The latest report card on Nevada's 630 public elementary and secondary schools and programs shows a decrease from last year's total of schools that got low marks, the state Department of Education said Thursday.
The designations are based on criteria imposed by the federal No Child Left Behind Act passed in 2001 and by 2003 state laws designed to bring the schools into line with the federal requirements.
State schools chief Keith Rheault said a breakdown of the 630 schools showed that 198 were designated as "in need of improvement" or on a "watch list." That's down from 223 a year ago.
The latest results "are promising and reason for optimism," Rheault said, adding that nearly 69 percent of all schools met the challenging standard, up from just over 64 percent last year.
Of the 198 schools that didn't meet the standard, 67 are on the "watch list" which gives them a year to improve before they're designated in need of improvement. That's up from 55 a year ago.
The report also shows that 23 public schools have "exemplary" ratings, up from 17 last year, and 96 have "high achieving" ratings, up from 79 last year.
State and federal laws require schools to move all their students to "proficient" or better performance levels by the 2013-14 school year.
Rheault said schools will face a bigger challenge in the 2007-2008 school year because the state's performance expectations are raised for English language arts and for mathematics.
School performance is based on test scores of various student groups. If one of the subgroups doesn't meet the goals, the entire
school is listed as not having made adequate yearly progress.
If a school doesn't made adequate yearly progress for one year, it's placed on the "watch list." If that progress isn't achieved for two or more consecutive years in math or English, the "improvement needed" label attaches.
To get off that list, a school has to make adequate yearly progress for two years in a row. If the low ranking persists for three or more years, remedial efforts can include the state's involvement in a school's management.
The latest report on Nevada schools coincided with release of a poll conducted on behalf of the National Education Association teachers union that indicates support for major changes or outright repeal of the federal education law.
"There's an intensity of support for changing NCLB," said Andrew Myers, president of Myers Research & Strategic Services, one of two organizations that conducted the poll.
The poll was based on 400 likely Nevada voters who were interviewed between June 27 and July 2. The poll has a margin of error of 4.4 percentage points.
Most of the poll's questions were focused on the federal law because it is up for reauthorization by Congress this year.
Rebecca Neale, a spokeswoman with the U.S. Department of Education, said the federal law has been an effective tool in public education. Neale added that she knows the federal law might need tweaking, but if that occurs some of its core principles will remain.
(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)