How many tests are too many? The state wants to find out.

When the pandemic sent students into remote-learning mode last year, the federal government waived standardized testing that normally occurs in the spring.

The decision thrilled some students, parents and educators who bemoan what they perceive as too much testing and not enough instruction time in the school environment. But is that actually the case?

That’s what the Nevada Department of Education has been charged with finding out courtesy of recently passed legislation awaiting the governor’s signature. Consider SB353 an assessment of assessments. 

The legislation directs the department to review the tests students are taking for their educational benefits, their costs and any redundancies in the information, skills or abilities measured. The second half of the bill requires action by the department to adopt regulations that set limits on the time taken from instruction to conduct an assessment as well as the number of assessments administered each school year. If a school district or charter school wanted to administer a test beyond those limits, it would need a waiver approved by the State Board of Education. 

“I think that this will ... go a long way to helping to assuage some of the concerns because we'll have more concrete data about what is happening,” said Jonathan Moore, the state’s deputy superintendent of student achievement. “And then we'll be in a position to support educators and school districts.”

The legislation builds upon a bill passed in the 2017 session — SB303 — that called for an audit of assessments used to monitor student progress. But Moore said the audit only looked at state-mandated assessments, which didn’t yield a full picture of testing happening at the school district level, too.

It has been difficult to say how many assessments students take because it can differ by school or even by child. For instance, schools may be administering MAP Growth tests every few months to measure students’ progress in reading and math. But all public school students in grades three through eight take the Smarter Balanced Assessment, commonly referred to as SBAC tests, in the spring. Students learning English as a second language must take another test known as the WIDA assessment to monitor their mastery of the language. And that’s just a sampling of the tests that exist.

Moore said the department will hire a consultant to conduct the review, which will be done through the lens of the balanced assessment system. In other words, it will take into account the types of assessments given, the frequency of assessments and the data yielded from them and how the information helps inform instruction in the classroom. 

The bill carries an appropriation of $65,364 in the first fiscal year of the biennium and $187,500 in the second year — which would fund the consultant’s work as well as costs associated with adopting regulations.

The Nevada State Education Association submitted written testimony late last month that criticized the prior attempt, saying the final report that stemmed from SB303 “was written with a predetermined result in mind that is out of line with the realities in our classrooms.”

NSEA concluded its support for SB353 by alluding to it as a second chance: “We hope the current Department takes this task more seriously this time, so we can spend less time testing and more time teaching and learning.”

Rebecca Garcia, president of the Nevada PTA, lauded the forthcoming review as a step in the right direction. 

“Obviously, looking at assessments isn’t going to address the plethora of issues with standardized assessments in America,” she said. “But I think it can give some good information to better understand what is of most value here in Nevada.”

While Garcia acknowledges the merits of standardized testing — to gauge students’ needs and provide appropriate instruction — she said her organization receives frequent complaints from parents and teachers concerned about the volume. It’s not uncommon for schools to throw pep rallies or offer rewards as an incentive for students to do well, especially when tests correlate to a school’s rating or teacher evaluations.

The situation, she said, can exacerbate testing anxiety among students.

“If you have kids who struggle with testing, which I do, you suddenly see how difficult that is when the message they’re getting from their school is, ‘You must do well. You must do well,’” she said.

After a hiatus last year, springtime testing returned this year. The U.S. Education Department announced in February that states must administer standardized tests required by federal law, though given the ongoing pandemic, there was some flexibility about how to give those tests. The decision irked hundreds of education researchers who asked newly minted Education Secretary Miguel Cardona to change course, but the administration stood firm, pointing to the need for data about student learning during the pandemic.

Moore said he expects the work tied to SB353 to be completed by the end of the upcoming biennium. He hopes it clears up confusion about testing and leads to efficiencies where possible, eliminating any arbitrary assessments.

“And so if we look at what our summative assessments measure at the end of the year, are the assessments we’re giving truly putting us in a position where we can inform teaching and learning on a daily basis, on an interim basis?” he said.

State superintendent issues guidance for graduation, giving school districts broad discretion

The Nevada Department of Education issued a nine-page guidance document Friday suggesting that school districts “consider alternatives to in-person graduation ceremonies” as the coronavirus upends daily life around the world.

The paper also seeks to provide some clarity about how school districts should handle graduation requirements for the Class of 2020. It touches on four key areas — attendance, course completion, class rank and assessments — and gives school districts broad discretion.

“It is not the Nevada Department of Education’s (NDE) position that seniors are automatically finished with schooling during the closure of school buildings, since there are other considerations, such as concurrent credit courses, CTE industry certifications, and other determinations as to whether a senior is on the path toward graduation,” the department leaders wrote. “Whether a senior is on the path toward graduation is a local education agency decision.”

School districts can decide whether seniors who can’t finish classes because of COVID-19 “have completed sufficient course content” to graduate; however, state education officials suggest districts examine whether students were on a path to graduation prior to the virus-related school closures.

For students not already on a path toward graduation, the state education department should “consider how to create academic experiences” that would yield credits and lead to graduation eligibility. 

Credits could be achieved through assignments — such as written work packets, online coursework, projects, portfolios or applied work experiences — or competency-based assessments, according to the guidance document. The latter could include tests created by school districts, online ACT, PSAT and SAT prep, or using a determined cut score from a college-entrance exam, among others.

The bottom line appears to be flexibility.

“NDE recommends that districts provide as much latitude and support for students to graduate on time as possible,” the guidance states.

As for calculating grades and class rank, the department suggests districts roll over students’ grades from the previous semester or come up with another method that reflects students’ work.

Students are being contacted at least once a week for purposes of attendance. School districts agreed to that as they shifted to distance learning, per Gov. Steve Sisolak’s emergency directive last month.

After the coronavirus-related school closures, the U.S. Department of Education waived certain state standardized testing and accountability requirements for the 2019-2020 school year. But there are other assessments that fall outside that waiver.

Nevada law, for instance, requires high school students take a civics test. State education officials, however, are “researching available options” to have that assessment waived, according to the guidance document.

State education officials also said they’re working with the vendor for career and technical education assessments to come up with an online solution. The online testing could begin by April 20, they wrote, and continue as long as necessary.

Despite asking school districts to consider alternatives to in-person graduation ceremonies, state education officials did not offer any specific recommendations.

Churchill, Lyon, Washoe and White Pine county school districts are working with the state education department on the guidance, along with the Nevada Association of School Superintendents and WestEd. State Superintendent Jhone Ebert and two deputy superintendents — Jonathan Moore and Felicia Gonzales — authored the guidance document.

Greg Bortolin, a spokesman for the Nevada Department of Education, said the academic year was about 80 percent complete when the closure started, which made it easier to provide more flexibility for graduation.

“I think if this happened in November or December, we’d be having a totally different conversation,” he said.

The governor has ordered schools and nonessential businesses to remain closed at least through April 30.

Statewide graduation rate hits 84 percent, setting another record

Students in caps and gowns at Eldorado High School graudation

If there’s any uncertainty about why Nevada school districts are pushing career and technical education, the evidence may lie in graduation rates.

Students enrolled in career and technical education (CTE) programs posted the highest graduation rate — 94 percent for the Class of 2019 — among any student population in the state, education officials announced Thursday. That marked a roughly 3 percentage point increase over the prior year, which, in turn, helped propel the state’s overall graduation rate higher.

Eighty-four percent of Nevada students in the Class of 2019 received a diploma, setting a graduation record for the second straight year. The statewide graduation rate was 83 percent last year and 81 percent in 2017. 

State education leaders said the increased graduation rate correlates with improvements seen on standardized test results and schools’ star ratings. Graduation rates for 10 school districts exceeded the statewide average.

“I think this is just another indicator that we’re making steps toward improving student outcomes for students,” said Jonathan Moore, deputy superintendent of student achievement for the Nevada Department of Education. “I think it’s also another testament to how hard our districts and educators are working.”

The graduation rate for CTE students serves as an aspirational benchmark for the state as a whole. About 28 percent of 2019 graduates — or 12,964 students — were enrolled in a CTE program. As that enrollment number has increased over time, so has the graduation rate for those students, state officials said.

In the Clark County School District, which has on overall graduation rate of 86 percent this year, the career and technical academies led the way. Advanced Technical Academy, East Career Technical Academy, Southwest Career and Technical Academy and Veterans Tribute Career and Technical Academy all achieved 100 percent graduation rates for the Class of 2019. 

Others came extremely close — Southeast Career and Technical Academy (99.5 percent), West Career and Technical Academy (98.3 percent), and Northwest Career and Technical Academy (99.2 percent). 

The Clark County Board of Trustees recently approved an updated capital improvement program, which includes the creation of two new career and technical academies. Although those are years away from welcoming students, district leaders hope it widens access to the sought-after programs. During last year’s enrollment period, the district received roughly 22,000 magnet applications for 15,201 available seats, and 64 percent of those applications were for career and technical academies.

But CTE programs weren’t the sole driver of the state’s increased graduation rates. Since 2017, the graduation rates for all racial and ethnic subgroups have increased. Pacific Islander students posted the highest gain — a 6 percentage-point increase over the two-year period, resulting in a nearly 89 percent graduation rate.

From a district perspective, the State Public Charter School Authority showed the most growth. Two years ago, the Charter Authority’s graduation rate stood at 65 percent. In 2018, it increased to 70 percent and, this year, it jumped to 78 percent.

“Ultimately, this is just a reflection of the hard work our schools are doing,” said Rebecca Feiden, executive director of the Charter Authority.

Fourteen of 17 charter schools with a Class of 2019 have graduation rates higher than 85 percent. Lower graduation rates for the three other schools, however, pulled the Charter Authority’s overall rate down. Beacon Academy, which serves at-risk students, has a 25 percent graduation rate; Nevada Connections Academy, an online school, has a 70 percent graduation rate; and Democracy Prep at the Agassi Campus has an 80 percent graduation rate.

The graduation rates also revealed some trouble spots across the state. Lander School District continued its downward slide, tumbling 9 percentage points to a 78 percent graduation rate. State officials didn’t offer a specific reason for the decrease, aside from noting that districts with smaller classes sizes are subject to more dramatic shifts based on the average calculations. 

The White Pine County School District’s graduation rate — 67 percent — remained unchanged over the prior year and is the lowest in the state.

The graduation rate for foster children — a subgroup the state began tracking in 2018 along with homeless students — dipped by roughly 2 percentage points this year to 44 percent. But the graduation rate for homeless students did the opposite: It increased by 2 percentage points to reach 66 percent.

Asked whether the state’s on course to see nine out of every 10 students graduate in the near future, Moore struck an optimistic tone.

“We certainly hope so,” he said. 

Report ranks Nevada middle of the road for rural education

Whiteboard in a rural school

A new report shows a mixed bag of results when it comes to educating students in Nevada’s more far-flung locales, identifying improved test scores as a bright spot but low college readiness as a challenge.

Nevada is the 23rd-highest-need state for rural education, according to a report released Thursday by the Rural School and Community Trust, a nonpartisan organization. Just two years ago, the Silver State ranked No. 7, although some metrics have changed since then.

The report, which analyzes rural education needs in all 50 states, aims to shed light on the concerns facing schools and students in less-populated areas. The organization estimates about 7.5 million students attend school in rural districts in the United States, with about 1 in 6 of those children living below the poverty line.

“While some rural schools thrive, others and their communities continue to face devastating obstacles in the education and well-being of children,” Robert Mahaffey, executive director of the Rural School and Community Trust, said in a statement. “Leaders in every state and our nation’s capital must work together to better address the issues facing rural students, schools, and communities with great haste.”

Roughly 7,500 Nevada students attend schools that meet the federal definition of a “rural locale,” which takes into consideration distance from an urbanized area. Those students live in Esmeralda, Lincoln, Nye, Pershing, Eureka and Storey counties. Other counties typically referred to as rural in colloquial conversations — such as Churchill, Elko, Humboldt, Lander, Mineral, White Pine, Douglas and Lyon — are technically part of the “town locale” category.

So how do Nevada’s rural students stack up with their peers elsewhere?

For starters, they’re the most diverse group in terms of race, socioeconomic status and geographic mobility. That diversity comes with its own struggles, though. Nevada, for example, has the highest rate (18.7 percent) of rural students who have changed residences in the past year, which authors said creates “extreme challenges in educational stability for these students and their classmates.”

The report’s authors noted that Nevada’s rural students showed some of the biggest gains comparing fourth-graders and eighth-graders’ math and reading scores on the 2017 National Assessment of Educational Progress, which is sometimes referred to as the “Nation’s Report Card.” But that improvement is tempered by this reality: Their scores trailed the state’s non-rural students.

The report also lamented the low rates of dual enrollment and Advanced Placement credit attainment, declaring Nevada rural students the least ready for college in the nation. Just 1 percent of rural juniors and seniors in Nevada passed at least one AP exam, the authors found.

Nevada’s deputy superintendent for student achievement, Jonathan Moore, said expanding AP access to rural students is a priority but a challenge given the ongoing teacher shortage. The state has roughly 1,000 teacher vacancies — about three quarters of which are in Clark County — and finding an educator qualified to teach AP courses in rural areas adds to the challenge.

“When we think about what it means to expand access, you need professional and teachers, one, available to even teach those courses,” he said. “That’s a hurdle.”

The state is trying to address that problem through distance learning, said Maria Sauter, the assistant director for the Office of Student and School Supports within the Nevada Department of Education. She credited Andrea Connolly, principal of Nevada Learning Academy, with expanding rural students’ access to AP and career and technical education (CTE) courses.

But fewer than 20 rural students across the state enrolled in the virtual courses last year, Sauter said, acknowledging that it was “not as many as we hoped.”

State officials hope to continue raising awareness and boosting those numbers. But speaking more broadly about the challenges facing Nevada’s rural schools, Sauter emphasized the personnel problem: It’s difficult to recruit enough teachers in some places, let alone counselors, paraprofessionals or other key staff members who help support struggling students.

As the Baby Boomers inch toward retirement, she said, it’s creating even more staffing worries for rural education leaders.

“The communities are too small, and you just can’t find the extra people to do some of those duties,” she said.

The report identified Mississippi, North Carolina, Alabama, Oklahoma, South Dakota, West Virginia, Georgia, South Carolina, Louisiana and Florida as the highest-priority states, meaning they have the greatest rural education needs.

The following gauges were used to determine the condition of rural education in each state: the importance of rural education, diversity of rural students and their families, educational policy context, educational outcomes and college readiness.  

How much value do parents place on school star ratings? It depends.

Elementary students standing in the hallway

When Rachel Morris and her family moved to Las Vegas from San Francisco, they put more stock in a prospective school’s mascot than its star rating.

Morris, a mother of two, says this jokingly, but the reality is her kids lucked out: They ended up at Goolsby Elementary School, a five-star building. Her son and daughter are now “Goolsby Greyhounds,” which they thought had a nice ring to it.

“I did look at the star ratings, but I didn’t take them too seriously,” she said. 

Her outlook raises a question about the annual star ratings. They foster hopes and fears among educators and can trigger celebrations at schools that earned high marks, but how much value do parents place on those yellow stars?

The Obama-era Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) requires states to publish certain accountability-related information about a school and district’s performance, but the federal law gives them latitude in how to do so. Some states use rating systems with traditional letter grades. Others states, including California, have adopted dashboard-style systems that show performance across multiple metrics but don’t assign an overall rating. 

Under the Nevada School Performance Framework, schools receive a star rating based on their performance. It ranges from five stars for schools that exceed all expectations to one star for schools that have not met the state’s academic standards. A variety of metrics, including students’ performance on standardized tests, chronic absenteeism rates and opportunity gaps factor into a school’s overall star rating.

The Nevada Department of Education releases the star ratings every September, often with fanfare for schools that achieved five stars or showed huge improvement. But shortly after the star ratings debuted last month, Rebecca Garcia, president elect of the Nevada PTA,  posed the following question in a Facebook group for Clark County School District parents:

PARENTS - Interested to hear your thoughts... With all the Star Rating news today how much do the Nevada school performance rankings matter to you? This is specifically for PARENTS to respond to please.”

More than 500 people responded to the survey. The vast majority of respondents (62 percent) chose the option labeled, “Interested to know but not how I judge a school.” The other votes cast fell in this order: 

  • “Somewhat important” (18 percent)
  • “Very important” (12 percent)
  • “Let’s just help students enjoy learning again” (5 percent)
  • “Not important” (3 percent)

Although not a scientific survey, the results offer a glimpse of how parents view the yearly school ratings. Garcia  said the Facebook survey didn’t necessarily surprise her. 

“I have mixed feelings about the star ratings,” she said. “It’s interesting because I actually love data. I do think we need some sort of measurement and accountability. At the same time, I only think it tells a small piece of the whole story.”

Garcia, who has three school-aged children, said fluctuations between two, three and four stars don’t bother her as much as schools that haven’t budged from a one-star rating for years. Her children are zoned for Bailey Middle School and Mountain View Elementary School, which this year received one- and two-star ratings, respectively. Instead, her children attend three-star magnet schools — Sandy Searles Miller Academy for International Studies and Mike O’Callaghan Middle School — on the east side of Las Vegas. 

The magnet schools’ higher star ratings contributed to Garcia’s decision to send her children there, she said. But she digs deeper into the ratings, analyzing how the schools performed across different metrics. Sandy Searles Miller Academy for International Studies, for example, has a chronic absenteeism rate of 5.2 percent. Garcia said that statistic tells her more about the school than its overall rating.

“That’s because kids want to go to school. Parents want to send their kids there,” she said. “The culture and climate of a school makes a huge difference.”

But Garcia isn’t convinced most parents have the time or desire to sift through the data and decode the education lingo attached to the rating system. Joshua Parker, a parent and UNLV student studying education, agrees. He judges the quality of education his daughter receives more on her teacher than a school’s overall rating. 

“I know my daughter goes to a four-star school, and that’s great,” he said. “All I care about is what they’re being taught. I don’t need a number for the school, personally, to determine whether the school is good.”

Colby Pellegrino, a mother of two children who attend Twitchell Elementary School, said she does place some emphasis on the star ratings — and the data embedded within it — for the sake of accountability. The rating system, she said, arms parents with information that enables them to compare student progress and schools. 

But, like Parker, she also pays close attention to her children’s teachers.

“I think one good teacher or one bad teacher makes all the difference in the world,” she said. “I know some amazing teachers that teach at two-star schools, and I know some really mediocre teachers that teach at five-star schools.”

In fact, the Nevada Teacher of the Year, Gail Hudson, works at a two-star school, Hummel Elementary.

Morris said her children fared well academically at a Title I school serving a low-income population in San Francisco. They’re thriving here, too, at a high-performing suburban school, which she attributes to factors beyond test scores and star ratings. Morris said after-school programs matter, as do personal connections. Her son formed a bond with a physical-education teacher, she said, and looked forward to that class.

“You could put your kids in the best-ranked school ever, and they could be unhappy because it’s just not for them,” she said.

Dr. Jonathan Moore, the state’s deputy superintendent for student achievement, said the star ratings serve an important purpose because they capture achievement happening across a school. The data points within the rating system show where learning outcomes have fallen short, giving educators a roadmap for improvement, he said. But the department is also working with school districts on ways to make the star rating information more accessible — and digestible — to parents. 

Ideally, he said parents should be browsing the star rating information and telling their child’s teacher or principal, “Talk with me a little bit more about what this data means for my school and what it means for my child.”

Still, Moore acknowledged that parent perception of school quality goes beyond academic benchmarks. Parents want to know about their children’s safety, social well-being, connections with staff and access to extracurricular programs or field trips, he said.

“I think parents consider many things when measuring the overall education experience and context for their children,” he said.

For some parents, though, the star ratings take the guesswork out of navigating the public education system. Cristian Baeza said she sends her two children to Walter Bracken STEAM Academy, a three-star magnet, in part because of its rating. She also heard good things about the school from family and friends.

“Even when you buy something, you go to the reviews and you trust a little bit more when they have good reviews,” she said. “With the schools, it’s the same.”

As school ratings show some statewide gains, education officials call for more sharing of best practices

Fifth-grade teacher MaryAnn Thomson talks with her students

More than half of Nevada schools are meeting or exceeding performance standards, according to data released late Sunday by the Nevada Department of Education.

Education officials heralded the 2019 Nevada School Performance Framework results as more evidence that the state’s frequently criticized public school system is making gains despite ongoing challenges. About 53 percent of schools statewide achieved three, four or five stars — ratings that indicate they’re “adequate,” “commendable” or “superior” in terms of students’ academic performance. Last year, 49 percent of schools achieved three or more stars.

Ninety-three schools did not receive a rating, indicating they’re too small or don’t serve the grade levels taking the standardized assessments that factor into the score. Excluding those that didn’t receive a rating, the percentage of schools that earned at least three stars is even higher — 60 percent.

The percentage climb was fueled by 184 schools that increased their rating by one or more stars. Of those, 34 schools increased by two stars, and three schools moved up by three stars.

“We know that that work and those ratings don’t happen by chance,” State Superintendent Jhone Ebert said. “Teachers look at where their students are at a specific point in time. They work extremely hard to support the students and the families.”

To that end, Clark County Superintendent Jesus Jara on Thursday delivered thank-you gifts to two teachers who demonstrated significant achievement gains at Triggs Elementary School, which jumped from two to five stars this year. Two rural schools — Hawthorne Elementary in the Mineral County School District and Hillside Elementary in the Storey County School District — also made a similar leap, going from one to four stars.

Sheila Cooper, principal of Triggs Elementary School, attributed the rapid growth to teachers’ focus on curriculum standards and their willingness to work together. As part of that, she said, the school made sure all students were receiving “direct instruction at a level that meets their needs.”

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. Five-star schools exceed all expectations, while one-star schools have not met the state’s academic standards.

Struggling schools 

Per ESSA, the state must also designate schools that perform in the bottom 5 percent of all schools, have a one-star rating or have graduation rates below 67 percent. If a school meets any of those criteria, it’s considered a Comprehensive Support and Improvement (CSI) school.

Overall, about 1 in 5 Nevada public schools — or 21 percent — are considered CSI schools. But the number of newly designated CSI schools fell from 55 last year to 29 this year.

There are two other federal designations — Targeted Support and Improvement (TSI) and Additional Targeted Support and Improvement (ATSI) — that pertain to schools with underperforming and low-performing student groups. 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. 

The Nevada Department of Education identified nine new TSI schools this year, the same number as in 2018. But the department only identified 45 new ATSI schools compared with 104 last year. 

The White Pine County School District has the most designations, with two-thirds of its 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.

The designations, however, don’t indicate a state takeover. Nevada lawmakers this year passed Senate Bill 321, abolishing the Achievement School District, which had turned underperforming traditional public schools into charter schools. 

Jonathan Moore, the deputy superintendent for student achievement in Nevada, said the department has been “working robustly” to provide support and technical assistance to underperforming schools. That includes helping school leaders and staff implement evidence-based practices to boost student learning.

Urban school districts

A smaller number of Clark County schools received a prestigious five-star rating this year.

Forty-four schools earned five stars this year, compared with 54 in 2018, according to the Nevada School Performance Framework data. But the number of three-star schools increased from 87 last year to 101 this year. The number of two-star schools also increased from 99 last year to 107 this year. 

The number of one-star and four-star schools, however, remained relatively unchanged. There were also fewer Clark County schools that did not receive a rating this year — 32 versus 46 last year.

The Washoe County School District saw gains in the number of schools receiving two, three and four stars. But it also saw a decline in five-star schools, going from 22 in 2018 to 20 this year. On the flip side, it has three fewer one-star schools than it did last year.

Overall, the State Public Charter School Authority earned the most five-star ratings, with 44 schools receiving the highest distinction. On the other end of the spectrum, roughly 1 in 5 charter schools under the SPCSA received a one- or two-star rating. (Eighteen charters received two stars, while three charters received one star.)

Other takeaways

A variety of metrics factor into a school’s star rating, including chronic absenteeism, graduation rates and how students perform on state standardized tests known as Smarter Balanced assessments.

Chronic absenteeism declined by less than 1 percentage point from last year, reaching roughly 19 percent. In other words, nearly 1 in 5 Nevada students are absent 10 percent or more of their enrolled school days.

The state’s graduation rate, however, showed more improvement. The graduation rate for the class of 2018 increased by 2 percentage points to hit 83 percent, the highest rate recorded in Nevada. 

State officials also said all grade levels demonstrated increased English language arts (ELA) proficiency on the Smarter Balanced assessments. Fifth-graders snagged the highest ELA proficiency rate at roughly 52 percent.

Third-graders notched the highest math proficiency rate  — 48 percent — despite an overall decline of 0.44 percentage points in that category.

As the state seeks higher proficiency rates among students, Ebert said it’s incumbent upon educators to replicate best practices. 

“We are moving in the right direction,” she said.

Here's the full list of the 2019 school ratings from the Nevada Department of Education:

2-Minute Preview: An education budget overview, red light cameras and vaccination rules

Lawmakers will get a crash course on education funding and Nevada’s property tax system on Tuesday, in addition to considering the idea of speed-detecting cameras to help enforce the law.

A full slate of bill hearings is mixed in with presentations from agencies including the Nevada Highway Patrol and the Nevada Seismological Lab.

For more information on the status of bills working their way through the Legislature, check out The Nevada Independent’s bill tracker. And for the bills in committee today, check out the Legislature’s website for committee times and links to watch live committee meetings and floor sessions.

Here’s what to watch for on Tuesday at the Legislature:

All the big education budgets

In a budget subcommittee, Senate and Assembly members alike will get an overview of some of the state’s most important education accounts. Acting state Superintendent Jonathan Moore is making presentations on the primary Distributive School Account, the New Nevada Education Funding Plan and a school safety account.

The subcommittee meets at 8 a.m.

AB110: Defending security guards from assault

The Assembly Judiciary Committee will hear AB110, a bill that would raise the penalties against people who assault a security guard. Existing law sets specific penalties for assaults committed  on officers, but the measure would expand beyond just traditional police officers.

The bill is sponsored by Democratic Assemblyman Mike Sprinkle. The committee meets at 8 a.m.

AB123: Tracking unvaccinated kids

The Assembly Education committee will consider AB123, which would require more documentation when parents opt their children out of vaccines. Democratic Assemblywoman Connie Munk, the bill’s sponsor, said the lack of information-sharing between school districts and health districts makes it difficult to know which children should be pulled out of school during an outbreak.

State law requires children to have vaccinations to attend school, but allows exceptions for religious or medical reasons. Munk’s bill also requires a doctor’s certification when a person claims a medical exemption.

The committee meets at 1:30 p.m.

SB43: Red light and speed cameras

This bill, put forward by the Department of Public Safety’s Office of Traffic Safety, would allow cities and counties to install red light and speed cameras to enforce traffic laws. Any governments that choose to install traffic cameras would be required to launch a public information campaign about the enforcement system and establish a fine of no less than $50 for any violation detected by the system and no less than $100 for someone who fails to respond to a citation.

The legislation also requires that warning signs be posted no more than 300 feet from the location of a traffic camera and requires an employee of a law enforcement agency to review the evidence before a citation is issued. Such violations determined by the traffic cameras also could not be recorded by the DMV on a driver’s record and wouldn’t be deemed a moving violation.

The bill will be heard in Senate Growth and Infrastructure at 1:30 p.m.

Property taxes

A joint meeting of the Assembly Taxation Committee and the Senate Revenue and Economic Development will hear a presentation on property taxes in Nevada from Jeff Mitchell, deputy director of the Department of Taxation.

The hearing comes as lawmakers are likely to consider property taxes fixes this session, including a proposed constitutional amendment from Sen. Julia Ratti that would allow property tax depreciation to reset on sale.

The committees meet at 4 p.m.