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'Race to the Top' Task Force Takes on Other Education Issues

September 14, 2010

LAS VEGAS - It started as a bid for federal dollars which fell short in the "Race to the Top" competition, but now Governor Jim Gibbons' Blue Ribbon Task Force on education is working on suggestions that could help guide Nevada lawmakers on tough issues, like the best way to evaluate teacher performance.

Assemblywoman Debbie Smith is a member of the Task Force, and she expects the group will have some specific recommendations on hot-button education issues in time for the February legislative session.

"Whether it's rewarding great teachers' professional development, evaluation, attracting those teachers and keeping them is a big issue for us, along with then making sure that they are in the schools where they need to be."

Smith believes there is wide support for coming up with a common system that all districts in the state could use to evaluate teachers, and she says there is an appetite for pay-for-performance for teachers.

Ruben Murillo has been a special education teacher for 24 years and is the president of the Clark County Education Association. He says no single test is adequate to evaluate a teacher, and evaluations need to take into account the mix of special needs students and English Language Learner students in a particular teacher's classroom.

"I think that when we take a look at how teachers are evaluated, it has to be equitable to all, and it has to take into account all the various variables that impact the students when they come into a school."

Assemblywoman Smith says the feds were clearly impressed with the direction Nevada is headed, and the state could profit from the next round of "Race to the Top" funding. At the same time, she says, the process helped the state.

"I think most people felt that the work that the task force did was a good jumping-off point, if you will, for reform and areas that we can change education policy regardless of 'Race to the Top.'"

The Blue Ribbon Task Force includes businesspeople, parents and educators.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - NV