Hitting it big in Clark County?


Antique Dime Slot Machine

Photo by Jan Crumpley

Dwight Jones gained a rock-star
reputation during his time at the helm of Colorado’s state education
department. (Among other things, he was the commissioner during enactment of
the Rocky Mountain State’s pioneering teacher-evaluation
legislation.) Though he hasn’t been in Clark County, NV for long (having
been lured to the nation’s fifth largest district in December), he’s already
making big moves. Last week, Jones released a dynamite education-reform
blueprint, redolent with both familiar reform elements (e.g.
performance-based pay and value-added growth modeling) and some cutting-edge
proposals. He would, for example, dramatically increase principal autonomy in
successful schools, bundling like-performing schools into “performance zones,”
each with its own level of support and oversight. “The aim is to achieve more
laserlike focus on student performance,” Jones explained. Of course, with
education’s hydra-like governance structure (district superintendents work with
teacher unions and school boards within the constructs of state and federal
legislation), no entity may make unilateral decisions. But that’s part of the
appeal and intrigue of Clark County. Jones appears to have a soulmate in Nevada
governor Brian Sandoval (though a stick-in-the-mud legislature still poses
problems in Carson City). The district's rather abrupt move from
growth-and-prosperity to population loss and budget woes makes it even more challenging--and
interesting. The slot machine wheels on education reform in Vegas are still
spinning but at least a couple of cherries have already shown up in the
little window.

Click to play

Click to listen to commentary on Jones's blueprint and Clark County from the Education Gadfly Show podcast


for school overhaul unveiled
,” by James Haug, Las Vegas Review-Journal, May 27, 2011.

didn’t get much on education
,” by Editorial Board, Las Vegas Review-Journal, June 2, 2011.