School District: New Tests Not Expected to Reduce Graduation Rates

Wooster High School graduating seniors visit Vaughn Middle School on Friday, stressing the importance of education.
Wooster High School graduating seniors, the class of 2017, visit Vaughn Middle School, stressing the importance of education. Photo: Carla O’Day

Recently heralded graduation rates from the Washoe County School District came about, in part, because of changes to Nevada law.

Gone are high-school proficiency exams while new exams, called end-of-course exams or EOCs, in place now are not yet counted toward graduation.

The absence of proficiency exams, and the unweighted EOCs, accounted for a 3 percent increase in 2017’s graduation rates, according to the district’s Ben Hayes, but student performance is still making positive gains.

“The state legislature transitioned to EOCs, which changed graduation requirements,” he said. “The idea behind EOCs is to be more academically rigorous.

“The bigger issue is if you take away the 3 percent … we still have the higher graduation record for the fifth year in a row and still eclipsed the 80 percent mark,” Hayes added.

Hayes said that many policy changes can impact graduation rates, and in this case removing the proficiency exams, while creating a slight increase in graduation rates now, does not necessarily mean that EOCs will negatively impact graduation rates in the future.

While EOCs do not impact this year’s seniors, the class of 2018, EOCs will count toward 20 percent of a student’s final grade in 2021, Hayes explained.

He said he does not think the upcoming added weight of the EOCs will lower graduation rates because the district will work with students to master course content.

“We’re still marching for 90 percent by 2020,” he said.

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Bob Conrad is co-founder of ThisisReno. He manages ThisisReno and Conrad Communications, LLC, his marketing communications consulting company (disclosure: he has two part-time contracts working for the University of Nevada, Reno). He is a part-time faculty member at Truckee Meadows Community College and is a regular contributor to Reno Public Radio.