Data from the federally mandated standardized student assessments are showing that students in Nevada are greatly suffering from learning loss, likely as a result of school closures and hybrid learning models throughout the pandemic. Each year, Nevada students in grades 3-8 take the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) assessments in English/ Language Arts (ELA) and Mathematics. The latest results show that Nevada is at risk of losing a generation of learners to failure and underperformance, despite elementary and middle school bring critical years in a child’s educational development. Subsequently, when students enter high school, they are already critically behind, with only a short time before they are expected to graduate and enter the workforce or pursue higher education.
Unless the American Rescue Plan dollars flooding Nevada are leveraged strategically and transparently, our students and our state will continue to incur the cost of a lost generation of learners. Failing to address the impacts of the pandemic on our learners, especially students of color and minorities, will not only leave students behind, it will cripple Nevada’s future workforce and prospects for economic development.
Some of the data, according to the SBAC results are as follows:
- Overall proficiency rates in subjects fell. For ELA it went from 48.5 to 41.4 percent; for Math, 37.5 to 26.3 percent.
- The greatest drops in ELA proficiency rates were among Hispanic and Pacific Islander students with respective drops of 9.3 and 10.1 percent.
- The greatest drops in Math proficiency were among Asian (13.8 percent drop) and Pacific Islander (14.8 percent drop) students.
- Math proficiency rates for African American dropped from 18.8 to 10.8 percent; and Native-American students dropped from 21.3 to 12.2 percent.
These results point out two key issues that must be addressed. First, students need intensive academic support to make up for lost learning. Second, and more importantly, students need social emotional learning and wraparound support to help them re-engage in school in a meaningful and positive way. Many students are simply not invested in their own education process. As adults and educational leaders, we must formulate and strategically implement proven strategies that uplift students in school. Programs like Jobs for Nevada’s Graduates (J4NG), a multiyear program available in high schools as an elective credit, can play a vital role in Nevada’s response to the longterm negative impacts of COVID. J4NG is an intensive, year-round model that provides students with support to help students achieve success. J4NG identifies at-risk students and aims to enroll them in the program before their senior year in order to build a successful post-graduation plan and put students on the pathway to jobs and continuing education. The program includes at least 12 months of guaranteed follow-up and check-ins by professional trained and certified J4NG Specialists. J4NG has a 97.8 percent graduation rate and program students are 2.5 times more likely to be employed and working full-time after graduation.
Even so, challenges faced in Nevada’s education system cannot be solved in one way, with one program – it’s an all hands on deck effort. Partners with like-minded missions across the state can provide students with the resources they need to become successful young adults, including Communities in Schools, Project 150, R.A.V.E., Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth, YNAPP, Help of Southern Nevada, Ty’s Place and many other organizations. Along with J4NG, these organizations and their programs are an educational safety net for students and should be expanded to effectively turn the tide on educational challenges. Now is the time for every Nevadan who cares about students and the future of the economy to invest in addressing these educational needs. Failure to make strategic investments now, could result in a generation of students who are irrevocably harmed by the fallout from the pandemic.
Dr. Rene Cantu is Executive Director of Jobs for Nevada’s Graduates.