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Top school administrator visits local elementary schools

Nevada’s top education Aadministrator made a special visit to Pahrump this week.

Dale Erquiaga, Nevada’s Superintendent of Public Education stopped by two local elementary schools to visit with faculty members and read a few brief passages from new books presented to students.

The Monday morning visit to Manse and Floyd Elementary, coincided with the state’s upcoming birthday celebration.

“This is all part of a reading program for Nevada’s 150th birthday and we are out reading in schools.” Erquiaga said. “This was my chance to visit with a first and third grade class and read to them. We also brought out some books for their libraries. We have really great students and great faculty building leadership here in Pahrump. I will say that one of my favorite questions to ask kids is what they like and well over half of the kids told me they liked math, which you don’t always hear from the younger students and that’s really encouraging for us because we have new math and English standards in Nevada and it’s nice to see that the kids enjoy working with them,” he said.

Erquiaga also spoke about a controversial topic among both parents and teachers.

Common Core Standards today have been adopted by more than 40 states around the country.

The standards, according to Erquiaga, are designed to ensure that students graduating from high school are prepared to take credit bearing introductory courses in two- or four-year college programs or enter the workforce.

The superintendent noted that there are some Nevada parents who are opposed to the practice simply because they are not familiar with it.

Erquiaga said he’s looking to change that.

“There are some parents that don’t like the standards and I think a lot of that is the fact that they are not as familiar with our language in education. What we consider a standard, is a list of what children should know and be able to do. It’s not their curriculum, like their lesson plan, or their text books, or even the materials they use in their respective schools. Nevada did adopt the Common Core State Standards about four years ago. They are the list of what the district strives to get the kids to know and be able to do,” he said.

Erquiaga also said the apprehension among parents is usually driven by what they hear about Common Core Standards via the news media.

“Some parents are concerned about them because they’ve heard the political conversation around the country. The thing that I see is many teachers, students and parents understand the standards that we are using and the way they are currently being used in our schools. They do understand it. It’s about college and career readiness,” he said.

Additionally, Erquiaga said due to the technical nature of materials students are using, there are times when even the parents may have difficulties when trying to guide their kids in homework.

“We are learning a lot of things much earlier and sometimes things are harder for mom and dad because students are bringing things home that is different from what we had. But the goal is we have to be ready for college and career when they exit high school. Nevada is a very different place today in terms of jobs and we’ve seen the effect the recession had a few years ago. I really think that Common Core Standards will help us with that. I am a very strong supporter of it,” he said.

Nye County School District Superintendent Dale Norton accompanied Erquiaga during Monday’s visit.

Norton pointed out that the state’s Common Core Standards is quite similiar to what Silver State students were using prior to its implementation back in 2000.

“It was called Nevada Academic Content Standards which we’ve had in place for four years. Like Mr. Erquiaga said, the resistance comes from a lack of knowledge for the Common Core, than it is big government trying to take over,” Norton said.

Dale Erquiaga was appointed Superintendent of Public Instruction by Governor Brian Sandoval in August of 2013. Dale is serving as Nevada’s second gubernatorial appointed head of the Nevada Department of Education, following 2011 legislation that gave the governor the authority to appoint a Superintendent to run the Ddepartment.

Dale comes to NDE after several years of working in school district- and state-level education policy in Nevada. He previously served as the senior advisor to Governor Brian Sandoval, providing general policy advice and serving as the governor’s speechwriter and spokesman. In this role, Dale was the governor’s primary education policy advisor. His education policy experience also includes service with the Clark County School District (CCSD), where he worked as the Executive Director of Government Affairs, Public Policy &Strategic Planning; he consulted with CCSD and other education-related groups for five years before being hired as a district staff member.

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