LEGISLATIVE BUREAU OF EDUCATIONAL ACCOUNTABILITY
AND PROGRAM EVALUATION
The following report is submitted in compliance with NRS 218.5356, which requires that a written report of the findings of the Legislative Bureau of Educational Accountability and Program Evaluation be filed with the Director of the Legislative Counsel Bureau on or before December 31st for transmission to the Legislature in even-numbered years or to the Legislative Commission in odd-numbered years.
Nevada Education Reform Act
The Legislative Bureau of Educational Accountability and Program Evaluation (Bureau) was created by Senate Bill 482 (Chapter 473, Statutes of Nevada 1997). This comprehensive school reform package, called the Nevada Education Reform Act (NERA), combined education initiatives proposed by the Governor with those of the Senate Finance Committee and provided nearly $41 million in general fund appropriations to improve public education. Through the Nevada Education Reform Act, the following occurs:
Ø The school accountability program is strengthened;
Ø A system for the adoption of high, measurable statewide standards in academic subjects is established;
Ø A series of statewide tests linked to those standards is implemented;
Ø Use of educational technology for classroom instruction is increased; and
Ø A process for legislative review of education reform is established.
To facilitate legislative review of educational matters, the Act established two new entities within the legislative branch: the Legislative Committee on Education and its staff component, the Legislative Bureau of Educational Accountability and Program Evaluation.
During the 1999 Legislative Session, the Nevada Education Reform Act was further strengthened through the passage of:
Ø Senate Bill 70 - Changed the term that designates schools as demonstrating “inadequate achievement” to schools “In Need of Improvement” and added a new category of schools called “exemplary achievement.”
Ø Senate Bill 466 - Made the Council to Establish Academic Standards permanent; required examinations to measure pupils’ proficiency in the new state standards; and provided assistance to pupils who were not able to pass the new, more challenging high school proficiency examination in math.
Ø Senate Bill 555 (school funding bill) - Appropriated $18 million over the biennium to support five school improvement projects; they are as follows:
1. $3.3 million per year was authorized for remedial education programs that have been found to be effective in increasing academic achievement in low-performing schools.
2. In addition to the $3.3 million for remedial programs for low-performing schools, the Legislature added $1 million per year of general fund money for approved programs of remediation and tutoring for pupils at risk of failure. These programs were required to be conducted before or after school, during the summer, or between sessions in a year-round calendar.
3. To help teachers teach to higher academic standards, $3.5 million in each year was approved for four regional professional development programs in Clark, Elko, Douglas and Washoe Counties.
4. New tests to measure the proficiency of third and fifth graders in the new standards were approved at a cost of $300,000 per year.
5. To improve the high school proficiency examination, $900,000 per year was provided to enable the Department of Education to contract with a nationally recognized testing company to provide the expertise and credibility necessary to strengthen the program.
During the 2001 Legislative Session and the 17th Special Session (SS), the Nevada Education Reform Act was again strengthened through the passage of:
Ø Senate Bill 3 (SS) – Creates the Statewide Regional Professional Development Program (RPDP) Coordinating Council and specifies duties of the Council; continues provisions concerning the reimbursement of teachers for certain costs in acquiring national certification by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards; delays implementation of the science portion of the high school proficiency examination for two years; provides for the norm-referenced tests (NRTs) (TerraNova), which are currently administered at grades 4, 8, and 10, be administered at grades 4, 7, and 10; provides guidelines for the development and administration of new criterion-referenced tests (CRTs) in the 8th grade; and requires the Department of Education to allow the Bureau to participate, to the extent practicable, in the process for the review and selection of contractors for the development, printing, administration and scoring of state examinations.
Ø Senate Bill 10 (SS) – Makes a legislative declaration concerning State goals and priorities with regard to literacy and the acquisition of reading proficiency by Nevada students at an early grade level.
Ø Senate Bill 165 – Specifies the content of the accountability panel reports for schools demonstrating need for improvement for two or more consecutive years.
Ø Senate Bill 399 – Revises certain provisions governing charter schools, including a plan for an alternate sponsorship route for charter schools by allowing the State Board of Education to sponsor a charter school if its application is denied by a school district. The bill also authorizes programs of distance education.
Ø Senate Bill 427 – Appropriates over $9.9 million from the State General Fund for use by the Commission on Educational Technology to provide grant money to local school districts for educational technology; appropriates $50,000 to the Bureau for an evaluation of educational technology in the State; and appropriates $10.0 million from the State General Fund to the State Department of Education to provide signing bonuses to teachers who are newly hired by school districts during the 2001-2003 biennium.
Ø Senate Bill 585 (school funding bill) - Appropriates $39.7 million over the biennium to support five school improvement projects; they are as follows:
1. $11.5 million over the biennium was authorized for remedial education programs that have been found to be effective in increasing academic achievement in low-performing schools. The significant increase in funds from $6.6 million to $11.5 million over the biennium, was due to the 2001 Legislature expanding the definition of eligibility to include schools with 40 percent or more of students scoring in the bottom quarter in one or more subject areas on the TerraNova; previously, it was three or more subject areas.
2. In addition to the $11.5 million for remedial programs for low-performing schools, the Legislature continued $1 million per year of general fund money for approved programs of remediation and tutoring for pupils at risk of failure. These programs are conducted before or after school, during the summer, or between sessions in a year-round calendar.
3. To help teachers teach to higher academic standards, almost $10.2 million over the biennium was approved for the continued operation and evaluation of four regional professional development programs (RPDPs) in Clark, Elko, Douglas and Washoe Counties.
4. To assist the State in reaching the goal of all pupils reading at grade level by the end of third grade, $8.8 million over the biennium was approved for the RPDPs to establish a Nevada Early Literacy Intervention Program (NELIP), designed to provide training for teachers who teach kindergarten and grades 1, 2, and 3, on methods to teach fundamental reading skills. The Legislature also approved $65,000 in each year of the biennium for an evaluation of the NELIP.
5. Funding for early childhood education was increased from $500,000 per year last biennium to $3.5 million per year for competitive grants to school districts and community-based organizations for early childhood education programs.
Ø Assembly Bill 214 – Addresses the security of statewide proficiency examinations, including the need for investigations of testing irregularities or breaches of security.
Ø Assembly Bill 671 – Appropriates approximately $91.8 million in FY 2002 and $99.7 million in FY 2003, for continued support of the class-size reduction program. This measure also authorizes the Elko County School District to continue its demonstration project in which pupil-teacher ratios of 22 to 1 are established in kindergarten and grades 1 to 6, inclusive.
Legislative Committee on Education
Pursuant to NRS 218.5354, the eight-member Legislative Committee on Education is charged with reviewing statewide programs of:
Ø Class-size Reduction; and
Ø Automated student records (the Statewide Management of Automated Records Transfer or SMART system).
The Committee may review any other fiscal or policy concerns associated with public education in Nevada, as it deems necessary, and make recommendations to the Legislature concerning the manner in which public education may be improved. The Committee also prescribes standards for the review and evaluation of the school accountability reports required by NRS 385.347, in addition to any standards prescribed by the Department of Education. The Act requires the Committee to recommend to the Department of Education programs of remedial study that have proven to be successful in improving the academic achievement of pupils for each subject tested in the examinations required by NRS 389.015.
During the 1999-2001 Interim, the Committee met fifteen times. In order to gain a better understanding of education reform in Nevada, the Committee met in different locations and included tours of schools as a part of the agendas. The Committee toured schools in Churchill County School District, Clark County School District, and Washoe County School District. Schools that made remarkable increases in student achievement were asked to present to the Committee and explain improvement efforts made by school staff. In addition to touring schools and requesting presentations by school staff, the Committee called for legislative staff to assemble a document that details the impact of major education reform initiatives from the last decade. The document, Comprehensive Review of Education Reform in Nevada, was presented to the Committee at its September 2000 meeting.
Because of the importance of high stakes tests in the realm of education reform in the State of Nevada, the Committee held two meetings exclusively on testing issues and included agenda items on testing, as needed, during other meetings of the Committee. In order to understand the impact of high stakes tests on test security, the Committee issued subpoenas to the State Department of Education and Clark County School District to obtain records of test security irregularities and breaches. The Committee requested that staff review the information and compile a report to be presented to the Committee at its January 2001 meeting. Staff of the Research Division of the Legislative Counsel Bureau, as well as the Bureau, reviewed all subpoenaed documents and prepared a report. Based upon findings from the review, the Committee forwarded recommendations to the 2001 Legislature, which were passed in Assembly Bill 214. The measure provides for the following:
1. Addresses the security of the statewide proficiency examinations, including the need for investigations of testing irregularities or breaches of security;
2. Requires the State Department of Education and the school districts to establish and enforce plans for test security;
3. Authorizes the Department and the school district to compel witnesses to testify in investigations, and clarifies that failure to follow test security procedures is grounds for disciplinary action against teachers or other licensed employees; and
4. Extends whistle-blower protection to school district employees who report irregularities or breaches in testing security.
In January of 2001, the Committee approved a list of 31 remedial programs that have been found to be effective in increasing academic achievement of pupils; the Department of Education subsequently adopted the Committee’s list. In January of 2002, the Committee will again hear recommendations from the Bureau on programs to be included on the list for the 2002-2003 school year. The list of remedial programs approved by the Committee in January 2001 is included under Tab 1 – Remedial Programs; the full report is available from the Bureau.
For a detailed report on the Committee’s activities and recommendations during the 1999-2001 Interim, refer to Bulletin 01-16, Legislative Committee on Education.
Legislative Bureau of Educational Accountability and Program Evaluation
The Legislative Bureau of Educational Accountability and Program Evaluation, which was placed within the Fiscal Analysis Division of the Legislative Counsel Bureau, consists of two employees: an Education Program Analyst and an Education Research Statistician. This unit is supervised by the Assembly and Senate Fiscal Analysts and works closely with the Chief Principal Research Analyst and Senior Research Analyst in the Research Division assigned to work on education issues. The Bureau has been fully staffed since February of 1998 when the Program Analyst and Statistician were hired.
As part of the Fiscal Analysis Division, the Bureau also has duties of a fiscal nature. Staff members are assigned budget accounts to monitor and analyze, as are other members of the Fiscal Analysis Division. This involves reviewing the agency’s budget request, analyzing the Governor’s recommendations, soliciting additional information from the agency as needed, preparing for budget hearings and formulating information and recommendations for the money committees during session. Staff track legislation affecting education and related agencies and prepare bill explanations and summaries. Staff is also responsible for tracking state revenues for education and must be knowledgeable about federal funds available for educational programs. All of the budget accounts pertaining to public education are handled by Program Analysts, who work closely with the Bureau, or by Bureau staff.
The Bureau provides information to the Committee and is responsible, pursuant to NRS 218.5356, for:
Ø Collecting and analyzing data and issuing reports related to the Act’s reform provisions and statewide programs in accountability, testing, class-size reduction, and special education;
Ø Evaluating the performance and progress of public education in Nevada; and
Ø Monitoring implementation of the Act and expenditures of funds appropriated by the Act.
The following provides detail regarding the accomplishments of the Bureau during the timeframe of January – December 2001; accomplishments are organized under ten major areas:
Ø Education Reform
Ø State Examinations
Ø Professional Development
Ø Class-Size Reduction
Ø Special Education
Ø Educational Technology
Ø Academic Standards for Public Schools
Ø Other Education Responsibilities
Ø Fiscal Responsibilities
List of Effective Remedial Programs
A major responsibility of the Bureau is the evaluation of the effectiveness of educational programs. Senate Bill 585 of the 2001 Legislative Session appropriates $11.5 million over the biennium to be distributed among the schools designated as “In Need of Improvement” and certain schools that have been designated as demonstrating “adequate achievement,” but are low performing. These funds are utilized to pay for implementing effective remedial education programs. A school that receives such funding is required to ensure that each pupil who failed to demonstrate at least adequate achievement on the state-required norm-referenced test (TerraNova) completes a program of remedial study adopted by the Department of Education.
In connection with this requirement, S.B. 482 of the 1997 Legislative Session requires the Legislative Committee on Education to recommend to the Department of Education programs of remedial study that have proven to be successful in improving the academic achievement of pupils in the subject areas of reading, writing, mathematics and science. The Bureau, with assistance from the Department of Education and a consultant from the University of Nevada - Reno, developed a List of Effective Remedial Programs and presented this List to the Legislative Committee on Education in March 1998, with an updated List provided to the Committee in January 1999, March 2000, and January 2001. The Committee and the Department have both adopted these lists. It is anticipated that an updated List will be presented to the Committee in January 2002. Copies of the List are available from the Fiscal Analysis Division, or may be accessed on the Bureau’s website at: www.leg.state.nv.usfiscal/LeBeape.
Review of Remedial Fund Applications
In conjunction with the development of the List of Effective Programs, the Bureau participated in the review of applications for allocations of funding for remedial education submitted by 80 schools that were designated as “In Need of Improvement” or having low performance. The Bureau and the Department made recommendations to the Interim Finance Committee regarding the applications for funding; all 80 schools received funding to implement an approved remedial program during the 2001-2002 school year.
In addition to the $11.5 million for low performing schools, Senate Bill 585 of the 2001 Legislative Session also authorizes an additional $1 million for remedial education programs or tutoring for pupils who need additional instructional time in order to pass or to reach a level considered proficient. Programs funded under this legislation must be conducted before or after school, on weekends, during the summer or between sessions in schools with year-round calendars. The Bureau participated in the review of applications of funding for remedial programs or tutoring submitted by fifteen of the seventeen districts and five charter schools. The Bureau and the Department made recommendations to the Interim Finance Committee regarding the applications for funding, and all fifteen districts and five charter schools received funding to implement remedial programs during FY 2002.
Review of Low Performing Schools
As a follow-up to the allocation of remedial funds, the Bureau, with assistance from Department of Education staff, have and will continue to conduct site reviews at schools/districts to answer any technical questions with regard to implementation and to ensure that the selected remedial programs have been implemented appropriately. The following provides the number of schools reviewed by school year:
1998-1999 1999-2000 2000-2001 2001-2002
23 schools 36 schools 30 schools 42 schools*
*As noted in the previous section, 80 schools received state remediation funding for the 2001-2002 school year. The increase in the number of eligible schools was due the 2001 Legislature expanding the definition of eligibility to include schools with 40 percent or more of students scoring in the bottom quarter in one or more subject areas on the TerraNova; previously, it was three or more subject areas. Because of time constraints in reviewing all 80 schools, the Bureau developed a paper review that will be completed by each of the schools that do not receive an on-site review (see also the form located under Tab 2 – Status Report). Upon receipt of information from each school involved in the paper review process, the data will be reviewed and a determination will be made regarding the necessity of an on-site review by Bureau and Department staff.
In order to increase the efficiency of on-site reviews and provide a timely report to school district staff on findings from the review, the Bureau developed a form for use beginning in the 2000-2001 school year that is completed by reviewers immediately following the review (see also the form located under Tab 3 – School Review Form).
In addition to reviewing schools that received funding for remediation for low performance, the Bureau, with assistance from the Department, continues to review a sample of districts/schools that received funding for remediation of at-risk pupils. To date, programs implemented in Carson City, Churchill County, Clark County, Douglas County and Washoe County have been reviewed.
Toward the end of the school year, each school/district that receives state remediation funding is requested to provide data on the effectiveness of the remedial program(s) implemented. The Bureau works directly with schools to assist them in understanding how to collect the requested data. In addition, the Bureau distributes data collection guidelines to each school that has received state remediation funds, as well as to school district staff responsible for assisting schools in implementing the remediation programs (copies of the data collection guidelines are available from the Fiscal Analysis Division, or may be accessed on the Bureau’s website at: www.leg.state.nv.usfiscal/LeBeape).
School Profiles for Schools Designated as In Need of Improvement
Utilizing state assessment data, as well as evaluation data received from schools, the Bureau completed a report in January 2001 that provides profiles for each of the schools that received a designation of demonstrating “Need for Improvement” on April 1, 1998 (copies of the report are available from the Fiscal Analysis Division, or may be accessed on the Bureau’s website at: www.leg.state.nv.usfiscal/LeBeape). Topics addressed in the report include:
Ø Designation status of the school over three years;
Ø School improvement plan implemented with state remediation funding; and
Ø Student academic success, evidenced by state mandated assessments and results of remediation programs.
An updated report that includes profiles of schools that received a designation of demonstrating “Need for Improvement” on April 1, 1999 will be presented to the Committee in February 2002.
Comprehensive School Reform
In addition to state funding for remedial programs, all schools that receive Title I funding may apply for federal Comprehensive School Reform Demonstration (CSRD) funds; some of the CSRD funding is available to schools that are ineligible for Title I funding for disadvantaged schools. The Bureau continues to review reports on the effectiveness of the Comprehensive School Reform Program and will provide a summary report to the Committee during FY 2001-2002.
Data Book for Public Education
In order to provide the 2001 Legislature with updated information regarding education topics and programs, staff of the Legislative Counsel Bureau’s Fiscal Division, including the Bureau, and Research Division compiled a data book for education. The data book was organized into sections reflecting topics and programs that were a continuing source of legislative inquiry during the 1999-2001 interim. The sections of the book present information concerning the state as a whole, district level information, and (when available), comparisons with the other ten surrounding western states. Major sections of the data book include:
Ø School finance;
Ø Teacher salaries;
Ø Statewide student assessments; and
Ø Demographic characteristics of the education system.
The complete report may be obtained from the Research Division of the Legislative Counsel Bureau and is also available on the Bureau’s website at www.leg.state.nv.usfiscal/LeBeape.
School Reform Conferences
In order to keep up with current trends in the area of school reform, the Bureau continues to participate in various school reform conferences, including:
Ø National Conference on Large-Scale Assessment; and
Ø Increasing Achievement in High Poverty Schools.
School Accountability Technical Advisory Committee
The School Accountability Technical Advisory Committee, sometimes referred to as the “Accountability Task Force,” requires active participation by the Bureau because this committee oversees the development of the Handbook for Implementation of NRS 385.347 - School Accountability Legislation. The Bureau has participated in the Department of Education’s School Accountability Technical Advisory Committee since FY 1997-98 and will continue to do so. The Fiscal Analysis Division has attended meetings of the Department’s Accountability Task Force since that group was formed in 1993.
School Accountability Data Tables
Pursuant to NRS 385.347, each public school in Nevada is required to produce an annual accountability report that is sent to parents and other residents of the district. School districts must then submit a district report to the Legislative Counsel Bureau that summarizes the effectiveness of the accountability program and describes efforts made by the districts to correct deficiencies noted in the school reports. The Bureau is required to revise data elements, periodically, to comply with revised statutes and to compile the information supplied in the school accountability reports of Nevada’s seventeen school districts into School Accountability Data Tables. The Data Tables include both demographic and performance data and are utilized by the review panel contracted to evaluate the accountability reports (see also School Accountability Progress Reports below). The Data Tables for the 1999-2000 school year were completed in August 2001 and were distributed across the State. Copies of the Data Tables may be obtained from the Fiscal Analysis Division, or may be accessed on the Bureau’s website at www.leg.state.nv.usfiscal/LeBeape.
Plans for Improvement (Part III Reports)
As part of the Program for Accountability of School Districts, NRS 385.351 requires school districts to submit a “Plan for Improvement” based upon deficiencies noted in the accountability program. As part of the review of schools designated as “In Need of Improvement” under NRS 385.367, the Bureau reviews each school’s “Plan for Improvement” and makes recommendations, as appropriate.
The NERA authorizes the Bureau to contract with a third party to evaluate school districts’ accountability reports and consult with districts regarding plans for school improvement. A Request for Proposal (RFP) was prepared in June 2001 and, in July 2001, the proposal submitted by Dr. George C. Hill was accepted. A draft of the 1999-2000 Accountability Progress Report will be submitted to the Bureau and district superintendents for review in January 2002. The final report will be provided to the Bureau in February 2002 and findings will be presented to the Legislative Committee on Education at its March 2002 meeting.
Reports of Academic Probation Panels
Pursuant to NRS 385.378, the Department shall establish a panel to supervise the academic probation of a school that receives two or more consecutive designations as demonstrating need for improvement. As part of the responsibilities of the panel, a report must be developed, which identifies the problems and factors that contributed to the designation of the school, as well as specific plans of the school district to improve the designation of the school. The Bureau reviews all such reports and provides a summary, with any recommendations to the Committee. For the 2001-2002 school year, two schools were placed on academic probation: Fitzgerald Elementary and Martin Middle school; it is anticipated that a summary report from the Bureau, with any recommendations, will be submitted to the Committee in January 2002.
Test Directors’ Meetings
The Bureau participates in all Test Directors’ meetings. These meetings are coordinated by the Department of Education and provide information regarding the status of testing in Nevada.
Testing Technical Advisory Committee
The Testing Technical Advisory Committee is sponsored by the State Department of Education and is facilitated by an outside party (currently WestEd). Membership of the Committee includes staff of the Department, Nevada school districts, and testing experts from other states. The purpose of the Committee is to review Nevada’s statewide testing program and discuss recommendations to improve the program. The Bureau participates as an observer in all meetings.
High School Proficiency Examination (HSPE)
The High School Proficiency Examination (HSPE) is a graduation test that all students must pass in order to receive a standard diploma. Senate Bill 3, as passed by the 17th Special Session, again requires the High School Proficiency Examination (HSPE) be developed, printed and scored by a nationally recognized testing company. The Department will be entering into a contract with Harcourt Brace for this service. As in the past, the Bureau will closely monitor the contract, and will continue to attend standard-setting advisory sessions and bias-review sessions for the examination:
Ø Standard-Setting Advisory Sessions: These sessions require the Standard-Setting Advisory Panel to review every question that may be included on the High School Proficiency Examination and make judgments regarding the difficulty level of each question. Input received from the panel is utilized in making recommendations to the State Board of Education regarding the appropriate passing score (“cut-score”) for the examination.
Ø Bias-Review Advisory Sessions: These sessions require the Bias-Review Advisory Panel to review every question that may be included on the High School Proficiency Examination and make judgments regarding whether questions are appropriate for inclusion on the test (i.e., are the items unbiased regarding age, gender, ethnicity, etc.).
Norm-Referenced Tests (NRTs)
Norm-referenced tests (NRTs) are utilized in Nevada to determine whether a school has adequate academic performance under the school accountability provisions of the Nevada Education Reform Act. The current contract for such examinations is with CTB-McGraw/Hill for the TerraNova. During the 2001-2003 biennium, the contract with CTB-McGraw/Hill will expire and the Department will solicit bids for a new examination. The Bureau will closely monitor the selection of the new examination.
Criterion-Referenced Tests (CRTs)
Criterion-referenced tests (CRTs) are designed to measure student proficiency on state standards. Senate Bill 555 of the 1999 Legislative Session authorized the Department of Education to spend $300,000 in each year of the biennium to develop or purchase and to score new CRTs for grades 3 and 5, in the subject areas of reading and math. During the 1999-2001 biennium, the Bureau monitored the development of the examinations, as well as the first pilot administration of the examinations in the spring semester of 2001.
Senate Bill 13, as passed by the 2001 Legislature, appropriates over $1.1 million for a new CRT for pupils in grade 8. The Bureau will again monitor the development and administration of this examination during the 2001-2003 biennium.
Regional Professional Development Programs (RPDPs)
Senate Bill 585 of the 2001 Legislative Session provides over $10.0 million during the 2001-2003 biennium for the continuation of Nevada’s Regional Professional Development Programs (RPDPs). These programs operate for the following purposes:
Ø Training teachers to teach to the new standards for public schools established by the Council on Academic Standards;
Ø Training teachers and school administrators how to measure pupil achievement and analyze and interpret test scores for school improvement;
Ø Training teachers to teach to a higher level in their content areas; and
Ø Training teachers in methods of teaching basic skills, such as reading instruction using phonics and basic mathematics computation skills.
During the 1999-2001 biennium, the Bureau created an ad hoc advisory workgroup to discuss progress of the RPDPs. The RPDP Workgroup was composed of RPDP coordinators, RPDP board representatives, Department staff, and a representative from WestEd who was contracted to perform an evaluation of the effectiveness of the professional development programs. Senate Bill 3 of the 17th Special Session, makes the workgroup permanent, by creating an eight-member Statewide Council for the Coordination of the Regional Training Programs. The Bureau will continue to attend all meetings of the Statewide Council.
In addition to continued funding for the operation of the programs, the Legislature provided $65,000 in each year of the biennium for the Bureau to spend for an evaluation of the RPDPs. In response to this, the Bureau has entered into a contract with WestEd for the evaluation. WestEd is a nonprofit research, development, and service agency. As one of the nation’s Regional Educational Laboratories, WestEd services Arizona, California, Nevada, and Utah. As part of the evaluation, the Bureau has committed to assisting WestEd in collecting data through classroom observations.
Nevada Early Literacy Intervention Program (NELIP)
Senate Bill 585, as passed by the 2001 Legislature, provides over $8.8 million during the 2001-2003 biennium for the creation of a Nevada Early Literacy Intervention Program (NELIP). As a component of the RPDPS, the purpose of the NELIP is to provide training for teachers who teach kindergarten and grades 1,2, and 3, on methods to teach fundamental reading skills.
As with the RPDPs, the Legislature provided $65,000 in each year of the biennium for the Bureau to spend for an evaluation of the NELIP. In response to this, a Request for Proposals (RFP) was released in August 2001; three proposals were received. A review committee of staff of the Legislative Counsel Bureau scored each proposal and selected the proposal submitted by Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning (McREL). Based in Aurora, Colorado, McREL is part of a national network of educational laboratories and centers, funded by the Office of Educational Research and Improvement of the U.S. Department of Education. A contract between McREL and the Bureau is currently being negotiated.
Class-Size Reduction Annual Report
The Act requires the Bureau to review the statewide program to reduce the ratio of pupils per class and per licensed teacher. The Bureau has met with Department of Education staff involved in class-size reduction and has reviewed all annual reports to the present. Since the program’s inception, the Fiscal Analysis Division has tracked the number of teachers hired and pupils taught, the resulting pupil-teacher ratios, the percentage of classrooms team-taught, and funding allocated to each school district specifically for class-size reduction. Each year, the Fiscal Analysis Division calculates whether school districts have hired from their general funds a sufficient number of teachers to maintain the pupil-teacher ratio that existed before the class-size reduction program began in school year 1990-91. The Bureau made recommendations concerning these reports and submitted these recommendations, along with an annual report on the program, to the Legislative Committee on Education in April 2001.
In order to eliminate team teaching, Assembly Bill 700 of the 1999 Legislative Session authorized the Elko County School District to utilize the money appropriated for class-size reduction to carry out a demonstration project in which pupil-teacher ratios of 22 to 1 are established in kindergarten and grades 1 to 6, inclusive, in school years 1999-2000 and 2000-2001. This demonstration project was authorized to continue through the 2001-2003 biennium with the passage of Assembly Bill 671 of the 2001 Legislative Session. As part of the bill, the Elko County School District must evaluate the effectiveness of the project in improving pupil achievement. In response to this requirement, the Bureau and the Department worked with Elko County School District and their contractor (Great Basin College) in developing and implementing an evaluation plan for the project. The plan was implemented during the 1999-2001 interim and included collecting data through the following:
Ø Classroom Observations;
Ø Teacher Interviews;
Ø Principal Interviews;
Ø Teacher Journals;
Ø Parent Focus Groups; and
Ø School records (student achievement, attendance, discipline, etc.).
A report on the effectiveness of the demonstration project during the 1999-2001 biennium was distributed to the Legislature in February 2001. Results from the classroom observations indicate that the greatest differences were found in the comparison of grades 3-6 that were at a 30 to 1 student-teacher ratio during the 1999-2000 school year and those same grades that are now at the pilot ratio of 22 to 1 for school year 2000-2001. According to class-size reduction theory, a smaller number of students per teacher should make possible greater individualization of instruction and greater engagement in learning on the part of students. It should also make classroom management easier and discipline more positive. To date, it appears that many of the goals of lowering class size are occurring in the Grades 3-6 classrooms that are now limited to 22 students to one teacher.
For the 2001-2003 biennium, the evaluation will be conducted in a similar fashion, with Bureau and Department staff collecting data through classroom observations and compiling and analyzing the data received. In anticipation of Great Basin College eventually conducting the entire evaluation, Bureau and Department staff have agreed to provide training to Great Basin staff on how to utilize SPSS statistical software to compile and analyze the data from the classroom observations. An updated evaluation report on the effectiveness of the demonstration project will again be distributed to the Legislature in February 2003.
The NERA requires the Bureau to review the statewide program to educate persons with disabilities. In response to this, the Bureau continues to focus its review of special education programs on the following:
Ø Special education students included in statewide testing;
Ø Special education students who graduate with a standard diploma;
Ø The effect of class-size reduction on the number of requests for special education testing; and
Ø The effect of remedial education programs on the number of requests for special education testing.
In addition, beginning in the 1999-2000 school year, the Bureau began closely monitoring changes to federal regulations regarding the inclusion of special education pupils and English Language Learners (ELL) in state assessment systems. The Bureau will continue to examine data with regard to the inclusion of special populations and it is anticipated that the Bureau will expand its review of accountability data to more closely look at achievement rates by population.
Commission on Educational Technology
The Nevada Education Reform Act created an 11-member Commission on Educational Technology consisting of representatives from school districts, public libraries, the University and Community College System of Nevada, private sector, parents, and legislators. The Commission is charged with developing a statewide plan for the use of educational technology, making recommendations for the distribution of funds for educational technology and developing technical standards for education technology and uniform specification to ensure statewide compatibility.
Senate Bill 427, as passed by the 2001 Legislature, appropriates over $9.9 million for the Commission to distribute for educational technology needs in school districts. In addition, the Legislature appropriates $50,000 for use by the Bureau to spend for an evaluation of educational technology in the State of Nevada. In response to this, a Request for Proposals (RFP) was released in October 2001; seven proposals were received. A review committee of staff of the Legislative Counsel Bureau and the Commission scored each proposal and selected the proposal submitted by Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning (McREL). Based in Aurora, Colorado, McREL is part of a national network of educational laboratories and centers, funded by the Office of Educational Research and Improvement of the U.S. Department of Education. A contract between McREL and the Bureau is currently being negotiated.
Statewide Management of Automated Records Transfer (SMART)
Assembly Bill 469 of 1997 established a statewide, automated records system for accountability of K-12 public school students in Nevada, called the Statewide Management of Automated Records Transfer (SMART) System. The Department of Education coordinates quarterly meetings to discuss issues surrounding the implementation of the SMART system in Nevada. The Bureau attends these meetings and training workshops on how the system works; it is anticipated that training will be on-going. It is imperative that the Bureau understands and is able to utilize the SMART system since this system will generate accountability data in the future. At the request of SMART Advisory Committee members and Department staff, the Bureau has provided technical assistance on budget issues and data elements required for the analysis of school accountability data.
Academic Standards for Public Schools
Council to Establish Academic Standards for Public Schools
The Nevada Education Reform Act created a nine-member Council to Establish Academic Standards, composed of representatives from the State Board of Education, parents, teachers, business leaders, and legislators. Senate Bill 466 of the 1999 Legislative Session made the Council permanent and charged them with developing grade-by-grade standards for Kindergarten through eighth grade. The permanent Council consists of an eight-member panel, with four members appointed by the Governor and four by legislative leadership. The Council’s duties are expanded to include a periodic review, and, if necessary, revision to the standards. The Council must also recommend assessments to measure student proficiency on the standards and review pupils’ performance on these assessments to evaluate areas of the standards that might need revision. The Bureau has monitored the progress of the Council and has provided assistance, as needed.
Other Educational Responsibilities
District Site Visits
In order to become familiar with the unique characteristics of each school district in Nevada, the Bureau has conducted site visits of numerous schools throughout the state. To date, the Bureau has completed site visits in all 17 school districts and has reviewed 137 schools, including five charter schools and two educational programs at correctional sites in Ely and Lovelock, Nevada. It is anticipated that the Bureau will focus on the completion of reviews of all charter schools and schools that have implemented before/after school programs and distance education programs during the 2001-2003 biennium.
Other Educational Programs Monitored/Evaluated by the Bureau
The Act also requires the Bureau to conduct studies and analyses to evaluate the performance and progress of other educational programs in the state. In response to this, the following programs are being monitored/evaluated by the Bureau:
Ø Early Childhood Education: Senate Bill 585, as passed by the 2001 Legislature authorizes $3.5 million in each year of the biennium for competitive state grants to school districts and community-based organizations for early childhood education programs. As part of receiving a grant, the school district is required to submit an evaluation of the program. The Bureau will review the evaluations and submit a summary report to the Committee.
Ø Charter Schools: During the 1999-2001 biennium, the Committee heard testimony from Dr. George Perreault, Department of Educational Leadership, University of Nevada, Reno, of the importance of conducting case study evaluations of charter schools in the Nevada. These evaluations would provide policy makers with detailed information regarding how charter schools provide services to pupils, and how effective the services are in increasing the academic achievement of pupils, reducing the drop-out rate of at-risk pupils, and so on. During the 2001 Legislative Session, legislators discussed funding for such an evaluation, however, due to the shortage of funding, an evaluation of charter schools was not approved.
Following the session, staff met with Dr. Perreault to discuss the possibility of contracting with the Bureau to conduct the evaluation. In response to this meeting, Dr. Perreault submitted a proposal that would provide case study evaluations for five charter schools, which have been in existence for two or more years (Gateways to Success – Churchill; Keystone – Clark; Odyssey – Clark; I Can Do Anything – Washoe; and Sierra Nevada Academy – Washoe.) The Committee approved the proposal at the November 2001 meeting, and a contract is currently being negotiated. It is anticipated that Dr. Perreault will submit a final report in Summer 2002.
Ø Programs of Distance Education: Senate Bill 399, as passed by the 2001 Legislature, authorizes public schools, including charter schools, to provide programs of distance education to certain categories of pupils (i.e., at risk of dropping out of school; in a program of independent study; unable to attend school for medical reasons; in a program of alternative education; lacking access to advanced courses; and within special circumstances as approved by the school district or governing body of a charter school). The bill requires an annual report by districts or charter schools that provide a distance education program be submitted to the Legislature. It is anticipated that the Bureau will review a sample of distance education programs during the biennium, as well as review all annual reports; a summary report of findings will be submitted to the Committee during the interim.
Future Educational Studies
In addition to its statutory duties, future plans for the Bureau include the following projects:
Ø Continuing to review the status of the project to develop a statewide, automated system of student records, specifically to address what analyses will be possible once the system is operational;
Ø Continuing to expand the analyses of test results and other data to evaluate pupils’ academic performance, especially any data available concerning class-size reduction, parent participation, special education, and programs of remedial instruction, including extended-day programs and continued monitoring of the school improvement plans and remedial education programs of low-achieving schools;
Ø Continuing to work with the Department of Education and school districts to maximize the use of state, local and federal funding available for remedial education and school improvement programs;
Ø Continuing to work with the school districts to improve the reliability of the data provided in school and district accountability reports;
Ø Continuing to review effective teacher preparation and professional development programs;
Ø Continuing to provide guidance on programs for remedial education, school-wide improvement and educational technology that have evidence of effectiveness in improving academic performance, including working with the Department of Education to sponsor workshops for school districts on effective programs;
Ø Continuing to work with the Department of Education and the Regional Professional Development Programs to provide school districts with guidance on how to utilize assessment data to determine remediation needs and how to evaluate implemented remediation programs;
Ø Expanding the review of accountability data to include variables affecting the dropout rate of pupils;
Ø Evaluating the use and effectiveness of alternative assessments for students with disabilities, including the new Skills and Competencies for Alternative Assessment of Nevada (SCANN);
Ø Researching the effect of classroom book-sets, not available for students to take home, on student academic achievement; and
Ø Researching the effect of the millennium scholarship on student grades.
Legislators have requested other information and studies. Many of these requests require information from all school districts. In order to complete the requests in a reasonable time frame, the Bureau created a Quick Poll form, which may be faxed to the seventeen districts at one time. Response to these Quick Polls has been favorable. Upon receipt of the information, a report is completed by the Bureau and is sent to the person who made the request. Examples of Quick Polls that have been completed thus far are as follows:
Ø School district policies on the number of times students may take the HSPE in order to receive a “home high school diploma” versus an “adult high school diploma;”
Ø School district policies regarding return of textbooks;
Ø School district policies regarding salaries of teachers hired from out-of-state;
Ø School district policies on school police;
Ø School district policies on use of cell phones on school property;
Ø School district expenses for testing;
Ø Percent of new state standards covered in school district curriculum;
Ø Retention rates of high school students;
Ø Incidents involving weapons in public schools;
Ø Types of remedial programs implemented throughout the state;
Ø School district handbooks and policies for English-language learners;
Ø Home school and private school student participation in public schools;
Ø Test administration and test security policies and procedures; and
Ø Numbers of Adjusted diplomas.
In order to increase public access to information published by the Bureau, a website has been developed for public access: www.leg.state.nv.usfiscal/LeBeape. The following documents continue to be available on the website:
Ø State Data Tables;
Ø List of Effective Remedial Programs;
Ø Guidelines for Data Collection of State Funded Remedial Programs;
Ø School Profiles of Low Performing Schools;
Ø Nevada School District Accountability Program: Review, Analysis and Recommendations;
Ø 2001 Data Book for Nevada K-12 Education; and
Ø Bureau Annual Report.
Pursuant to NRS 218.686, the Bureau staffers, as program analysts, have been assigned to examine the following agencies’ budgets/funds with special regard to their activities:
Ø WICHE (Western Interstate Commission on Higher Education);
Ø Commission on Postsecondary Education;
Ø Higher Education (pre-paid) Tuition Administration;
Ø Millennium Scholarship Administration;
Ø Business and Industry – Real Estate;
Ø Business and Industry – Consumer Affairs;
Ø Business and Industry – Attorney for Injured Workers;
Ø Business and Industry – Employees Management Relations Board;
Ø Business and Industry – Commission for Hospital Patients;
Ø Business and Industry – Athletic Commission;
Ø Business and Industry – Dairy Commission;
Ø Public Defender;
Ø Ethics Commission;
Ø Indian Affairs Commission;
Ø Women’s Commission;
Ø Licensing Boards; and
Ø Insurance Premium Tax.
Contract for a Financial Analysis Model Program in Each School District in the State of Nevada
Senate Bill 466 (1999) appropriated from the State General Fund to the Interim Finance Committee the sum of $300,000 to carry out a financial analysis model program in each school district in the State of Nevada. The Interim Finance Committee contracted with Fox River Learning, Inc. for a total of $294,324 for the 1999-2001 biennium to implement in every Nevada school district and the State Department of Education the firm’s financial analysis system, “In$ite.” Senate Bill 2, of the 17th Special Session, makes an appropriation from the State General Fund to the Interim Finance Committee for the sum of $304,127 to continue the contractual services with Fox River Learning, Inc. The new contract includes enhanced reporting, including new revenue and employee Full Time Equivalent (FTE) reports. In addition, the financial analysis program will also include financial information for seven charter schools that have been in existence for two or more years; charter schools were not included in previous “In$ite” reports. A contract between the Interim Finance Committee and Fox River Learning, Inc. was approved in November 2001; the Bureau will continue to monitor the contract and update the Interim Finance Committee on the status of the program.
 Norm-referenced Tests (NRTs): Measure the skill level of an individual along a continuum, and the average skill level of a grade or other grouping can be computed. More useful to public policy-makers since these tests allow comparisons with other states. Answer the question, “Where does the performance of the individual rank relative to that of the reference group”?
 Criterion-referenced Tests (CRTs): Measure whether the individual or group demonstrates a specific level of skill -- either they meet the performance standard or they do not. Generally, comparisons with other states are not possible. Useful to teachers. Answers the question, “Is the criterion met?” with a yes or no answer. Either the child has the skill or he does not.