Elementary schools in Nevada’s two largest school districts, in Clark and Washoe counties, perform at similar levels, but middle schools in Southern Nevada lag behind their northern counterparts. That’s according to an analysis by the Review-Journal on the star ratings the state will issue Dec. 15. The Review-Journal was able to assign star ratings for every elementary and middle school in Nevada ahead of the official rankings based on publicly available information released by the state Department of Education. Schools are assigned a rating of one through five stars based on how they perform on a number of factors, including student scores on state-mandated tests. A one-star school is performing poorly, while a five-star school is a high achiever. The stars serve as quick way for parents and communities to judge their schools. They also can be used to compare districts. In Washoe County, for example, 42 percent of the county’s 19 middle schools will receive four- or five-star ratings, compared with only 26 percent of Clark County’s 66 middle schools. That’s a significant difference, considering that elementary schools in the two counties stack up identically, with 36 percent of elementary schools in each — 67 in Washoe County and 218 in Clark County — earning four or five stars. Clark vs. Washoe Size and demographic differences argue against direct comparisons of schools in the two counties, said Mike Barton, CCSD’s chief academic officer. The state counts both districts as urban, but CCSD has a far larger student population and a much higher percentage of at-risk students. “It’s tough to make that comparison, but I know that gets done, so we’ve got to make the best of it,” he said. It’s not immediately clear what changes between elementary and middle school to cause the gap in Clark County. Middle school has been an area of observation for CCSD for a few years, Barton said. “There’s lot of work to be done at the middle school level with proficiency and growth,” he said. “Middle schools are complicated.” Middle schools have fewer years to measure student growth — three, as opposed to five for elementary schools — a key indicator for the state. Middle schools