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Group unveils recommendations to fix Nevada schools

Tue, May 17, 2016 (4:02 p.m.)

A group of influential state leaders have been meeting behind closed doors for months to come up with ways to fix Nevada’s ailing schools, and today they finally revealed their findings.

The group, organized by education think-tank Nevada Succeeds and the Las Vegas Global Economic Alliance, called upon lawmakers to focus on improving teaching career progression, school leadership and school culture.

The announcement comes after seven months of workshops designed to gather state leaders to figure out solutions to Nevada’s pressing education concerns.

A long-standing complaint among education insiders has been that officials, from state lawmakers to teachers union representatives, rarely, if ever, meet one-on-one to talk about the issues.

That is partly what inspired Nevada Succeeds chief Brent Husson to spearhead the project, called “What’s Next Nevada?”

“The time for working in our silos has come and gone,” said Jonas Peterson, president of the Las Vegas Global Economic Alliance.

Drawing about 60 people from Nevada’s education, government and business sectors, the workshop session produced a list of five priorities, which the group fleshed out today.

In trying to find ways to solve Nevada’s ongoing teacher shortage, the group said teachers lack the chance to gain expertise and grow professionally. They recommended the Legislature form a task force to “design a specific career ladder” for teachers, which could include letting teachers take on roles like instructional coaches.

The group also found a lack of accountability for school principals, fueled by an ineffective evaluation system, which they called on lawmakers and officials with the Nevada Department of Education to redesign by July 2018.

When it comes to improving the culture of schools, the group’s third goal, things were more abstract. The group said reforms have a higher chance of succeeding if school districts and principals keep “a focus on outcomes” and allow staff the autonomy “to do their best work.”

Lastly, the group called on legislators to consider expanding PAR, a professional development program, as well as create a statewide version of U-Teach, a UNR program that has seen success recruiting college students to teach in high-need schools.

And while the recommendations don’t change anything in and of themselves, participants said it’s a helpful starting point going into next year’s legislative session.

“This gives us a starting point to build consensus to pass some of the recommendations,” said John Vellardita, executive director of the Clark County teachers union and leading member of the coalition.

You can see the full list of recommendations at nevadasucceeds.org/wnn.

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