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.