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Partnership started to curb teacher shortages, increase diversity

A new partnership has formed to increase the diversity and the number of “licensure-ready teachers” that complete the teacher preparatory programs through Nevada’s higher education system on an annual basis.

The Nevada System of Higher Education and the Nevada Department of Education are partnering to expand the number and diversity of teachers in the state through an NSHE Teacher Pipeline Task Force, according to a press release.

“NSHE is completely committed to growing the pipeline of diverse teacher candidates in our system,” said NSHE Chancellor Melody Rose in the release. “We have a vested interest in providing high-quality teachers to prepare college- and career-ready high school graduates who enroll in our institutions.”

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jhone Ebert said in the release, “We know that the quality of a teacher is the No. 1 in-school factor contributing to student success. I want to thank Chancellor Rose and our partners across NSHE for their willingness to address barriers so we can better meet the demand for effective teachers who represent the diversity of our state.”

The number of students graduating on an annual basis from NSHE institutions is fewer than 900; this includes those individuals from non-traditional and traditional teacher preparation programs. This compares to an attrition rate of 2,300 teachers leaving employment on an annual basis from Nevada school districts; this is for retirement and other reasons.

“These departures do not account for persistent teacher vacancies, which bring the annual demand for new teachers to above 3,000,” the state’s education department release states. “As a result of Nevada’s chronic teacher shortages, 87 percent, or 374,424 – students in Nevada were in a larger-than-recommended class size during the 2019-20 school year.”

Gov. Steve Sisolak offered encouraging words on the new task force.

“I want to thank Superintendent Ebert and Chancellor Rose for partnering to address Nevada’s teacher shortage. The need to fill teacher vacancies is not just an education issue – it is a workforce issue and an economic issue,” Sisolak said in a press release. “My office recently released the ‘Every Nevadan Recovery’ Framework, which prioritizes the funding the state will receive from the American Rescue Plan to help address the effects of COVID-19. The Task Force’s mission is critically important to the future of our state, and I look forward to the results of their efforts.”

On the diversity plane, the self-reported race/ethnicity of Nevada’s teachers does not reflect the demographics of students in the state, according to the state’s education department.

“While only 28% of Nevada’s students identify as white, 81% of Nevada’s teachers self-identify as white,” the education department’s release states.

The balance across the U.S. is also tilted, where 50% of the pre-K-12 students identify as young people of color; though 82% of the current teacher workforce is “by societal definitions,” white, the education department’s release states.

“Increasing the diversity of Nevada’s teacher workforce is not an aspiration, but rather it is integral to efforts to address educational inequity,” the state’s education department says. “Improving teacher diversity benefits all students, as teachers of color are positive role models for students, breaking down stereotypes and preparing students to participate and succeed in a dynamic global society.”

With all this data, Chancellor Rose and Superintendent Ebert are launching the NSHE Teacher Pipeline Task Force.

“The Task Force will leverage the data, research, and recommendations from prior efforts as a foundation from which to take urgent action,” a release states. “The work of the Task Force will invite NSHE institutions to collectively rise to the challenge of expanding the number and increasing the diversity of licensure-ready pre-K-12 teachers who complete traditional and non-traditional teacher preparatory programs annually.”

Contact Editor Jeffrey Meehan @ jmeehan@pvtimes.com

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