Vol. 3, No. 1 October 31, 2005
Nevada's Online State News Journal
Top News Story:
Nevada Education Stagnant For At Least A Decade
Two Recent Surveys Indicate Elementary And Higher Education Falling Behind
by Johnny Gunn
Nevada's Fourth and Eighth grade students are just barely above the bottom of the barrel when it comes to reading and mathematics skills according to a report called the Nation's Report Card issued by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). For a look at the complete report, click here. A second report called Measuring Up 2004 indicated that Nevada's University System is far below the national average in turning out well-educated students. The report was issued by the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education. To see that report as pdf file, click here.
The NAEP is a congressionally mandated project of the National Center for Education Statistics within the Institute of Education Sciences of the U.S. Department of Education. The report covers every state along with Department of Defense operated schools and rated students in grades four and eight on math and reading. A scale of 0-500 was used.
In 2005, the average scale score in reading for fourth-grade students in Nevada was 207 while the national average was 217. The report states, "Of the 52 states and other jurisdictions that participated in the 2005 assessment, students' average scale scores in Nevada were higher than those in one jurisdiction, not significantly different from those in eight jurisdictions, and lower than those in 42 jurisdictions."
The percentage of students in Nevada that performed at or above the NAEP Proficient level was 21 percent while the percentage of those at the Basic level was just 52 percent. These percentages are not significantly different from those in 2003 or in 1998 indicating that there has been no significant progress in Nevada's education system. Put another way, fourth graders in Nevada are not receiving an education at the same level as most of the rest of the nation.
Racially, black, Hispanic, and Asian students' scores generally were behind white students. Black fourth graders were as much as 27 points behind whites while Hispanic students were generally 24 points behind.
Unfortunately all Nevadan's got from the State Superintendent of Education was spin. Keith Rheault called the results "steady." When you're next to last for a period of years, that is not "steady," it's failure. According to national figures, fourth grade readers' "average scores for white, black, Hispanic, and Asian students increased between 1992 and 2005."
Fourth grade students' scores in mathematics were higher than their reading scores, 230, but the national average is 237. Quoting the Nation's Report Card, "Of the states that participated in the 2005 fourth-grade assessment, students' average scale scores in Nevada were higher than those in four jurisdictions, not significantly different from those in seven jurisdictions, and lower than those in 40 jurisdictions." The report says none of the statistics indicate a significant increase from previous years.
The report card is not a cheery thing to read. Students across the country are receiving a far better education than those in Nevada as indicated in graph after graph. Students in the eighth grade aren't reading any better today than they did in 1998. Actually, the score for 2005 (253) is less than that of 1998 (258). The national score for 2005 is 260. "Of the jurisdictions that participated in the 2005 eighth-grade assessment, students' average scale scores in Nevada were higher than those in three jurisdictions, not significantly different from those in seven jurisdictions, and lower than those in 41 jurisdictions."
Eighth graders today are less ready for the jump to high school than they were in 1998. That isn't "steady," it's failure. According to the NAEP report, "The percentage of students in Nevada who performed at or above the NAEP Basic level was 63 percent in 2005. This percentage was not significantly different from that in 2003 (63 percent) and was smaller than that in 1998 (70 percent)."
Eighth grade math proficiency was a little better, but not much. In 2005 the score was 270 while the National average was 278. The current score is above both 2003 (268) and 2000 (265). "Of the jurisdictions that participated in the 2005 assessment, students' average scale scores in Nevada were higher than those in five jurisdictions, not significantly different from those in seven jurisdictions, and lower than those in 39 jurisdictions."
Along with school systems in all 50 states, schools in the District of Columbia and schools operated by the Department of Defense were included in the Nation's Report Card. As has been pointed out often in these pages, Nevada's educational problems can't all be related to money. There is a mind set in the Silver State that a well-educated citizenry isn't necessarily what the state's leading industry wants. Well-educated people don't want to work for $5.15 an hour.
The 2006 elections are coming on us rapidly, more rapidly than sometimes we want them to, and if you believe in a sound educational system in Nevada, you have a perfect opportunity challenge those spending hard for your vote. A legislature filled with people committed to a sound educational system in the Silver State is the only way it will happen.
In the report Measuring Up on College-level Learning, prepared by the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, Nevada's universities and colleges didn't fare very well. The report is based on two critical questions according to President Patrick M. Callan:
Callan made this comment about the report, "In a knowledge-based global economy, the fortunes of states depend on the knowledge and skills of their students." Students arriving at Nevada's higher education facilities are not prepared for a higher education according to the report. "The state has performed at the lower end of most Measuring Up scales with respect to preparation (receiving a D in 2004) and educational attainment." The report goes on to say, "The state's below-average results on the literacy measures reflect this standing, as the state's residents consistently score about ten percentage points below the national average.
There are three sets of indicators according to the report, Literacy Levels, Graduates Ready for Advanced Practice, and Performance of the College Educated. Literacy levels are well below the national level as are Performance of the College Educated. Within the Graduates Ready for Advanced Practice are three measures, Licensures, Competitive Admissions, and Teacher Preparation. Licensures were 17 percent below the national average, Competitive Admissions were 52 percent below, and amazingly Teacher Preparation was 89 percent above the national average.
The report acknowledges that "Nevada faces an unprecedented teacher shortage as its K-12 system tries to keep up with an expanding population." According to this report, "The state appears to be meeting this challenge."
While about 20 percent fewer Nevada students take licensing examinations as compared to other states, "The pass rates of Nevada students are competitive nationally." While that statement seems to contradict itself, the report goes on to say, "Graduates of four-year institutions in other states take graduate-admission exams at about one and a half times the rate of Nevada's graduates, and only 22 percent of Nevada graduates who take these exams earn competitive scores, while 31 percent of their counterparts elsewhere do so."
Nevada received an F in completion in the Measuring Up 2004. The report indicates that students are simply not prepared properly for university levels of learning. Nevada's primary and secondary education facilities are failing in their attempts to bring students to the university level.
The two reports need to be read together since the one supports the other. If children in the K-12 are not fully educated then how could colleges and universities expect to turn out the best possible product? From legislative session to legislative session it is very apparent that the state's leading industry isn't prepared to back a serious state education system and the burden then must fall on the rest of the industries and citizens. For that to happen, the makeup of the legislature must change.
Those politicians that talk education but support an industry that doesn't foster strong educational values must be replaced. Only the voters of the state can do that.