LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — Too many kids within the Clark County School District are unable to read or do math at a proficient level.
Superintendent Dr. Jesus Jara called the current achievement rates unacceptable in his annual State of the Schools speech Friday. He also addressed school violence.
“Two out of three of our third graders cannot read at a proficient level," Jara said.
It's a sobering stat that the superintendent called "unacceptable." He says only 35% of third-graders are able to read proficiently, and proficiency in middle school math is at a similar rate.
“They’re unacceptable for our Black and Latino students, our FRL [free and reduced lunch] students,” he said.
Jara says this is an issue across the country.
He says the two benchmarks create a foundation for future student success. His goal is to raise the proficiency of all students in third-grade reading by 7% and in middle school math by 5%.
Anna Binder, a CCSD parent and founder of Empowering CCSD Parents, says it’s a critical time for learning.
“If children aren’t reading by third grade, they aren’t reading by fourth grade. And then they’re not reading in fifth grade,” she said.
Binder feels there needs to be more instruction time for teachers to do hands-on learning to help engage students.
“Where’s the support with all the in-between grades when you tie your teachers’ hands? They spend a ridiculous amount of time on standardized testing,” she said.
Jara says to help improve proficiency there needs to be more teachers to create smaller class sizes and produce more focused attention on individual students. He says the district is actively recruiting.
“We need them and hopefully we make an effort. A 25% increase — we’re on target to do that, and that’s our effort," Jara said. "That’s why we’re going to use our federal dollars from the American Rescue Plan to get there."
Binder says parent volunteers can help and motivate students, especially those who aren’t able to get homework help at home. She wants to see the district streamline the process for that.
“I’ve got elementary school parents who want to provide reading support and they’re not getting prioritized and getting let on campus,” she said.
To help with all this, Jara says the district hopes to hire more than 1,600 teachers by November.
VIOLENCE IN SCHOOLS
"I’m hoping this stuff stops before someone gets seriously injured."
“It’s mind-blowing. I think maybe we need to get, like, more security in the classes, maybe more of the parents helping inside the schools,” he said.
That was on the mind of Jara during the address. “We cannot allow violence and violent acts in our schools. We will hold our children accountable to keep our staff safe,” he said.
SCHOOL SAFETY: Concerns over violence in the Clark County School District
Jara says the pandemic has created new stresses for students and he is working with the school board to identify disparities in discipline policies. He says punitive actions aren’t a complete solution and there need to be steps for restorative justice.
“I’ve said I don’t tolerate the violence but we can’t just throw kids out of school. So, what systems and what supports systems do we put in place?” he asked.
Brown says he’d like to see more concrete action take place in the short term. "It’s hard to make something happen out of nothing, but something needs to happen a little faster before someone gets hurt,” he said.
Jara says he and his leadership team are working with the board of trustees to create a plan to ensure students and teachers stay safe on campus.