Nevada’s public education system, and Clark County School District in particular, is growing at a rapid rate while at the same time the nation’s teacher pool is shrinking. This exacerbates already difficult challenges for recruiting talented educators to meet the needs of the state. Additionally, many higher education institutions are unable to produce an adequate number of educators and alternative sources of teachers are not scaled to solve for all of the teacher vacancies in the state. CCSD, for example, is serving around 318,000 students, and began the school year with nearly 600 teacher vacancies. What’s worse, more than 76 percent of the open roles were at Title 1 schools, which are the very schools where we need more of our most effective teachers, not less. The district’s student population is projected to reach 320,000 by the start of the 15’-16’ school year, and the district estimates that it will need to hire nearly 2,600 new teachers in order to ensure that every classroom has a permanent teacher on day one.
Compounding the issue of teacher quantity is teacher quality – because Nevada lacks a sufficient pool of teachers to select from, it is forced to retain teachers who might otherwise be let go. As such, poor performers are not effectively exited from the system. Nevada Succeeds believes that improving the quality and competency of teachers in the classroom is an essential strategy in Nevada’s pursuit of improved student outcomes, one that is underscored by the large number of novice teachers working within the district and the underlying weakness of the local teacher workforce pipeline. Unfortunately Nevada, and Clark County in particular, has expanded in size and changed its demographics at such a rapid pace over the last two decades that the workforce pipelines necessary for the creation of a reliable pool of high quality teachers were under prioritized in favor of simply ensuring that classrooms had any instructor at all.
This rapid growth and the subsequent economic downturn in 2007 created a challenging situation for recruiting and retaining high caliber teaching talent. As of 2012-13, there were 22,584 teachers in Nevada’s schools. CCSD hired 2,312 new teachers for the 2013-14 school year. 1,241 of these teachers (57 percent) had no experience or had only substitute teaching experience prior to assuming a classroom. 51 of these new teachers were assigned to teach kindergarten at the 14 Zoom Schools, which received State funding in 2013-15 from SB 504 to provide full-day kindergarten and other services to improve outcomes for English Language Learners (ELLs). Additionally, many existing and new teachers do not have the training necessary to teach literacy to ELLs, which comprise an increasingly large part of Nevada’s minority-majority student age population.
Research indicates that quality of classroom instruction is the most important factor for student success and that novice teachers are less effective than more experienced teachers. Furthermore, Nevada has a critical need to address the growing population of ELLs. If Nevada can train and develop quality teachers who can help struggling students to excel in school, the state will likely be able to change outcomes for the next generation.