Nevada’s Sandoval Proposes Fixes for Low-Performing Schools


Nevada governor Brian Sandoval has introduced a proposal for the state to take over failing schools and begin to operate them as charter schools.

State education officials released a list of 78 under-performing schools, 49 of which are in Clark County School District locations. The list of schools represents 10% of Nevada’s total 724 public schools.

Carri Geer Thevenot of the Las Vegas Review-Journal writes that Dale Erquiaga, state superintendent of public instruction, says that his agency has been focusing on schools with one- or two-star ratings, which is how low-performing schools are classified under the Nevada School Performance Framework. Not as much attention has been given to schools with the federal designations of “priority” and “focus”. Now, all three categories are on the new list.

The Clark County School District and its superintendent, Pat Skorkowsky, explained that priority and focus schools are only identified every three years, so some schools were placed on the list based on old data. Skorkowsky asked the state to update school ratings annually so that the right decisions for these schools can be made.

Erquiaga maintains that every school on the list should be on the list.

In his State of the State address last week, Sandoval asked lawmakers for a tax increase to fund several new or expanded education initiatives. For years, Nevada’s graduation rates have been some of the lowest in the country.

“In addition to new funding, the governor has proposed an achievement school district, an entirely new approach to school improvement, to ensure that our system of public education will be able to achieve the results our students and communities deserve,” Erquiaga said in a statement. “If operational by school year 2016-17, the achievement district could manage a number of the 78 schools we are identifying today.”

Former Clark County superintendent Pedro Martinez, although forced out of his position as superintendent in Washoe by the elected School Board, was chosen by Sandavol to help with this initiative as superintendent in residence, along with the Nevada Department of Education. Both Martinez’s compensation and the work of developing the achievement school district will be funded by private donations. Erquiaga says that legislation will be needed before the achievement district plans can begin.

“It’s critical that the existing school districts, families and communities work with the state department to improve these schools,” he said. “This is not an adversarial relationship. This is about improving the lives of generations of students.”

KRNV-TV released a statement from Erquiaga regarding Sandoval’s proposals. It stated that the governor is determined to see school turnaround, literacy, early childhood, great teaching, and leading, and other critical programs to support student learning. The proposals will  be supported by new funding and the governor has proposed a new approach to school improvement to ensure much deserved results for students and communities. The new approach has been labeled ” the achievement district.” Erquiaga says he is looking forward to working with Martinez to design the district and to secure legislative approval.

According to Sean Whaley, reporting for the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the governor’s plan will begin implementation in no more than six to 10 under-achieving schools.

“I would like to fix all 78 schools tomorrow, but we have to do this right,” Erquiaga told a joint meeting of the Senate Finance and Assembly Ways and Means committees. “It is a measure of last resort. It will only be a handful of schools.”

Not all the failing schools will be part of the achievement district, but all will receive new and expanded funding. The plan includes $50 million in new funding for low-performing schools in high-poverty neighborhoods, which will be called Victory Schools; ELL expansion of funding from $50 million to $100 million; and expansion to all-day kindergarten for all classes across the state with $150 million in funding in the new two-year budget.

Martinez will examine the schedules of the schools and may lengthen the school day at high-needs schools. He will also scrutinize the curricula for all elementary schools, says KLAS-TV’s Lauren Rozyla.

01 18, 2015
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