Believe It or Not, I Actually Moved to Nevada for the Schools

This is the first part in a three-part series on Nevada's successes and struggles to turnaround its school system over the next five years.
Too many states lack transparency when it comes to reporting on how well their students are doing for fear of looking under the hood and not liking what they see. Here in Nevada, we aspire to have the fastest improving education system in the nation over the next five years. To do that, we have to be honest about the insufficient number of students ready for postsecondary education and who end up needing remediation so that we can appropriately focus our efforts. We have to be honest about why our students continue to struggle with national testing. And while the results haven’t been pretty, our push towards closing the honesty gap has been more than worthwhile. Reimagining our educational system was a moral imperative for our state’s historically underserved students and the new Nevada economy demands it. Nevada is becoming increasingly technology-focused, led by companies like Tesla and Faraday, so our educational system has to change along with it. For too long, we concentrated on our primary industries, gaming and mining. Last year, when Governor Sandoval rolled out 25 new education programs and initiatives, and the legislature passed 24 of them, it was clear that Nevada would no longer accept the poor state of affairs with regards to our schools. It was this type of bold action that inspired me to move my family from California. As an education policy advocate who has worked in 18 states over the past six years, I have never seen a state do anything as comprehensive as Nevada or with as much bipartisan agreement. In addition to passing two dozen new education programs the governor, and others in his party, broke party orthodoxy and worked with Democrats to raise revenue to pay for all of the new reforms. Nevada aspires to accomplish the turnaround Tennessee underwent in 2011. Five years ago, Tennessee passed a comprehensive package of education policies to compete for Race to the Top. Last year, Nevada passed a holistic suite of education initiatives to transform a system it knew was not working for students. We are just now starting to get early indications that the 24 new programs from the 2015 legislative session are working. Our initiatives for high poverty and English language-learner students; K-3rd grade literacy; early childhood education; career tech and college readiness; 21st-century technology; teacher and principal recruitment, retention and professional development; and turnaround school supports to name a few are making meaningful differences for our students and teachers. With all of these programs, Nevada is committed to a process of evaluating and readjusting programs. We want to change programs that are not working or make deeper investments in programs that are. I hope to share these results—both our successes and our struggles —and convince others that Nevada is well positioned to be the next great American education success story.
Brett Barley
Brett Barley is the deputy superintendent for Student Achievement with the Nevada Department of Education. Prior to joining the Nevada Department of Education, Brett served as a vice president with StudentsFirst, a non-profit organization focused on organizing parents, teachers, and other concerned community members to advocate for great schools for all children. Through this work Brett ...

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