Quality School Options in Short Supply in the 89122 (Whitney)

With today’s publication of school ratings under Nevada’s School Performance Framework, families have a crucial new tool to help them fully understand how their public schools rate comparatively.

Scoring is based on a range of academic indicators tied to the state’s student performance standards. Academic achievement and the academic growth of individual students over time on different assessments, and measures of student engagement each factor into school ratings, all contribute to school ratings.

On the Five-Star evaluation system designed by the Nevada Department of Education, roughly 15 percent of all schools scored at five stars (highest rating), while about the same number posted a one star rating (lowest).

The ratings were not evenly distributed across the state, as can be expected. Schools in some neighborhoods performed consistently higher, some lower. Schools located in Nevada’s poorest neighborhoods frequently posted the lowest scores, even though the state framework weights student growth more than it does straight measures of subject-matter proficiency. Schools serving students who have performed below their grade level in the past have a strong opportunity to score well based on these students’ learning gains.

Families living in the 89122 zip code on the eastern side of Las Vegas’ Whitney neighborhood face this problem in dramatic fashion. Of the 4,400 children in 89122 attending public elementary and middle schools, 3,200 attend a school earning only one star on the state framework (Cynthia Cunningman, Hal Smith, Sister Robert Joseph Bailey and Whitney Elementary Schools) . The remaining 1,200 students attend a two-star school (Francis Cortney Jr. High).

There are no schools in the 89122 zip code that earned more then two stars on the five star system.

There are also no schools of choice, either public charter schools or private schools, available for families to select rather than the choices assigned them according to the neighborhood in which they live.

Median household income was $45,000 in the 89122 on the 2010 Census, a full step below the Clark County average of $52,600.   This makes moving to a different neighborhood served by higher-performing schools, the preferred method of choosing for families that can afford it, a much more challenging proposition.

While Nevada does offer choice options like public charter schools, demand exceeds supply and families must navigate long waitlists. With no charter schools located in their zip code, families likely need to make significant commutes to take advantage, even when they overcome these waitlists. And for families eligible to receive private school tuition under the state’s only funded private school choice program, they too must benefit from the luck to overcome demands far exceeding available supply.

Nevada’s official education goals call for our schools becoming the fastest-improving state in the country. For the residents of 89122, this can’t happen quickly enough, based on the latest evaluation of the public schools in their neighborhood.