EDUCATION
11/30/2012 12:21 pm ET

Clark County School Rankings Up In 2nd Year Of Nevada District's Self-Created Accountability System

Nevada’s Clark County School District on Thursday released its annual school rankings based on the district’s new self-created assessment, a replacement for the federal No Child Left Behind accountability act.

Based on schools' 2011-12 performance, the list included 91 five-star schools, up from 51 last year, and no one-star schools, down from 12 last year -- results a spokesman for the Nevada Policy Research Institute deemed “very sketchy.”

Under the new accountability system, which is in its second year, the district’s 328 traditional, magnet and charter schools are scored on a 100-point scale and ranked on a five-star system based on academic performance and school environment data, like average daily student attendance, the Las Vegas Sun reports. Five-star schools are provided more autonomy with their budgets, while one- and two-star schools are given more oversight and professional development support.

In a statement, Superintendent Dwight Jones described the district’s new school-grading system as a “fair and equitable way” to measure progress. But some have characterized the rankings as misleading, since schools earned more stars if they improved in 2011-12, but did not lose stars if they regressed.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal reports only 72 schools, not 91, would have earned five stars based primarily on student performance in 2011-12. Six low-performing schools would have received only one star.

Those skewed results have led some to question the system’s credibility.

“[They are] unbelievably deceiving to parents and the public," said Victor Joecks, spokesman for the conservative think tank Nevada Policy Research Institute. "There certainly are questions here.”

According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the district didn’t penalize schools for declines this year because the system is still in flux, prompting Clark County to deem 2011-12 a “hold harmless” year.

The Las Vegas Sun reports the updated school rankings come two days after a federal report found Nevada had the lowest graduation rate among states for the 2010-11 school year at 62 percent, behind only Washington, D.C., and Native American reservations.

A separate “Kids Count” report released in July by the Annie E. Casey Foundation placed Nevada last in education and 48th in overall child well-being. The report found that three-quarters of Nevada fourth-graders were not proficient in reading last year, and 71 percent of eighth-graders weren't proficient in math.

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