It's no surprise that our schools need help. While Nevada has "made progress" in improving educational policies, we need districts that would help with teacher evaluations, classroom effectiveness, tenure and compensation. In our state, seniority still plays a large roll in deciding upon layoffs, leaving effective teachers 'at risk."
We have some phenomenal schools and many excellent teachers; we have dedicated administrators that do their best to juggle budgets and the needs of their schools. But we still have far too many under-achieving students in our state.
Parents need more useful information regarding school and teacher performance, and Students First feels that more charter schools should be established, since they have been proven to provide the best education possible for children. Low-income students should be assisted by establishing a publicly funded opportunity scholarship program so that they can attend prime schools.
Our state should "continue to strengthen state authority to intervene in low-performing schools and should free teachers locked into the existing outdated pension system by offering more attractive, portable retirement options." In other words, teachers need to have retirement options available to them, so they can choose the right time to retire without penalty.
On a positive note, the report card goes on to state that "in 2011, Nevada elevated the teaching profession in the state by adopting meaningful evaluations for teachers, reforming tenure, and requiring districts to link compensation and performance for both teachers and administrators. This system will enable districts to identify and reward effective educators, and it provides a basis for future reforms". This should give us hope.
<from the report>
- Nevada has made significant strides to elevate its teachers and principals, and it must continue efforts to ensure effective educators are identified, retained, and rewarded by districts. Nevada requires districts to evaluate teachers meaningfully. Student growth plays a significant role in evaluations, however, some key measures are lacking from both teacher and principal evaluations. The state developed a robust performance-pay system, which will be implemented statewide by 2014. While performance is tied to tenure and dismissal for probationary teachers, seniority is permitted to drive personnel decisions. Further, Nevada has neglected to invest in recruiting top teaching talent through high-quality alternative certification programs. If Nevada wants to strengthen its teaching corps, it must treat them like the professionals they are by strengthening its evaluations and using teacher effectiveness to drive recruitment, placement, and layoff decisions.
- Families should have the information and access they need to provide a quality education for their children, and no student should be forced to attend a low-performing school or be taught by a low-performing teacher. In order for Nevada to empower parents, the state should require an A-F letter grading system for schools based on student achievement data, ensure parents consent if a student is placed with an ineffective teacher, and grant parents the power to petition local school districts to turn around chronically failing public schools. Additionally, the state must ensure charter school growth is unrestricted yet have stronger accountability measures in place to ensure these schools are raising student achievement. Finally, Nevada can facilitate additional school choice options by creating a publicly financed scholarship program that allows low-income students in chronically failing public schools to attend private schools.
- Nevada permits staffing and spending flexibility because it allows management alternatives and does not mandate class-size limits past the third grade. However, Nevada should strengthen its ability to ensure that resources are being spent wisely and that districts are focused on improving student outcomes. Nevada should allow for mayoral control of poor-performing districts and state control of poor-performing schools and districts to drive turnaround efforts with urgency. To enhance transparency and accountability and promote data-driven decisionmaking, Nevada should require districts to link spending to academic achievement and allow governance changes when resources are mismanaged. Additionally, to ensure that all teachers have career flexibility and retirement security, Nevada should move to a fully portable retirement plan.
What does this mean? Simply that we need more than one district to determine the needs of our students. We need controls in place to ensure that our teachers are secure both within the work place and into retirement. Our state schools need to be accountable, and all parents need to receive valuable aid and assistance as well as information where their child's school is concerned. Failing children need options to help them succeed, whether it's scholarships, grants, options or additional help. Teachers have to be treated as professionals within their field and this may well mean recruiting new successful educators as well as retaining teachers who have proven their effectiveness, rather than basing job security on seniority. Class size is a factor in performance and success, and this issue has to be addressed.
Nevada teachers need to be empowered, administration needs to be held accountable, parents need information and our children need the opportunity to learn. This is the bottom line.