Next Up Blog

Read Don Soifer’s presentation to a policy hearing chaired by Nevada State Treasurer Dan Schwartz

Augmenting Nevada’s Teacher Pipeline

“A robust policy framework would do two things: promote an intellectually demanding curriculum for all students, and enable a space in which distinctive schools (i.e., private schools, charter schools) can flourish.”

Ashley Rogers Berner, No One Way to School: Pluralism and American Public Education, 2017


Nevada’s Educational Challenge

One in five Nevada eighth graders scored at grade-level proficiency in math last year on the state’s Smarter Balanced assessment, while only two in five did so in English language arts.

Of Nevada’s graduates who go on to higher education, three in five require placement in a remediation course in reading, math or both.


More Teachers Needed, Fast!

Nevada public schools have over 1,000 vacant teaching positions each summer, varying widely across district, grades and subjects.

Enrollment in Nevada’s approved education programs has declined substantially since 2010. Even among license-ready graduates of these programs, between 10 and 16 percent choose not to teach, to teach in schools that do not require licensure, or to teach in other states.

About two-thirds of new Nevada teacher licenses are granted to teachers prepared out of state.

Nevada Consortium on the Teacher Pipeline, 2017


Ready for Growth?

Census projections indicate that Nevada will need to create more than 250,000 new seats in schools over the next decade or so.

Brookings Mountain West noted that the target industries that rely most on workers with STEM training are contributing disproportionately to Nevada’s quality job growth.


Nonpublic Schools Struggle With Hires Too

Leaders of top private and independent schools also report struggling to fill their teaching openings with the high-quality candidates they seek.

They describe Teach for America alumni as among their most coveted potential hires, a source of human capital that would allow them to expand to serve more students.


Reinforcements Coming?

Just 39 percent of UNLV undergraduates finish within 6 years, and just 46 percent at UNR do.

Brookings Mountain West

According to the U.S. Department of Education, only New York as a lower percentage than Nevada’s 18 percent of teachers in their first 5 years of experience.

Education majors scored the 4th lowest among Nevada’s 11 major career track profession requiring 4 or more years of college on ACT among 2016 graduating class. Only health administration, community, family and personal services, and visual and performing arts candidates scored lower.


Career-Switchers Welcome?

Would a Nobel Laureate in economics or math be qualified to teach in a Nevada high school?

Accomplished professionals with training and experience in their discipline must often take as many as 72 credit hours of transitional ed-school coursework as part of their ARL pathway.


More Than Compensation

When factoring net monthly income, cost of living, retirement benefits and student debt burden, teaching in Clark County compares quite favorably to other markets, including the Los Angeles Unified School District, according to one soon-to-be-published report by researchers at UNLV’s College of Education


Alternative Routes to Licensure

Nevada charter school law allows top-performing charters to seek approval as providers of Alternative Routes to Licensure, but hasn’t happened yet.


Does Requiring PERS Help?

Every public school teacher in Nevada, including charter school teachers, is required to participate in Nevada’s Public Employees’ Retirement System (PERS).

Nevada’s teacher retirement plan was graded ‘F’ earlier this year by nationally-renowned Bellwether Education Partners. Their analysis estimated that only 32 percent of Nevada teachers will break even from participating in the retirement system, and that 51 percent of the plan’s pension contributions today are going toward pension debt.

For a mid-career professional who anticipates ten years or less of teaching, being required to participate in PERS represents a daunting financial commitment.

Leaders of some top-performing charter schools express concern that this requirement harms their ability to recruit the teachers they want.


What Can Be Done?

Aggressively expand new and current opportunities for mid-career professionals via Alternative Routes to Licensure

Allow charter schools to opt out of PERS

Consider social impact bonds and other tools to reward teachers financially for successful student outcomes

Maximize government incentive programs, like the Good Neighbor Next Door programs from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, to create new incentives for teachers to live where they are needed, especially in more expensive markets like Reno.

Study and emulate successful strategies to make Nevada more attractive to teachers

Scenes from Nevada’s National School Choice Week Celebration, January 23, 2018 at Artemus Ham Hall on the Campus of UNLV.  Some 1,500 students from across the broad spectrum of educational choice, not to mention a healthy contingent of teachers, school leaders and public servants came from around the state to cheer, sing, dance for choice.  Special thank to Elissa Wahl and Karen Gray for all their tireless work making it all happen.  Can’t wait to see everybody back next year.

From the Las Vegas Review-Journal

It makes perfect sense but bears repeating: No one knows a child better than a parent. Parents can best understand their children’s moods, interests, desires, dreams and learning styles. More than any government official, no matter how well-intentioned, parents can best determine the school and curricular program that will help their sons and daughters.

Today marks the start of National School Choice Week. We celebrate a movement that has worked to empower parents and provide more personalized options to reflect students’ unique needs.

School choice comes in many forms.

Click Here to read the rest of this article.

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Nevada’s public schools already face well-documented shortages of qualified teachers across the state.  Private-school leaders, whose hires are not subject to the same certification requirements, also describe facing major challenges finding a sufficient numbers of the teaching candidates they are looking for either.  With projections consistently pointing to sustained job and population growth in both Northern and Southern Nevada, the state is likely to require as many as 250,000 new seats in schools over the next decade or so.  Which strategies hold the most promise for bolstering hiring pipelines to effective teachers?


STEM-related jobs factor prominently into Nevada’s job growth projections, making the need for strong teachers in STEM fields even more acute.


A paper published last year by educators at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas College of Education pointed out that Nevada relies heavy on teachers prepared out of state, with two-thirds of all initial teaching licenses being granted to candidates schooled outside of Nevada.  Making matters worse for teacher shortages in public schools across the state, that analysis pointed out that many of Nevada’ license-eligible education school graduates are choosing not to teach, or to teach in private schools.


It is tempting to point to salary levels for teachers as an important factor in attracting them to practicing their profession here, although salary levels do not tell the whole story.  This seems especially true when it comes to retaining teachers.  Surveys of teachers leaving their profession frequently point, for instance, to the importance of working where your professional input makes a difference.


Another recent analysis by UNLV College of Education Associate Dean Sean Mulvenon and his colleagues illustrates how, when the costs of attaining their degree are considered, along with cost of living, healthcare costs, retirement plans and taxes, living an working as a teacher in Clark County compares quite favorably to other cities, like Los Angeles.


More than 200 Teach for America corps members teaching in the Las Vegas Valley, along with another 300+ alumni, represent a valuable bright spot which can hopefully help schools keep pace with growing student populations over the next decade.  TFA corps members not only represent a crucial pool of talented teaching candidates, but school leaders across both public and private K-12 education sectors are quick to recognize TFA’s alumni as a highly sought-after group of potential master teacher and school administrator hires.


A number of current state initiatives can likely be counted on to bring some relief, like the Nevada Institute on Teaching and Educator Preparation announced last year.  Fast-track certification and alternative licensing tracks that allow career-changing professionals to become elementary and secondary teachers represent an essential direction for growth, and it will be increasingly imperative to find additional ways to support these candidates in overcoming hurdles to pursuing teaching careers.