Next Up Blog

Nevada Action’s Don Soifer interviewed about Nevada education, and updated recent developments in the Nevada Legislature concerning schools.  The 12-minute interview aired Sunday, March 3 on Northern Nevada’s Lotus Radio stations KUUB 94.5, KDOT 104.5 and KHIT 1450.


New Private Security Guard Requirements

AB 184

Proposes to increase the requirements, including training requirements and screenings, for private security officers, including those working in public or private schools.  It would also specify penalties for crimes committed against a security guard.

Private security guards who carry firearms would be required to complete 40 hours of specific, comprehensive new training.  Guards not authorized to carry firearms would be required to complete other training sessions.  Screening for controlled substances, other than marijuana, would also be required.

The bill, sponsored by Assembly Members Miller, Benitez-Thompson, Monroe-Moreno, Fumo, McCurdy and Thompson, is referred to the Commerce and Labor Committee.

School Safety

SB 142

Sponsored by Assembly Members Tolles, Spiegel and Roberts, updates requirements for all public, including district and charter schools, focused on school safety.

The bill contains specific requirements for school safety teams, including members with specific school roles and qualifications, including a school psychologist or social worker.  It also assigns to school safety committees ongoing obligations to review and address bullying and cyber-bullying.

It also strengthens and updates the schools SafeVoice Program to ensure confidential reporting relating to any dangerous, violent or unlawful activities at schools, on school buses, or by enrolled pupils.

School choice programs had positive net fiscal impacts on school districts when student funding was weighted.  Half of the school districts studied benefited fiscally from the resulting student transfers from the implementation of private school choice. Source: State and District Fiscal Effects of a Universal Education Savings Account Program in Arkansas Julie R. Trivitt, Ph.D. Corey A. DeAngelis January 24, 2017 EDRE Working Paper 2017-04.

Question of the Week

“What is Nevada’s higher education system doing to lower the cost of higher education?”

Asked by Senator Dallas Harris of NSHE Chancellor Thom Reilly at Feb 20 hearing

Opportunity Scholarship Students Post Important Academic GrowthEarlier this month, the Nevada Department of Education (NDE) published its first report assessing academic outcomes of students in the Nevada Opportunity Scholarship Program.   The analysis showed encouraging results: 68.4 percent of students participating in the program for all three of its years were determined to show positive score change; 65.7 percent of students in the program for two consecutive students also posted outcomes deemed positive by the NDE analysts.

It is important to observe that these results were measured on six different assessments different students were administered under the rules of the program. The law (AB165) which established the Opportunity Scholarship program allowed participating private schools to select the test they used, and the dates it is given, from a list of norm-referenced assessments approved by the NDE.

Some lawmakers, and particularly Moises (Mo) Denis, chair of Nevada’s Senate Education Committee, have on numerous occasions expressed their intent to review student outcomes for the program as part of their oversight process.

So, how do these results compare with test scores for Nevada’s public school students? The answer, unfortunately, is complicated.

One major complicating factor is that Smarter Balanced assessment which public school students in Nevada are administered, is a criterion-referenced assessment, in which a student’s performance is compared to a specific learning objective or achievement standard (e.g., state standards) and not the performance of other students. On the other hand, norm-referenced assessments (the type used in this program), compare students’ performance with that of a larger sample (the norm group), frequently a national sample representing a representatively diverse cross-section of students.

Can results on these different tests be compared meaningfully? Yes, when done using certain, valid methodologies. Outcomes on the different norm-referenced assessments can be usefully compared, especially when examining the growth of individual students over time, as the NDE report does.

In similar ways, it is also even possible to consider student growth of these students with the growth of Nevada’s public school students on the state assessments. For sake of comparison, between 2017 and 2018, Nevada’s public school students in grades 3-8 gained one percentage point of proficiency in English Language arts, and 1.5 percentage points in grades 3-7 in math (excluding eighth grade because of curricular content changes in math which produced test score anomalies).

Of course, the two student populations here contain various essential differences: only lower-income students are eligible to participate in the Opportunity Scholarship Program, the NDE study only included students enrolled in the same school for consecutive years, etc.

It is quite common among the nation’s top charter school oversight authorities to evaluate the effectiveness of schools in their purview using students’ longitudinal growth on these same norm-referenced assessments. This practice allows them to evaluate these schools’ performance with students over the time they are enrolled without penalizing schools that go out of their way to attract those previously underserved students who need them most.

These same norm-referenced assessments also hold important educational value to schools which use the results for individual students formatively, to help classroom teachers target specific instructional interventions and lessons. Some Nevada private schools give the assessments as many as three times each year for this purpose.

The NDE report met the legislature’s requirement for the program. In future years, if policymakers want to strengthen the evaluation, they would be well served to consider doing what other states, including Florida, have done, and assign modest funding to allow the state’s colleges of education to bid for the quantitative analysis work. In the hands of experts like these, the norming and standardization scales used be each test published can be evaluated with methodology allowing for broader, more robust, and easier-compared analyses.

Meanwhile, educators and families involved with the Opportunity Scholarship Program have good reason to express pride in these student outcomes, and hope that policymakers will accept them as strong indications of its educational value for the students it serves.


The first public meetings of the Senate and Assembly Committees on Education were predictably uneventful, ushering in new members with degrees of experiences relating to the committees’ work.

The Senate committee, after welcoming remarks, two overview briefings, and some admirable humor from Chairman Mo Denis, heard two bills: SB 100 (Woodhouse) to expedite teacher licensure and employment by schools for military veterans and spouses, received to unanimous praise, and committee-sponsored SB 80, to promote a safe and respectful learning environment in schools, which various speakers expressed enthusiasm for provided certain implementing details can be resolved.

The Assembly Education Committee’s introductory meeting offered some potential glimpses of business to come. Two highlights were a tribute to Superintendent of Public Instruction Steve Canavero and his tenure, and a moving presentation by leaders of Nevada’s School Counselor Association.

A remark by Chairman Tyrone Thompson may tip off one theme for his leadership in the coming months. “We’ve been hearing the narrative about the need,” Thompson observed about discussions relating to adding resources to support students’ mental health and social and emotional development needs. Then he added, “We also need, as legislators, to understand the true need.” In the coming months, prolonged deliberations over funding formulas and levels for Nevada public schools, was the chairman signaling a posture for those proceedings?

Las Vegas Assemblywoman and new Education Committee member Bea Duran provided another noteworthy moment in her introductory remarks. Invoking Clark County’s dramatic population growth as framing a challenge for the committee’s work during the 2019 session, “We’re going to keep growing,” Duran noted. “I think we need to find a solution to keep up with the growth.”

Last month, any discussion of the education challenges of keeping up with Southern Nevada’s unrelenting projected population growth (building schools, adding new teachers, etc.) was conspicuously absent from Governor Sisolak’s State of the State Address. How will these, indeed pressing, challenges characterize the Legislature’s work, and commitments, on education during the 2019 session as the dialogue returns, again and again, to school budget matters? We’ll keep watching.