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Raising the Bar: Star ratings in Clark County School District schools

Posted at 5:19 PM, Nov 10, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-11 09:55:55-05

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — The latest star ratings have some Clark County School District schools celebrating, while others are wondering what went wrong.

The Nevada school performance framework gives out grades, or star ratings, intended to share a picture on how well a school is doing.

But some educators say these grades don't tell the whole story while its a proud moment for the principals recognized on the superintendent's honor roll.

"It's just really a way to say thank you for the hard work they're doing in our schools and continue to hopefully celebrate more," Superintendent Jesus Jara said.

Sixty-three schools made the list, many of them five-star schools — one of them being Triggs Elementary School.

"It was a lot of hard work from all of the teachers and staff," said Principal Sheila Cooper.

She also said the two-star rating last year forced the school to look at its shortcomings, such as reading achievement.

"We took a look at how we grouped students for certain portions of the day and started grouping them in a way that would allow all students to receive instruction at their particular level," Cooper said.

She says her school worked closely with CCSD and state officials for feedback.

"Provide some training for staff if there are areas where we just need to learn more so we can be more effective in our teaching," Cooper said.

The result was the best improvement in the district, going from two to five stars in a year. Cooper credits her staff's commitment to students.

"Staff who will go absolutely above and beyond to meet students' needs. A staff that was not satisfied with a two-star rating, that wanted to get back to four or five stars where we had previously been," Cooper said.

Triggs Elementary School is one of 45 schools designated as five stars in CCSD by the state. The number is in line with last year, which had 46 schools.

While the number has been stagnant in Clark County across Nevada, there is some improvement with about 15% of schools graded as five stars, up about 1.5% from last year.

CCSD also kept about the same number of one-star schools, going from 53 last year to 54.

Statewide, the percentage actually dipped from last year from 12.2% to 11.7% of all schools rated as one stars. There were also at least seven schools in CCSD that also had their star ratings drop from five to a three.

Brenda Pearson works for the Clark County Education Association, the union representing the teachers. She says star grades can only tell parents what's going on a broad scale.

"The STAR rating is a great average, a general view, a holistic view of what we have going on within schools, but it's not going to tell us the success within the school classroom," she said.

Pearson also said educators are teaching at a five-star level at one- or two-star schools, but there's only so much they have power over like chronic absenteeism, which makes up a portion of the overall star grade.

"As a first-grade teacher, I had influence over the 20 students in my classroom, but I don't have influence over the rest of the school," she said.

For Superintendent Jara, he hopes to see more schools get on the honor roll and wants to assure parents there is always a chance for improvement and an excellent education at any school.

"There are some great things happening at two-star or three-star schools and one-star schools. It's just how do we continue to build so that it spreads out through the entire school," Jara said.

What is Raising The Bar?

Together with parents, educators, business and community leaders, 13 Action News will lead the discussion on improving education in Southern Nevada. We will connect families with solutions that empower our community to build a foundation for a successful future. If you have a story idea, email us at raisingthebar@ktnv.com.