2015 Legislative Update For Week of 4/20/15
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Weekly Update


Technical difficulties

Nevada SBAC 'glitch' halts testing — again

Computer server problems plague test takers for second week in a row
Looks like the party's not over after all, kids. SBAC testing that was scheduled to resume today has again been halted. This comes on the heels of last week's technical interruption that forced schools across the state to halt testing that began Tuesday and lasted through the week.

Measured Progress, the third-party company used to deliver Nevada's new computer-based math and English language arts standardized testing, had informed Nevada Department of Education that it fixed its server malfunction with a new system code and stress-tested it to ensure that students would able to resume testing online without interruption.

From the onset of the testing on March 30, only about 10 percent of Nevada’s third- through eighth-graders had taken the SBAC, the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium test, according to the NDOE.

SBAC tests are designed to assess students’ mastery of Nevada’s new Common Core reading and math standards for students in third through eighth grades. The test replaces the state's previous standardized test, the Criterion Reference Tests. Unlike traditional pencil-and-paper tests, the new standardized test is done online, and according to its developer, it is "adaptive, dynamic, and requires critical thinking and allows students to respond using more than multiple choice."

Based on assurances from the vendor that system problems were addressed, testing resumed today. According to the NDOE, approximately 27,000 students in Nevada were testing without interruption this morning before the system generated error messages. The process varied from school to school.

NDOE has determined testing will continue, recognizing that some schools will not be able to logon if the issues do not improve. However, students and schools will not be negatively impacted by the continued challenges experienced with administration of this test.

On Friday the Department declared a statewide irregularity in test administration of the CRT for school year 2014-15, and detailed guidance will be issued today to district superintendents and the State Public Charter School Authority regarding the test irregularity designation. 

Testing for all other state assessments is not affected.

Montana and North Dakota students taking the SBAC test were also affected last week by the computer problem because all three states' active testing were housed on the same server and it couldn't keep up with the demand. Measured Progress has been a state test contractor for more than 10 years, according to the NDOE.

Breaking up is hard to do

CCSD could be spliced into five precincts

Clark County School District is the nation's fifth-largest district. It has nearly 320,000 students. Some believe it is too big to provide an adequate level of education for that many students. And, as most agree, CCSD needs improving on many fronts, from student achievement to graduation rates. The question remains, what is the best way to achieve these improvements?

Assembly Bill 394 proposes to break up the Clark County School District into at least five precincts in time for the 2017-18 school year, in hopes that it will help the district be more efficient and perform better. During a work session on April 10, the Assembly Committee on Education unanimously passed a heavily amended version of this bill.

The bill originally would have given the Nevada Board of Education the opportunity to approve any incorporated city in the state to form its own school precinct within school districts, but with its amendments, it now can create a legislative commission instead that would break CCSD only into five regional bodies.

The commission would be comprised of eight Clark County legislators, equal parts Republican and Democrat, and one member of the community as an independent consultant. They would decide on the best way to split CCSD into five separate precincts.

In a related Las Vegas Sun article from April 17, CCSD's Associate Superintendent of Community and Government Relations Joyce Haldeman was quoted as saying, "It puts it into the political realm. No one on the commission will have any experience running schools."

The public will have a chance to be included in the decision-making process via four town hall meetings, then once the consultant's plan is finished it becomes effective without further legislative action.

In the same article, Assemblyman David Gardner said, “We’re trying to make this as fair as possible for both sides. I think we’ve got the votes. And with these adjustments we have even more votes than we had before.”

AB394 has a fiscal note attached to it, so it is exempt from typical deadlines.

Follow up

  • AB27 and AB30 – Both bills were heard before the Senate Committee on Education last Tuesday. AB27 allows all non US citizens who are properly credentialed to become full-time licensed teachers in Nevada K-12 schools. AB30 adjusts how the State Department of Education measures literacy rates and it also allows for principals to request support for student success. Work sessions will be scheduled soon for both bills.
  • SB75 – Allows for a more flexible year-round testing schedule for SBAC testing in schools on a year-round calendar. It passed the Senate on Wednesday unanimously and moves on to the Assembly Committee on Education.
  • SB208 – Requires charter schools to provide at least 45 days notice (originally 90) before opening to a lottery to all community members (originally parents and guardians) who live within 2 (originally 3) miles of the campus. This bill is meant to ensure local residents can enroll children in new charter schools in their communities. The bill passed the Senate unanimously on Friday.
  • SB236 – This bill makes changes to the STEM advisory council; it requires at least six meetings a year, two in-person meetings and a videoconference option for remaining meetings. It was heard on Tuesday. The bill moves to a work session but will need to clarify if it will require a fiscal note first.
  • SB390 – This bill gives charter school lottery preference to students who are zoned for schools that are more than 25 percent overcrowded. It unanimously passed the Senate on Wednesday and is on to the Assembly Committee on Education.
  • SB504 – Amends provisions relating to a safe and respectful learning environment in public schools. This bill was heard on Friday with no action.

Coming up this week

Tuesday, April 21
  • AB112 – Clarifies policy concerning a safe and respectful learning environment for students as well as administrators, teachers, and support staff in public schools. It will be heard by the Senate Committee on Education at 3:30 p.m.
Wednesday, April 22
  • SB503 – Provides for the creation and implementation of the Breakfast After the Bell Program. The bill, which is exempt, is scheduled to be heard by the Senate Committee on Finance at 8 a.m.

Your two cents

Contact Legislators

Getting in touch with your legislators is easy and they really do want to hear from you. Your opinions help shape our laws. And don't forget to mention you're a member of HOPE!
  • The Share Your Opinion page offers a form for one-stop communication with minimal effort and no searching for legislator contact information.
  • Contact Senators and Assemblypeople directly. Each branch of the Legislature has all the contact information for its members listed on one page.

Stay informed during the session by using the Nevada Electronic Legislative Information System (NELIS). It offers access to Bills, Budgets, and Committees, a useful Calendar, contact information for Senate and Assembly members, and you can also sign up for Personalized Legislative Tracking

And now, if you miss anything, archived videos of past meetings and floor sessions are available for viewing.

The spotlight
on policy change

HOPE's Top 5 Goals

What does HOPE want? We want to see change in areas that will improve the chances of a better education for our current and future students. Our platform is broad and inclusive:
  • Pre-K for under-resourced children
  • Universal full-day Kindergarten
  • Embedded and collaborative Professional Development
  • Funding Formula reform and a Stabilization Account
  • Rollover bonds for school construction and refurbishment

The voice
for our children

We all need HOPE!

HOPE is guided purely by the goal to provide the best education possible for all students in the state. Our parent advocacy group formed in 2014 to fill the void where family and community involvement was largely missing. Our membership allows us to offer a unified voice representing families and community members all over Southern Nevada. It also helps educate and inform local and state level decision-makers and legislators on specific needs of students and teachers in Clark County and beyond.

Share HOPE with your friends and ask them to sign up today to become a member — www.hopefornevada.org. With your support, we will always have HOPE for Nevada's students!

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