As business leaders who are deeply engaged in education reform efforts through Nevada Succeeds and the Education Alliance of Washoe County, we know that our schools across the state have not performed at the level of our expectations. We spend significant efforts each day to ensure that all schools are receiving the support they need to be successful so their students are ready for college and careers.
The Nevada Academic Content Standards (NVACS) in English language arts and math, based on Common Core standards, are a big step in the right direction. Standards are what drive the instruction in our schools. For example, each Kindergartener in Nevada is now expected to be able to count to 100 by ones and by tens. The standards don’t require teachers to use a specific method to reach that goal, but it tells them that it needs to be done by the end of the year so that the students are ready for first grade.
It’s normal for us to change standards. We traditionally do it every seven to eight years to ensure they are up-to-date with the latest research. The Common Core State Standards were developed by the states, led by the National Governor’s Association and the Chief Council of State School Officers; they were not developed by the Federal Government. Then, the Council to Establish Academic Standards approved them here in Nevada followed by subsequent votes by the State Board of Education and Legislative Commission. These standards were created by and for the states, then adopted by Nevada.
The Thomas B. Fordham Institute rated our previous Nevada standards as ones in need of improvement; the new standards are aimed at being among the best our country has developed. Having higher standards will help prepare our students for the rigors of colleges and careers.
In Nevada, 55.6 percent of recent high school graduates were placed into remedial classes to prepare for college-level coursework. The new standards, which promote critical thinking, reasoning and application of knowledge, are expected to drastically reduce the need for remedial classes among recent Nevada high school graduates. The standards will strengthen the state’s workforce and economy as more students graduate from high school with the knowledge, skills and ability needed to succeed in a new economy. Nevada’s employers will benefit through the higher standards with employees that are prepared for entry-level careers.
Nevada students are the best investment that we can make for the future success of our state. Without a well-educated workforce, we will not have access to the highly skilled workers needed to attract large companies to Nevada. It would be a shame for a company to move to Nevada for the state’s strong business climate and then be forced to bring in workers from California and elsewhere since our schools haven’t produced the workforce we need.
The goal of “Nevada Ready!”, which is a statewide initiative led by the Nevada Department of Education, Nevada Board of Education and supported by the Nevada Public Education Foundation, is to raise awareness of the NVACS our state has in order to aim higher to educate our students.
We are making progress and these standards are pushing us in the right direction. The NVACS are one promising way for us to move forward as a state to ensure that all of our students are ready for their future careers. It’s time for us to buckle down and ensure that all of our students are Nevada Ready!