For the first time in four years, Nevada is not last in the nation in public education, according to Education Week’s latest Quality Counts report.
It is next to last, ranking 50th in the annual ratings for 50 states and the District of Columbia. New Mexico now holds the unwanted distinction of ranking last in the nation.
The state Department of Education celebrated the small improvement in the influential rankings a news release late Tuesday, noting that Nevada made the largest gain of any state. It still earned an overall grade of D+ though, after improving 1.8 percentage points to a score of 66.9. The nation as a whole averaged a 75.6, or a C.
“We set a goal to become the fastest improving state in the nation and the latest ranking in the Quality Counts report card demonstrates that Nevada is headed in the right direction,” Superintendent of Public Instruction Jhone Ebert said in a statement. “We are in no way satisfied and we know we have a long way to go.”
The rating is broken down into three categories: chance for success, school finance and K-12 achievement.
Nevada’s improvement includes gains in the K-12 achievement category, which relies primarily on scores from the National Assessment of Educational Progress that rates academic success across states. The state ranked 35th in this category, an improvement from its 40th place last year.
Proficiency rates from the national assessment have improved for both the fourth and eighth grades in both reading and math, though all of those proficiency rates remain below 31 percent.
The chance for success category relies on local demographics and academic data such as family income, the education of parents and kindergarten enrollment.
Meanwhile, the school finance data relies on data and analysis from 2016 that state officials say does not take into account recent funding initiatives from the 2017 and 2019 Legislative sessions. For the second year in a row, Nevada ranks 48th out of 49 in the school finance measure with an adjusted 2016 per-pupil expenditure amount of $9,185 compared with Wyoming’s $18,090.
“With education policy changes in place and additional investment in education in recent legislative sessions, I’m confident that our teachers will continue to expand opportunities and improve outcomes for all of Nevada’s students,” Ebert said in a statement.