Star Rating System: Inside the Classroom
This year Washoe County School District instituted its new Star Rating System, which assigns a number of stars to each school based on its performance.
The system is a replacement for No Child Left Behind's Adequate Yearly Progress system, which makes assessments based solely on proficiency in standardized testing. The Star Rating System takes proficiency into account, along with student growth, achievement gaps, and parent involvement.
More than half of Washoe County's schools, under the new system, received a three-star rating or lower. But what exactly is the difference between a top-rated school and a bottom-rated school on the classroom level? Channel 2 visited two local campuses at both ends of the spectrum to find out.
In the classrooms of every Washoe County school, you'll find dedicated teachers, committed administrators, and willing students. But across the district, schools are still falling along a spectrum of performance, from the high achieving five-star schools to schools that struggle to meet requirements in proficiency and growth.
At Elmcrest Elementary School, where student performance on standardized testing earned them a two-star rating, the challenges run deep.
"I think some of the challenges that we face may not be so apparent just walking into the classroom," Elmcrest Principal John Sutherland said.
More than one third of Elmcrest's students are learning English as a secondary language, and more than 70 percent of the students meet the low-income requirements to get free or reduced lunches.
Elmcrest, which scored 43 points out of 100, is rated on the same scale as Pleasant Valley Elementary, a five-star school which scored an 87.
Pleasant Valley has just three percent of its students learning English as a secondary language, and about 14 percent receiving free or reduced lunches.
District officials say with a higher income population generally comes more parental involvement at school and at home.
"I think that, unfortunately, the Star Rating System parallels socioeconomic status and English Language Learners," Pleasant Valley Principal Derek Cordell said. "There are just a lot of variables that are out there when the kids show up each morning."
But visitors to the campuses will find that their similarities once inside the classroom far outnumber their differences.
"I would think that you would see the same thing that you're going to see in my classroom," Pleasant Valley third grade teacher David Jones said, "kids involved, kids engaged in their learning."
"I do love teaching here at Elmcrest," fourth grade teacher Mary Labuda said. "I mean, it's a passion for me. I love my kids and their families."
Scores aside, principals and teachers at both schools said they support the Star Rating System, saying that although it's not perfect, it's a much better measure of performance than the old AYP system.
To see the ratings for all Washoe County Schools, click here.
To see Wednesday's more in-depth story on how the system works, click here.