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