Nevada Education – A Long Term View

A recent series of Op-Eds in the Review Journal

are promoting the false narrative that Nevada education is completely failing and is in a decades long downward trend.

The opinion piece cites governors dating back to Grant Sawyer in 1959 promoting education & making investments in it, while claiming it’s led to decades of failure. The editorial claims there’s a “large constituency wedded to the failing status quo”.

Let’s check these claims of continuous failure!

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) is the gold standard of testing and is conducted every 2 years across the US. We can track Nevada’s progress in math dating back to 2000 and reading dating back to 1998.


Since 1998, 4th grade reading scores on the NAEP have gone up 9 points. That’s roughly equivalent to an additional 9 months of learning.

That’s like squeezing almost an entire extra school year into these kids education by the end of 4th grade!



Compared to their peers 17 years prior, Nevada 4th graders have made HUGE improvements in 4th grade math achievement!

Average scores are up 12 points which is equivalent to approximately an additional year of learning.



Ok, so things are improving in elementary, but are improvements persisting through middle school?

In 2017, Nevada students left 8th grade scoring 10 points higher on the NAEP compared to 17 years earlier. That’s roughly equivalent to an additional year of learning!



The story is even more remarkable when you break the results into Free/Reduced-price Lunch (FRL) subgroups, a proxy for poverty.

FRL students saw a gain of 18 points!!!



But wait, there’s more! Non-FRL students saw a gain of 20 points!!!



But how is this possible the two subgroups saw a gain of 18 and 20 points, yet the overall only went up 10???

The enormous gains by the subgroups is masked because their comparative size substantially changed. In 2000, only 27% of Nevada students qualified for free/reduced price lunch. By 2017 that had jumped to 61%.

Here’s the math across the row: (27 X 246 + 73 X 272)/100 = 265



The effects of the Great Recession can still be felt by many in our community. Nevada had the highest increase in FRL rates in the country from 2000 to 2017.



Recognizing the trauma that can come with poverty and the obstacles with not speaking English is extremely important context when looking at results being achieved at our schools. Luckily a tool was developed to help do that:

This tool is based on research from Matt Chingos and Kristin Blagg.

From the site:

“A better way to compare and talk about NAEP performance is to use adjusted NAEP scores that account for demographic differences across students in each state.”

In spite of the comparatively low funding & residual effects of the Great Recession, Nevada’s rank for adjusted NAEP scores are as high as they’ve ever been in both math and reading!




As of 2017, we can now compare CCSD nationally on the NAEP!

Of the 26 other large urban districts in the US participating in the NAEP, CCSD performed significantly better than HALF of them in 8th grade reading!



In 8th grade math, Clark County School District is significantly outperforming 12 of the 26 districts that report NAEP results!



Ok, so students are improving in elementary and middle school, but are they leaving high school more prepared???

CollegeBoard reported that Nevada had both the LARGEST 5-year and 3-year increase in graduates passing an AP Exam!


Now that’s really impressive! Fastest improving in the country!

Nevada now exceeds that national rate of students who pass an AP exam during their high school career.


The AP growth is even more impressive when you consider we’ve got more graduates than we’ve ever had before!



Ok, so students are improving in elementary, middle, and high school, but are more people getting college degrees???

According to the US Census, rate of adults in Clark County with at least a Bachelor’s degree has been trending upward since 2009 (earliest data we had).

That’s over 65,000 additional 25 years old+ with at least a Bachelor’s in 2016 compared to 2009. And approximates 7,500 of them are between 25-34 yrs old!



So things have been improving in elementary school, middle school, high school, and college, but what about students who want to go into a career instead of college?

According to Nevada Report Card, the number of Career and Technical Education (CTE) program completers (usually a 3 year program) in CCSD has almost doubled over the last decade!!!


And the Nevada Department of Education just put out a press release yesterday & Career and Technical Education outcomes are up across the board!


Ok, so we’re improving in elementary school, middle school, high school, college, and career readiness, but are we seeing any improvement in the economy???

The gross domestic product for the Las Vegas metropolitan area has DOUBLED from 2001 to 2016 going from $55.5 BILLION to $111.1 BILLION.


We’re starting to think our past governors have made tremendously successful bets by advocating for and investing in education!

When we take a step back to look at the big picture, the results of our governors promoting and investing in education has led to:

  • Big NAEP improvements in elementary and middle school
  • Fastest improving AP Pass rates in the country
  • Rising Graduation Rates
  • More College Degrees
  • Increased Career Readiness
  • Huge Economic Gains

We acknowledge and celebrate the progress that’s been made AND we’ll continue to work to support those who strive to continuously improve and better the lives of our children. Celebrating improvements and continuing to work to advance education are not mutually exclusive events.

Thank you to all those in our community who work to change the lives of children and advocate for the betterment of their lives!

Follow us on Twitter at @DataInsightPart

2 thoughts on “Nevada Education – A Long Term View

  1. Thank you for bringing the data together to show a true picture of the educational gains that have been made Nevada. I will share this article with my teachers to show them that their continued hard work IS paying off.


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