This week, Nevada Department of Education (NDOE) released the 2018-2019 School Accountability Report Cards, detailing standardized scores in Math and English Language Arts, for every school in the Silver State. White Pine County School District suffered in the rankings, seeing another year of low proficiency scores across the district.  

Here we will break apart the complex rating system and analyze the data for each individual school in White Pine County to observe how the NDOE classified several schools in White Pine County as schools needing additional support.  

Putting the pieces together helps develop a more comprehensive view.  Standardized tests often fail to provide a comprehensive and detailed showcasing of the scope and depth of student learning.  Adam Young and the principals of these schools have stated previously that school’s star ratings also do little to tell the whole story when analyzing a school’s performance.

Schools receive a star rating for their performance on state standardized tests that determine the proficiency level of their students within core subjects. Receiving points based on student performance across various Indicators and Measures, the totaled points are divided by the points possible to produce an index score from 1-100. This index score is associated with a one- to five-star school rating. 

The framework that determines the star ratings is aligned with the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and uses multiple metrics to ascertain a school’s overall performance.  Nevada Department of Education must designate schools performing in the bottom 5 percent of all schools or that have graduation rates below 67 percent as those earning a one-star rating. If a school meets any of the criteria, it is considered a Comprehensive Support and Improvement (CSI) school.

Two additional federal designations known as Targeted Support and Improvement (TSI) and Additional Targeted Support and Improvement (ATSI)  applies to schools with underperforming and low-performing student groups, like English as a Second Language students or students with Individual Education Plans. 

TSI schools have underperforming student groups that have not met multiple academic targets for two consecutive years. ATSI schools, meanwhile, meet the TSI criteria but also have very low-performing student groups. 

Jackie Valley, writing for The Nevada Independent, reported the NDOE results on Monday in an article which categorized the White Pine County School District as having the most low-performance-school designations in the state, with two-thirds of White Pine County School District schools considered a CSI, TSI or ATSI campus. The Clark County School District has the second-highest amount, with 51 percent of its schools having a designation.

These designations do not indicate a state takeover of WPCSD will take place like in the past. Nevada lawmakers pushed through their Senate Bill 321 earlier this year, abolishing the Achievement School District, which had turned underperforming traditional public schools into charter schools. 

Adam Young explains that when it comes to the NDOE’s rankings there are extenuating factors that have not been taken into consideration, “The first thing to keep in mind is that the three Lund schools and Steptoe Valley includes hundreds of students from outside of the district.  Prior to me moving into this seat, the board, at the time, had made a distance education agreement with a national provider to allow students outside of White Pine County to participate in online learning as White Pine County students.  They were funneled through and became members of the Lund schools and Steptoe Valley, even though they didn’t attend there.”  Attendance numbers reported by the NDOE shows this disparity.

The poor performances of these outside students through the online distance education  service provider, known as K-12, has been pulling down the overall numbers for the district’s academic performance, as well as individually for the Lund schools and Steptoe Valley.  Young clarified further, “The good news is that agreement was terminated by our current board with the help of our attorney, James Beecher, as of June 30th of this year. For the last three years the data for Lund and Steptoe Valley is not accurate; because locally, Lund High School has 15 or 16 students, but 140 students when you count the distance education students.”  Since the district is not providing the services they terminated the cooperative agreement with K-12.

With that distinction, Young is looking ahead and not behind, “It will be a much better conversation in a year to talk about Lund and Steptoe when we get the scores without those online students affecting the results.”  As this new school year unfolds, the results for the 2019-2020 school year will be the first year in Young’s tenure as Superintendent where the results will be that of actually present student populations for those two schools. 

Getting into individual school breakdowns, Nevada Department of Education’s State Superintendent, Jhone Ebert, told the Nevada Independent, “We know that the work and those ratings don’t happen by chance. Teachers look at where their students are at a specific point in time. They work extremely hard to support the students and families.”  However, when schools are not performing as they should, the state does still get involved, but not in an invasive way.

NDOE Public Information Office, Gregory Bortolin spoke about White Pine County Schools via phone, and explained the CSI and other targeted assistance designations in the district, “Clearly WPCSD needs help.  These kids are no different than any other kids in the state and we are going to offer them the same state support and federal funding streams that can help facilitate to make sure the money is directed in the best manner possible.” 

Bortolin clarified what helping at the NDOE level means for WPCSD schools with low performance designations, “White Pine Middle School, for example, their TSI and ATSI designations mean we’ve identified areas of support and will look for what the school needs, identifying opportunity gaps. The state will increase funding to address helping students that need additional support.  We will come in and work with the school and the district and find funding that is available at state and federal levels to improve curriculum and possible targeted teacher training.”  Students and their schools deserve all the help that is available. 

The NDOE scores posted for the 2018-2019 school year are only a glimpse at a small portion of the bigger picture.  Parents need to look at their particular school’s performance over several years to identify where their education centers have been, to understand where they are currently, in order to focus on where they are heading, performance wise.  For several years of NDOE star ratings and school report cards visit: http://nevadareportcard.nv.gov.

Currently, Young speaks optimistically, directing his attention on advancing professional development of teachers and comprehensive overhaul of the district, “We feel we are moving in the right direction. Our district performance plan is as tight as can be, focusing dramatically on improved instruction. It takes time to change a system, and we all want immediate results, but it is going to take a few years.”  As the district moves forward it will be up to everyone involved, parents, teachers, administrators, board members, community leaders, and students to come together and collectively focus efforts on improving scores across the district.

This year’s NDOE School Ratings Reports for every school in White Pine County are available here for quick reference.  We are providing information collected from the Nevada Department of Education Website: http://nevadareportcard.nv.gov.

One-Star schools: Identifies a school that has not met the state’s standard for performance. Students and subgroups are inconsistent in achieving performance standards. A one-star school has multiple areas that require improvement, including an urgent need to address areas that are significantly below standard. The school must submit an improvement plan that identifies support tailored to subgroups and indicators that are below standard. The school is subject to state interventions.

Schools in White Pine County earning a One-Star Rating: 

David E. Norman Elementary – CSI Designated School

385 students enrolled 

ELA Proficiency: 32.8%

Math Proficiency: 29.8% 

Lund Elementary – CSI Designated School

131 students enrolled

ELA Proficiency: 31.8%

Math Proficiency: 17.5%

Lund Middle/High School – CSI Designated School

285 students enrolled

ELA Proficiency: 42.7%

Math Proficiency: 14.1%

Steptoe Valley High School – CSI Designated School

99 students enrolled

ELA Proficiency: 18.1%

Math Proficiency: 0.0%

According to the NDOE, one star CSI designated schools are some of the lowest performing schools in the state (bottom 5th percentile of adjusted NSPF index scores). CSI schools cannot receive more than a two-star rating in the year they are first designated. A school designated as CSI must work with their LEA to develop a plan to exit the CSI designation within three years. The plan must be approved by NDE. The school is evaluated for exit at the end of this three year period.

Two-Star schools: Identifies schools that have partially met the state’s standards for performance. Students and subgroups often meet expectations for academic performance or growth but may have multiple areas that require improvement. Areas requiring significant improvement are uncommon. The school must submit an improvement plan that identifies support tailored to subgroups and indicators that are below standard.

Schools in White Pine County earning a Two-Star Rating:

McGill Elementary – No Designation

124 students enrolled

ELA Proficiency: 42.5%

Math Proficiency: 31.3%

White Pine Middle School – TSI/ATSI Designated School

258 students enrolled

ELA Proficiency: 30.3%

Math Proficiency: 21.1%

TSI/ATSI designation: This school has consistently underperforming subgroups as well as very low performing subgroups. TSI/ATSI schools cannot receive more than a three-star rating in the year they are first designated.  A school designated as TSI/ATSI must work with their LEA to develop a plan to exit the TSI/ATSI designation within three years. The school is evaluated for exit at the end of this three year period

White Pine County has no Three-Star Rated Schools to report.

Four-Star schools: Recognizes a commendable school that has performed well for all students and subgroups. A four star school demonstrates satisfactory to strong academic performance for all students. Further, the school is successfully promoting academic progress for all student groups as reflected in closing opportunity gaps. The school does not fail to meet expectations for any group on any indicator.

Schools in White Pine County earning a Four-Star Rating:

Baker Elementary – No designation

16 students enrolled

ELA Proficiency: 43.7%

Math Proficiency: 43.7%

White Pine High School – No Designation

124 students enrolled

ELA Proficiency: 43.5 %

Math Proficiency: 20.8%

Learning Bridge Elementary – No Designation

120 students enrolled

ELA Proficiency: 56.1%

Math Proficiency: 54.2%

Five-Star schools: Recognizes a superior school that exceeds expectations for all students and subgroups on every indicator category with little or no exception. A five star school demonstrates superior academic performance and growth with no opportunity gaps. The school does not fail to meet expectations for any group on any indicator. These schools are recognized for distinguished performance.

Schools in White Pine County earning a Five Star Rating:

Learning Bridge Middle School – No Designation

61 students enrolled

ELA Proficiency: 61%

Math Proficiency: 43.2%