Fight for academic recovery: How Nevada is working to reverse falling student proficiency rates despite minimal funding

The Nation’s Report Card was released Monday, revealing the results of a nationwide sample of 4th and 8th grade students who were assessed in math and reading.
Published: Oct. 24, 2022 at 9:26 PM PDT
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LAS VEGAS, Nev. (FOX5) - The Nation’s Report Card was released Monday, revealing the results of a nationwide sample of 4th and 8th grade students who were assessed in mathematics and reading. For Nevada and elsewhere, the data confirms fears of the pandemic’s negative impacts on student learning, showing a steep and historic decline in academic proficiency across the nation.

Specifically, in the last three years, the report reveals that 8th graders in Nevada performed significantly lower in the subject of mathematics. 8th grade reading scores in Nevada, however, stayed consistent since 2019.

“With this year’s NAEP data, we see some encouraging results; however, the reality is these numbers serve as a roadmap for the investments we need to make with the remaining COVID funding,” said CCSD Superintendent Dr. Jesus F. Jara. “These results also show the herculean work of CCSD teachers, administrators, and support professionals in tackling the challenges of the pandemic to minimize the impact on students.”

The Nation’s Report Card represents the largest continuing assessment of what students know in public and private schools in the United States.

“2022 NAEP results reflect the tremendous impact that the pandemic had on student learning,” said a media relations spokesperson for Clark County School District. “The results show that CCSD data fluctuations were in line with large urban districts across the country.”

What is needed to raise our grades, and in what areas are we acing the test?

FOX5 spoke to the head of the Nevada Department of Education, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jhone Ebert.

For one, she said she is working to make sure we have enough mathematics teachers.

“That is one area that we are lacking immensely in our state: highly-effective educators in mathematics,” said Ebert.

She said tens of thousands of students in Nevada are learning from long-term subs instead of licensed teachers, which could have also played a role in the performance on these assessments.

“We need to close that gap. And that’s where we’re working with higher education, working with school districts, building that pipeline out is where we’re spending a lot of our time,” said Ebert.

Looking at the highest-performing Nevada schools, what do those schools look like? It was a question we posed to Ebert.

“They have fewer long-term subs than those in the core,” said Ebert. “They’re mainly in the suburbs in our cities.”

She said the best-performing schools are staffed with quality educators and support roles.

“They have the school counselors, they have the school psychologists,” said Ebert.

On the bright side, Ebert said she is starting to see positive outcomes from her investments.

Starting last year, 2,000 student teachers got paid while they did their student teaching, which is a practice that is new in Nevada.

“To make sure those teachers that are student teachers that are going through their program are actually compensated while they’re doing their student teaching,” said Ebert.

The state set aside $20 million for that, she said. She also reiterated the importance of working with colleges to improve the pipeline in this way.

“We’ve partnered with Nevada State College. They’ve done a phenomenal job. We have about 6,000 teachers going through that program so they’re here in our schools, and they can continue on,” said Ebert. UNLV’s Paraprofessionals Pathways Project is another effort she credited for improving the overall picture.

Another indication things could turn around is the behaviors observed by teachers in children now, versus last school year.

Compared to last, Schorr Elementary teacher Kristan Nigro told FOX5 she has not been having to spend as much time this school year teaching her kindergarteners “how to play nice.”

“I feel like there was opportunities to socialize with other kids, because I can tell you the difference from last year to this year, the social-emotional ability has definitely grown,” said Nigro.

According to several studies, Nevada ranks at the bottom of the list when it comes to funding education.

“I don’t know how anybody can be proud of funding our students 49th in the nation,” said Ebert.

That is why Ebert said she is doing what she can but is often held back by the lack of funding.

“We just don’t fund it to the level where all our students are attaining the resources to be successful,” said Ebert.

This November’s midterm elections will have big impacts on Nevada childrens’ education, said Ebert.

“I encourage everyone to get out and vote, and that they make sure to vote for those who are looking to support our educational system,” said Ebert.

CCSD’s Media Relations department shared Monday that they have made significant Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) investments in programs aimed at academic recovery throughout the pandemic, including providing students with free access to online tutoring services, summer learning programs to accelerate students’ academic, social-emotional, and behavioral development, and special endorsements for teachers, where CCSD teachers can earn a master’s degree in English Language Learning with an ELAD endorsement at no cost to them through Project Pueblo.