Legislative Implementation Update #4
Nevada Succeeds brings to you the 4th edition of our Implementation Update; we hope this serves as a useful tool as we continue to monitor the progress made with each education bill passed during the 2015 Legislative Session.
For some of the more controversial bills, we understand there will be many points of view on how they may help or hurt our education system. If you have any thoughtful feedback on this commentary, we would love to hear from you and may publish it here in future editions.
We are trying to get all of the information right, so if there are any corrections or additions, then please send us an email at email@example.com.
Italics- New Information this Week
Purple-Other Education Changes
Washoe County School Construction Tax Committee (SB 411)
The Washoe County School Board has approved the selection process for committee members. This committee is tasked with coming up with a possible revenue raising measure for capital projects in Washoe County to be put forward to the voters in 2016. Their first meeting is scheduled for Thursday August 13th at the Chamber offices in Reno at 10 AM.
Even with the school bonding bills, Washoe County will not be able to build new schools to accommodate their growing population. This committee will examine what tax should be put on the ballot to raise additional school capital funds. There is simply a need for more schools in growing communities to avoid potential overcrowding for students.
Achievement School District (AB 448)
On July 1st, the website for the Achievement School District (ASD) launched. This month, the Department of Education is actively seeking charter management organizations to apply to take over struggling district schools for the 2016-17 school year. The letter of intent window closes on Friday July 31st and the full application is due on September 30th (the deadline has been pushed back). 8 groups (Coral Reno, Coral Vegas, Sonoran Schools, Magnolia, Pathways in Education, American Paradigm, Renaissance School Services, and Regan & Associates) have completed a letter of intent before the July 31, 2015 deadline.
A national search firm has been hired to conduct the Executive Director search, and their goal is to hire an Executive Director by the end of September. The initial staff of the ASD will be an ED, a program officer, and a secretary. All positions will be based in Las Vegas. There will be a rulemaking hearing on Thursday August 27th at the Department of Education.
The intention of the ASD is to find the district schools that are still struggling after various interventions and give the building over to a high-quality charter operator for a six-year term. This all-charter “district”, which is limited to a maximum of six new schools per year, is intended to bring additional talent to Las Vegas and improve outcomes for students in their schools. Opponents of the ASD believe that it will lead to the destruction of neighborhood public schools and are skeptical that charters can do any better with the same students as the district school.
Full Day Kindergarten
As part of the education budget, full-day Kindergarten will become fully funded (but not mandatory) for every student in Nevada for 2016-17. In the upcoming school year, Washoe County has managed to find a way to ensure that every Kindergarten has access to free full-day Kindergarten. At the August 13th board meeting, Clark County will announce that 158 schools will have free full-day Kindergarten for all students. The charter schools did receive Kindergarten class-size reduction funding for the first time ever so it may be possible for all charters to offer free full-day Kindergarten. We are going to follow this process closely in the coming weeks.
Victory Schools (SB 432)
Before the end of the session, the state created the list of Victory Schools. Each school must file a letter of intent by August 15th and a full implementation plan for FY16 by September 15th. With the exception of schools in the Turnaround Zone, CCSD is creating a new zone for Victory Schools. At the July 23rd meeting of the State Board of Education, a list of incentives was approved for the funds that can be spent on teacher recruitment, retention, and incentives.
On August 7th, the Clark County School District and the 2 charter schools in the county had a large public forum to release their plans. Some of the schools have very well developed plans where others are in transition. Each school will be hosting a forum for their campus on Wednesday August 12th.
The Victory School are the first portion of the additional funding for students in poverty in the state. The theory is that if we invest more for students in poverty, we will see better outcomes for them since they have greater needs. This bill allows for a lot of flexibility so each school can design a program meeting their needs to improve student achievement. Schools could pursue options similar to the Zoom Schools, but they can also spend funds on teacher recruitment and retention along with wraparound services to provide students with support outside the classroom so they can succeed at school.
Great Teaching and Leading Fund (SB 474)
On Tuesday July 7th, the Department of Education released the application for the Great Teaching and Leading Fund for FY16. They announced that $2 million will go towards implementing the Next Generation Science Standards, $1 million for the Nevada Educator Performance Framework, $1 million for teacher recruitment, development, and retention, and $900,000 for leadership development. Eligible applicants include the RPDPs, school districts, charter schools, the Charter School Authority, NSHE, the educator associations and nonprofits.
There were 34 applications for over $12 million worth of applications towards the fund. The review committee is reviewing applications later in August. (Full Disclosure: I, Seth, am a member of the review committee, and Nevada Succeeds did not apply or endorse any applications for the fund.)
The fund winners for FY16 will be announced at the State Board of Education meeting on Thursday September 3rd. The Professional Development Task Force is aiming to have its first meeting this fall once all of the appointments are made. The State Board appointed Victor Wakefield and Mark Newburn to the committee at the July 23rd board meeting. The legislative appointments should be made at the Legislative Commission meeting on August 10th.
With the rollout of Next Generation Science Standards and the Nevada Educator Performance Framework, this bill intends to create support for teachers in leaders in order to create a smoother implementation than previous, similar initiatives. These programs all aim to increase in student learning. By investing in teacher and leader professional development, recruitment, and retention, the goal is to lower the number of teacher and leader vacancies in the state along with building the quality and knowledge base of these individuals, which will also benefit Nevada students.
CCSD Deconsolidation (AB 394)
In the fall, the Legislative Commission will appoint the 9 members (2 members from each caucus from Clark County along with an additional legislator from the majority party-currently the Republicans) of the main Committee that will meet over the course of 2016. The Committee members will be selected on Monday August 10th. So far, Allison Serafin has been confirmed to serve on the Technical Advisory Committee. The CCSD Trustees will appoint a member on Thursday August 13th.
This bill is meant by some as a way to create a more manageable school district, which they believe will improve student achievement by providing a more responsible governing structure. Skeptics of this plan believe that it will lead to segregation with better results in the suburbs and worse results in the urban parts of the district. In any case, this Committee will find out a lot about the operations of CCSD (along with the SAGE Commission), which will hopefully lead to a lot more information about ways to improve student achievement in Clark County.
Opportunity Scholarships (AB 165)
The temporary regulations for this program were created at the end of June. Groups such as Students First, the American Federation for Children, the Foundation for Excellence in Education, and ourselves advocated for a preference for students whose families are at/or below 185% of the poverty line and for a preference for students currently enrolled in public schools. After much fighting from the private schools in the state, the Department of Education decided to solely make decisions based on the income levels of students. Therefore, the program is pretty much first-come, first-serve. There is a tiebreaker on the day when the scholarship organization runs out of funds to prioritize siblings and students zoned for lower star schools. The scholarship students must take nationally-normed referenced tests to measure student outcomes but are not required (or even expected) to take the Smarter Balanced exams. These temporary regulations were approved on Thursday June 25th.
On July 1st, both scholarships organizations and private schools could begin to sign up for the program. So far, 5 scholarships organizations have been approved by the Nevada Department of Education and they are currently raising funds for their organization. No one is distributing scholarship funds yet. It is unclear when the first scholarship organization will open. 40 private schools have signed up so far as eligible recipients of the funds. The permanent regulations will begin to be drafted at a hearing on Thursday August 13th. In the draft of those regulations, they are the same as the ones confirmed in June.
On Monday August 3rd, the Education Fund of Northern Nevada was approved for $800,000 in scholarship funds from the Department of Taxation. They should have a formal scholarship application out week. We are still waiting to hear about funding from the other 4 approved scholarship organizations. Some of them have pending contributions at the Department of Taxation offices.
This program was originally intended by the legislature to allow a small number of public school students in poverty to attend private schools, which they believe would improve student outcomes. However, due to the temporary regulatory changes made by the Department of Education in June removing the preference for students currently enrolled in public schools, it is likely that it will be used by current private school students whose families make under 300% of the poverty line to subsidize their tuition. Some private schools are actively telling their qualifying families to apply. A couple have even set up their own scholarship organizations. Under this arrangement, if mostly current private school students take advantage of the program, it will lower the amount of funds available for public education. It is a relatively small program at $5 million, which means that it will impact about 700 students based on our projections unless partial scholarships are given out.
Data Privacy (SB 463, AB 221)
The districts and the State Charter Authority are designing their data security plans that will need to be approved by the Nevada Department of Education. On Wednesday July 15th, the P20W Council met for the first time in two years, and they will meet again on October 2nd. The statewide longitudinal data system is now ready for use by schools, NSHE, DTER, and researchers. The public can see a few reports and privacy information as required by these laws here, http://npwr.nv.gov/privacy.
In a time where there is significant amount of data collected on students, it is crucial that the data is as secure as possible and used appropriately. Both of these bills will tell parents what data is collected and who can and cannot see their child’s data. It’s essential that student data is used properly to benefit student achievement.
Education Savings Accounts (SB 302)
This bill is being regulated by the Treasurer’s Office. There was a hearing on Friday July 17th to make two modifications to the rule that requires students to be fully enrolled in a district or charter school for at least 100 days before gaining the ESA. First, they are going to say that even though the program does not begin until January 4, 2016, students who were enrolled in public schools for at least 100 days in the 2014-15 school year and switch to a non-public option for the 2015-16 school year are eligible for the program. Additionally, the proposed regulations would say that a student only needs to take at least one course at a public school for 100 days to become eligible. The proposed regulations were supported by a majority of the speakers aside from the teachers union and Educate Nevada Now.
On Thursday July 9th, the Treasurer’s Office announced that the payment of the ESA will occur in the first week after the end of a quarter. Therefore, the first ESA payments will be at the beginning of April for the first quarter of 2016. In August or September, they will have a broader public hearing discussing reimbursement options (debit cards as in Arizona or expense reports as in Florida) and other regulatory matters. Those additional regulatory matters will have a hearing in August or September.
On Thursday July 30, the ESA application form went live at http://www.nevadatreasurer.gov/SchoolChoice/Home/. Parents can begin filling out the form now to ensure that their students will be eligible for the program when payments start in April 2016. As of Friday August 7th, over 700 applications have been completed.
On Friday August 21st at 9 AM, there will be a hearing in Vegas/Carson City to go over the program’s regulations. The regulations do not include the one course loophole for the program since it will blow too big of a hole in the state budget.
Similar to Opportunity Scholarships without income or participation restrictions, the expected benefits are for public school students to have access to options outside of the public system. This bill has been called the widest sweeping school choice bill in America. Advocates for school choice love the bill (for the most part) as it enables 93% of current Nevada students, enrolled in public schools to be able to gain either $5100 to $5700 towards private school and other education options. They believe these options are better than public schools for a wide variety of reasons and will improve results for their kids. Opponents of the bill believe that this system will defund public education in the state by having funds leave the schools. With less funding for public schools overall, they believe that students in public schools will struggle.
Read by 3rd Grade (SB 391)
The Department of Education is in charge of setting up these regulations. At the July 23rd State Board of Education meeting, the State Board approved 13 different literacy assessments for use in the 2015-2016 school year. There will be a Request for Proposal for ideally one assessment (a small number may be accepted) that should begin in the 2016-17 school year. They also defined the tasks of a learning strategist but they did not clarify the difference between a coach and a learning strategist. There will be a working group starting this work in the coming weeks run by the Department of Education. It is expected that the grant process for the funds will begin in the middle of August.
There is also a regulatory workshop scheduled for Tuesday September 15th.
This bill intends to dramatically improve student achievement by ensuring that all students will be able to read by the end of the 3rd grade or else they will be retained. By investing additional resources in learning strategists, early intervention strategies, and targeted reading programs, and creating universal full-day Kindergarten, the systems should be in place in every school to ensure that every student will be able to reach this goal. We know if students are reading on grade level by the end of 3rd grade, they are far more likely to graduate from high school. Therefore, this program, if implemented correctly, should benefit long-term student achievement in the state.
When looking at the Read-by-3 bill, many focus first on the mandated retention of all students who do not meet 3rd grade reading proficiency starting in 2019. Although this is believed to be a key component in maintaining accountability for the program, proponents of the bill believe that heightened interventions by highly effective teachers, new assessment for students in K-2, and a competitive grants program to assist schools in pay for literacy programs, will be the difference in changing the trajectory for Nevada’s young students. By providing schools with means to assess their K-2 populations, teachers and administrators will have more information to know whether or not their tactics are working, and how to continually improve their work to result in the best outcomes for students.
Teacher Evaluation (AB 447)
The Department of Education and the Teachers and Leaders Council will be working on the rules and regulations around this bill. One aspect of this bill included a tweak to the language, lowering the percentage that student test scores count in a teacher’s evaluation from 50% to 40% since our state and local tests were not yet ready. At the July 23rd State Board of Education meeting, there was a discussion saying that the board wants to let each profession within Group 3 to determine their own standards. The next TLC meeting is on August 26th and there should be a regulatory workshop scheduled by the Department in the near future. The state’s new website on the NEPF modifications is live at http://www.doe.nv.gov/Legislative/NEPF_Modifications/.
The idea behind this bill is that by connecting student performance to teacher evaluations, we will have a more accurate view of the effectiveness of each teacher and their true impact on student outcomes. Nonetheless, there is still plenty of conversation to be held about how to ensure that these evaluation systems are truly accurate measure of teacher quality and do not create circumstances that could potentially result in teachers leaving the district. For example, we intend to monitor how this inclusion of student performance in evaluation will impact teachers in non-tested subjects, like history and science.The gains from a well-aligned system that is driven by student achievement could be transformational for Nevada in using this data to highlight best practices, drive professional development and create a solid forum for accountability. However, a poorly designed system could lead to a mass exodus of teachers, resulting in even more vacancies and bigger problems for the state.
Zoom Schools (SB 405)
On Thursday July 16th, CCSD approved the following 29 schools to be Zoom Schools in the 2015-16 school year: Arturo Cambeiro, Manuel J. Cortez, Lois Craig, Jack Dailey, Ollie Detwiler, Ruben P. Diaz, Ira J. Earl, Elbert Edwards, Fay Herron, Halle Hewetson, Robert Lunt, Ann Lynch, Reynaldo Martinez, William K. Moore, Paradise Professional Development, Dean Petersen, Vail Pittman, Bertha Ronzone, Lewis E. Rowe, C.P. Squires, Stanford, Myrtle Tate, Twin Lakes, Gene Ward, Rose Warren, and Tom Williams. The following three secondary schools will be Zoom Schools for the 2015-2016 school year: William E. Orr Middle School, Del H. Robison Middle School, and Global Community High School at Morris Hall. Additionally, the Department of Education will be administering the funds for the rural districts and the charter schools. The new Zoom Schools in Washoe County are: Traner MS, Allen ES, Mitchell ES, Lincoln Park ES, Lemelson ES, Kate Smith ES, and Mariposa Charter.
At the July 23rd meeting of the State Board of Education, a list of incentives was approved for the 2% of funds that can be spent on teacher recruitment, retention, and incentives.
The Zoom Schools are dedicated funding to certain schools with a high percentage of English Language Learners by providing students with access to pre-K capped at a ratio of 10 students to 1 adult, full-day Kindergarten at a ratio of 21:1 or lower, reading skills centers, and an extended school year. All of these programs are meant to ensure that students can be reading on grade level by 3rd grade. This session the legislature expanded the programs to some Middle and High Schools since there are many newcomers and longtime English Language Learners. The districts have more flexibility in designing their interventions to improve student achievement from these pupils. Nevada has the highest percentage of ELL students of any state in the country, and the reforms mentioned above have been proven to make a difference for that type of learner.
Multicultural Education (AB 234)
A working group has been established on how to best address the concerns laid out by this bill. There will be a hearing on Wednesday October 21st at the Department of Education to go over potential regulations. On December 16th, the proposed regulations will go before the Commission on Professional Standards.
If teachers take a multicultural education course during their training, they would likely be more effective in reaching their students who come from different backgrounds to increase their learning.
New Teacher Bonuses (SB 511)
Each district in the state has already submitted a plan to the Department of Education on how they want to administer the new bonuses. For example, CCSD requested $9.5 million of the available $10 million for FY16 to pay the maximum $5000 bonus to a teacher at every eligible school (behavior schools are not eligible for the program since they do not receive Title I funds-much to the dismay of the districts). CCSD plans to pay the $5000 in 20 segments of $250 over the course of the year. Some districts are paying the entire bonus up front and others are doing half at the beginning of the year and the other half at the end of the year. Due to PERS, all bonuses will be stipends. On July 23rd, the State Board of Education approved that each eligible district receive $4000 per year (instead of $5000 per year since that would have totaled over the amount of available funds) towards each expected new hire in a Title I school. The districts can spend that money in bonuses of up to $5000 per year. Since CCSD is expected to start the year with over 700 vacancies, they will be able to afford the $5000 bonus for any teacher hired by August 31st.
On the university scholarship side of this bill, funds will not be available for the program until January. There is currently a lack of clarification of exactly who is and who is not eligible for the program due to the start of the funding window. For example, if a student starts in the fall, it is unclear whether he or she will qualify for the funds. Programs will apply to the Department of Education for funding and then the program will distribute the funds.
As our state faces starting a school year with over 1000 vacancies statewide, we need to do everything possible to incentivize new teachers to come to teach in Title I and/or underperforming schools in the state to ensure that students have the best teachers to facilitate student learning. Additionally, the scholarships will help build up a pipeline of new teachers from local students in the future. Hopefully, this bill can be a major part of the solution to the state’s teacher shortage, which is impairing our student’s current level of achievement.
Teacher Licensure Changes
Over the interim, the Department of Education is conducting a teacher licensure study to come back with recommendations to the 2017 legislature. As part of this process, they will be holding a regulatory workshop on Friday October 9th on teacher background and moral turpitude issues.
School Construction (SB 119, SB 207)
These bills passed the legislature fairly early in the legislative session allowing for a ten-year bond rollover for school districts with bonding capacity. At this time, CCSD appears to be the only district in the state to take advantage of the program. At the CCSD Bond Oversight Committee meeting on Thursday July 16th, CCSD now says that only 6 schools will open in 2017 and 6 will open in 2018. Now, Rex Bell Elementary School appears to be the only school that will go under a full replacement. That should be ready in 2017.
With a growing population, Nevada needs more schools. Having schools in new neighborhoods is essential for a successful education system. Opponents of the bill would rather see charter and private schools come to new neighborhoods instead of district schools as voters rejected a school bond measure in Clark County by a 2 to 1 margin in 2012.
Alternate School Framework (SB 460)
All schools under the State Charter Authority are beginning to update their contracts to reflect the changes coming from this law around closure and possible qualification for an alternate school performance framework. A regulatory hearing on this bill is scheduled for Tuesday September 15th.
The intention of this bill is to provide equity in framing and reporting school performance. This bill will allow district and charter schools who serve a population with at least 75% severe needs to qualify for an alternate framework to measure their school performance rather than the traditional star system. Therefore, schools serving these populations will not be punished for taking on some of our most challenging students. This new system will reward schools that show solid improvements when serving our toughest to reach students and will lead to more changes at schools that are not doing a successful job at serving these students.
Charter Reforms (SB 509)
The Charter Authority issued a new charter application on June 22nd, which requires applicants to file a Letter of Intent by August 14th and a full application by the end of August. The earliest the Authority will award a charter for the 2016-17 school year is in the fall. CMOs will not be able to gain a charter until January 2016 since not all of SB509 goes in effect until then. All schools under the State Charter Authority are beginning to update their contracts to reflect the changes coming from this law.
The law will allow the Charter Authority to be more far more forceful in ensuring that the charter schools in the state are of high quality and improving student achievement. It makes it easier to close underperforming schools, which are hurting students, and helps set up the policy conditions for the best Charter Management Organizations (CMOs) in the country to set up shop in Nevada. It also makes it easier for charters to recruit teachers from a wider segment of society to provide additional ways to ensure that every student in their schools have excellent teachers.
Non-Citizen Teachers (AB 27)
The Department of Education has begun accepting teacher licensure applications from non-citizens in Clark County. The first applications have been processed successfully.
With the large teacher shortage across Nevada and a lack of teachers who were English Language Learners, this policy looks to ensure that every student in Nevada has access to an excellent teacher. It will allow schools to tap into a local supply of new teachers who understand the experiences of many of our hardest to reach students.
School Performance Plans (AB 30)
There will be a number of updates to the School Performance Plans coming from the Nevada Department of Education with a focus on literacy rates, especially among ELLs.
This bill requires schools explicitly measures its literacy rates, especially for English Language Learners, to create better tracking of how our students are developing and learning.
Charter School Police Officers (AB 321)
We will be tracking if any charter schools enter into policing agreements as a result of this bill.
School safety is essential for learning. This bill intends to better coordinate information so police agencies know where charter schools are located and respond to their calls during times of emergency as they would respond to any other business. Additionally if a school wants a more permanent cop, they now know which organization should be the place where they can purchase a police officer.
Expanded Charter School Bonding (AB 351)
We will be tracking if any 3 star charter schools go to the Board of Examiners and are able to get approval for state facility bonds.
Many charter schools struggle to find adequate facilities to operate in. This bill allows more schools to be eligible for the charter school bonding program. With a more permanent facility, charters should be able to spend more on teachers and leaders than on facility payments. With better environments for teachers and leaders, these schools become more competitive for ensuring the best quality in the people they put in front of students.
SAGE Commission (AB 421)
It has been announced that the Governor’s Business Roundtable on Education Reform will be combined with the SAGE (Spending and Government Efficiency) Commission. Nevada Succeeds backed that measure during the session. The Department of Education will staff the commission. The members and the first meeting date have yet to be announced.
This Commission intends to examine how effective spending is with the current and new education programs in the state. It is a needed measure of accountability for education spending in the state. The ultimate goal should be to ensure that the new and existing education funds are directed towards the areas of highest impact for student achievement.
Charter Harbormaster (SB 491)
The Department of Education is expected to issue an RFP for the harbormaster by September 1st. Once the RFP window closes, the Board of Examiners will make a decision on which organization will become the state-funded harbormaster.
Currently, Nevada’s charter sector is among the lowest performing in the country. This organization will recruit and develop new charter schools that have a proven track record of success nationally to open in the highest poverty communities in the state. By building better charter schools, then student achievement should improve in the state. Some fear that a growing charter sector will hurt achievement in the district schools.
Teacher Performance Pay (AB 483)
This bill does not go into effect until the 2016-17 school year. In 2016, the districts will have to submit their plans on how they will comply with the bill to the Department of Education.
By paying our most effective teachers a higher salary, it could lead more them to stay in the classroom where they can make the greatest impact on students. Since many of our most effective teachers leave for higher paying jobs, this performance plan could keep more teachers in the classroom and reduce vacancies. The districts opposed the bill since it fences off more money from their base funding, which leaves fewer funds for the remaining teachers, which could lead to an increase in teachers vacancies, hurting student achievement.
New Nevada Plan (SB 508)
A regulatory hearing on this bill is scheduled for Tuesday August 25th to discuss the Special Education funding weight along with other possible topics. The Department of Education is required to produce an update on base and weighted funding formula over the interim.
Directing more targeted resources towards Free and Reduced Lunch students, English Language Learners, Special Education students, and Gifted and Talented students should lead to better outcomes for those students. We know that these subpopulations cost more to educate than the rest of the population and the state’s funding formula has not reflected that reality before. The process of transitioning to a full weighted funding formula must be done by 2021 under this law as we move away from a strictly county-based funding formula.
Turnaround and Vergara Reforms (SB 92)
A regulatory hearing on this bill is scheduled for Thursday August 27th. In related news, 15 CCEA teachers are sueing CCSD over the changes to post-probationary status and that court case will likely affect this bill.
This bill is supposed to ensure that if there is a reduction in force of teachers in the state that ineffective teachers are dismissed first rather than basing it off of seniority since ineffective teachers are hurting student outcomes. It’s goal is to make sure as many students in the state as possible have effective teachers and that principals are not forced to hire ineffective teachers. It also creates rules governing district turnaround zones to help make it easier to improve their outcomes. The teachers union opposed this bill since it goes against many of their core tenants and believe that the evaluation system is not yet fair or complete. They also believe that it could lead to an exodus of teachers hurting student achievement.
Teacher Supply Reimbursement (SB 133)
The districts will set up their own systems for teacher supply reimbursement and the Department of Education will send each district and charter school their share of the funds ($5 million over the biennium).
By providing up to $250 in supply reimbursements per year, the legislature believes that teacher morale will be boosted and that teachers will be more likely to have the necessary resources to best instruct their students.
Peer Assistance and Review (SB 332)
The Department of Administration will send $1 million each year of the biennium to CCSD to ensure that the program is funded. We will continue to monitor this program in the Turnaround Zone to ensure that it is effective and a good use of taxpayer money.
This program is meant to improve the teaching of new and ineffective teachers. Washoe County has implemented it across the entire county and Clark is starting to implement it in the turnaround zone. If it is proven effective in the Turnaround Zone, then it could scale up throughout CCSD as a then proven method to improve teacher quality and student outcomes.