The Nevada Department of Education (NDE) announced Sept. 9 that Winnemucca Junior High 7th-graders demonstrated the “most dramatic gain” of any group in the state during the 2018-2019 school year on the Smarter Balanced Assessment. The school led the pack with a 7.18 percentage point increase to 45% in the English Language Arts (ELA), and a 9.27 percentage point increase in its proficiency rate to 46.25%. 

According to NDE’s press release, Humboldt was one of four other counties to show ELA percentage point gains over the previous year in ELA. The increases across the four counties are Mineral (6.62 points), Storey (3.77 points), Pershing (3.45 points), Humboldt (2.83 points) and the State Public Charter School Authority (2.53 points).

In her introductory remarks about the recognition, Dawn Hagness, the district’s assistant superintendent, said NDE wanted to know how and why this happened. “The board's commitment into putting money into curriculum, our relationship with the state, because we got some last minute grant funding, because you asked us to put together a strategic plan so that when opportunities come around we are ready to respond to it,” Hagness said. 

Hagness also said that the curriculum was intense and “unlike anything” the teachers have used before. Implementing the new curriculum required the district support teachers and administrators with professional development. “Last spring one of our teachers prior to getting the [curriculum]. All of the teachers went through training right before school started and then we had additional training during the year so there's been support along the way. Both administrators have received weekly coaching with district personnel.”

The Smarter Balanced Assessments assess English and math proficiency in grades 3-8 and high school. The assessment is administered online and is aligned to the Common Core Standards. Twelve states, including Nevada, the US Virgin Islands, and the Bureau of Indian Education administer the tests.