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BC schools by the numbers, not the hype

Boulder City residents like to pride themselves on the quality of the four public schools compared with the rest of the Clark County School District. You might say considering all the problems with the district, bragging about how good the schools are here comparatively is like bragging about having the tallest building in Topeka, Kan. Not really a strong pool to compare with.

On Friday, the Nevada Education Department released its rating system of the district’s schools, replacing the school district’s self-created star system that some critics called too school friendly that didn’t truly reflect the school’s achievement.

Under the district’s system, nearly half its schools received four- or five-star ratings. That didn’t really match up with the district’s 61 percent graduation rate. The basic difference between the state and district’s systems was the weight given to schools’ scores for showing improvement. Western High in Las Vegas received four out of five stars from the district although only 55 percent of its students graduated, only 5 percent pass rate on its Algebra I final exam and one-third pass rate for sophomores on a reading test.

The state bumped them down to the more reflective two-star school.

So where did Boulder City schools flush out for the school year 2011-12? Let’s start at the top, five-star school Elton M. Garrett Junior High. Garrett scored well above the baseline for a five-star school, and was one of only 12 out of 65 rated middle schools to achieve the ranking. This gives Garrett, led by Principal Jamey Hood, autonomy in school planning and decision-making.

The students outperformed the state on math and reading scores, with a higher percentage of students at or above proficiency in reading, math, writing and science when compared with the district or the state. The school scored an 86 percent proficiency in math, 18 points higher than the district and 17 points higher than the state.

Although Garrett maintained its highest rating, Boulder City High did not. A five-star rated school under the district’s system, the high school fell to a four-star rating. I say “fell” because it was only 1.5 points away from being a three-star school. But it is important to remember that it is still a high-performing school.

Like with Garrett, students outperformed the state on math and reading scores, with a higher percentage of students at or above proficiency in reading, math, writing and science when compared with the district or the state. The school’s graduation rate of 82.6 percent is well above the state’s rate.

In Boulder City’s defense, the only high schools that maintained five-star ratings have the word “Technical” or “College” or “Academy” in its name. Only five high schools maintained four-star ratings.

Martha P. King Elementary, which had received four stars from the district, slipped to three stars under that state. They missed the four-star ranking by one point.

In proficiency, the school outpaced the district in reading, math and science, but only achieved a 36 percent in writing, below the district and state’s 45 percent.

Andrew J. Mitchell Elementary, which is kindergarten through second, was not rated because of its “unique configuration.”

The danger of rating systems is trying to give a measured performance to individual needs. By almost all measures, students on this hill are in a better situation than their contemporaries in the valley.

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