as needing improvements.
“There will be no new choice schools added this year,” McNeill said. “Some districts are getting rid of their choice program altogether. With this waiver, we are able to offer the Choice Program for one more year and we feel, with school beginning in a couple of weeks, that it is better for families in our district.”
McNeill said WCSD will be able to provide transportation for elementary students who are using the Choice Program this year. Middle school students will still have a “variance” option, but the school will not provide transportation.
Another important factor affecting the WCSD in the waiver approval is the flexibility of funds for Supplemental Education Services, or school tutoring. McNeill said flexibility in this area will cater directly to the needs of students.
“With those funds the district would bring in outside companies for tutoring in certain areas. We no longer have to do that,” she said. “The district will have control over those dollars and we can focus on how to meet the direct needs of the students using those dollars.”
Guthrie said the importance of implementing a plan focusing on enforcing rigorous academics is obvious due to Nevada’s ranking of “last in every category we measure.”
He believes raising the bar in core curriculum provides the best chance for eventual graduates to enter the future workforce.
“We are handicapped here by golden handcuffs of good-paying jobs with low skills,” he said. “That is changing. The service industry is not going to sustain us forever and we want to prepare students for 21st century job market. In order to do that, we have to ratchet up our standards in hopes of it leading to a better life, a better job and, hopefully, a better Nevada.”