In response to the need to provide equitable world-class education for all students, the Nevada legislature has, in each biennial session since
1997, passed legislation that focuses on improving education. In addition, Nevada school districts have taken action to implement the legislation through changes in instructional design, school design and professional development.
Nevada districts have begun to focus on 21st century teaching and earning through the Secondary School Improvement Leadership Network. This organization of state and district central office leaders supports cross-district communication and systemic processes for planning for a 21st century education system.
A collaborative project is currently underway to engage Nevada Department of Education (NDE) content standards leadership representatives and Career Technical Education (CTE) leadership representatives. The goal is to provide guidance for revising standards in a consistent way to identify congruent points among CTE and academic content standards. The project will produce useful insight and guidance on how to revise standards and draw on past NDE staff experience working with content stakeholders to revise standards. The project is the initial step in addressing how to identify and define student outcomes, as well is how to assess those outcomes.
As part of its culture of continuous improvement, the NDE has traditionally engaged in a collaborative process of standards revision within the discrete content disciplines. Expanding on this process, refining it to fuse the three Rs and the four Cs (such as critical thinking and problem solving, communication, collaboration and creativity and innovation), and supporting interdisciplinary curricular design will provide a productive engagement with stakeholders. Working collaboratively with stakeholder representatives will help encourage standards revisions that anticipate student outcomes and in turn, influence improvement planning. The timeline, expectations and activities related to the revision of Nevada content standards will be influenced by the outcomes of the Common Core Standards project, an initiative engaging several states including Nevada. Ultimately such revisions and the related planning for 21st century contexts impacts at the most important leverage points: classroom practice and student engagement.
Nevada’s consideration of the issues and concerns related to assessment and its role in supporting curriculum and instruction to produce 21st century outcomes will initially focus on secondary schools. Assessment drives practice; but a new interpretation of assessment is needed to drive new priorities. The role of the NDE as gatekeeper of multiple measured outcomes is still to be determined. While in the past there have been NDE initiatives that support classroom assessment for learning, the role of such authentic assessment is not clearly supported by current state assessments, nor is there generalized consensus among Nevada school districts.
As a major step forward, the NDE has been working on the Depth of Knowledge initiative, a project that supports the infusion of greater rigor and relevance into assessments and, consequently, into curriculum and instruction. The initiative seeks to integrate higher cognitive demand into assessment and instructional planning. In addition, Nevada aims to assess 21st century work- and college-readiness by defining work- and college-readiness and agreeing systemically on the related outcomes for student success.
Nevada’s approach to improving professional development will be informed by the work of the College-Readiness Taskforce, which will define college-and career-ready for the 21st century, and describe the related student outcomes.
Professional learning must not only become more focused, but it must be planned and implemented in harmony with all professional learning support systems. The elements of the professional learning system include educator pre-service, licensure, ongoing in-service and evaluation. The process of aligning these systems will be a lengthy one, and will be the responsibility of a collaborative stakeholder group made up of K-12 leaders and leaders from the Nevada University System and the system of community and vocational institutions.
The Regional Professional Development Programs (RPDPs), the Secondary Schools Improvement Leadership Network (SSILN) and the District Curriculum Directors Network will all share responsibility for communicating these focuses. The Newton Network--a website that serves and supports Nevada’s teachers through providing contacts and information--will serve as the central reference resource for expected student learning outcomes, as well as a repository for curriculum and assessments.