Las Vegas Sun

October 19, 2018

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OPINION:

State must look within to solve its education problem

One of the most pressing needs of Nevada’s public education system is attracting and retaining experienced educators. Every child deserves to be placed in a classroom led by a well-qualified teacher. Despite the Clark County School District’s best recruiting efforts and additional education funds provided by the state Legislature, we still have vacant positions hitting and surpassing the triple digits. That translates to hundreds, and sometimes over a thousand, long-term substitute teachers in the classroom. Research supports the premise that teachers matter more to student achievement than any other aspect of schooling (Rand Education, 2016).

According to Educators Rising, over 60 percent of educators teach within 20 miles of where they went to high school. The statistics for Nevada are the mirror opposite. In our state, approximately 67 percent of K-12 teachers were not born or raised in Nevada and/or did not earn their teaching credentials while attending a Nevada college or university.

We have systemic issues that must be addressed: the teacher shortage, pipeline and retention. Nevada State College has developed a comprehensive and aggressive plan to simultaneously address these issues by locally growing more of the state’s teaching force. Homegrown candidates are more likely to commit to teaching long-term in Nevada and help reduce attrition.

Nevada State graduates are already making a substantial contribution to the local supply of K-12 teachers, with 80-100 fully licensed graduates per year and 90 percent accepting a teaching position in Southern Nevada. The college is positioned to dramatically increase the number of licensure-ready graduates over the next decade and become a major producer of teachers and speech-language pathologists for the state.

There are three key areas where Nevada State will expand our education programs to further help address the teacher shortage.

1. Nevada State’s Teacher Academy program works to broaden the pool of qualified individuals who can help address the teacher shortage in Nevada. The college is working directly with four CCSD high schools to identify students interested in pursuing K-12 teaching as a career pathway. The program delivers college-level education courses and courses in the core curriculum on site at the high schools. At Mojave, the Teacher Academy includes collaborative work with Nevada’s two-year colleges. Other vital components of the Teacher Academy model, which are still being constructed and implemented, include field experiences and a Summer Bridge Program between the senior year in high school and the first year of college. In addition to building stronger connections with families and communities, this program also allows Nevada State to fulfill its commitment to preparing teachers for working with second-language learners and exceptional learners.

2. Early Childhood: Nevada State is developing a bachelor of education degree with an early childhood emphasis. Nevada State is prepared to launch an innovative, inclusive Early Childhood Program that fulfills Early Childhood and Developmental Delayed Program requirements. The curriculum will be designed to ensure graduates are prepared to work with all children efficiently. Research actively demonstrates that well-designed preschool programs deliver an immediate impact: 25 years of research documented a 50 percent reduction in the school readiness gap for children in poverty. This area is especially critical for our state.

3. Speech-Language Pathology: Nevada State is establishing a master of education degree in speech-language pathology that is projected to welcome its first cohort in the fall of 2019. The college currently offers the undergraduate speech-language pathology degree and was recently unanimously approved to proceed by the board of regents. Nevada has the lowest per capita of speech language pathologists in the nation. The master’s degere is not offered at any other public institution in Southern Nevada. Nevada State projects 30 graduates a year from this program initially.

Students need a qualified educator in every classroom. An overreliance on teachers prepared outside the state has proven problematic. Nevada needs to grow more of its own teachers. Nevada State College is part of the solution.

Bart Patterson is president and Dennis Potthoffis dean of the School of Education at Nevada State College.