Education Career Pathways
Rationale: There is a tendency to focus on short-term or stopgap solutions to raise the standard of academic achievement in Nevada’s public schools. However, Nevada Succeeds knows, based on research and investigation, that the only way to do this in the long term is to create a sustainable increase to the aggregate amount of quality teaching in Nevada.
We know that students succeed at an exponentially higher rate when taught by high-quality educators who are committed to the profession. In fact, research has proven that teachers are the number one in-school determinant of student success; they have an outsized impact on kids in the classroom over any other factor in a school. As with any profession, we are more likely to attract and retain these candidates to the education field if there are clear pathways to move up based on their individual talent and skills.
This project will ensure we are able to attract and retain the best educators in the nation to our public schools.
Goals: To work with education professionals (teachers, principals/administrators, support professionals, other licensed educational personnel) to develop and design individual and interconnected career ladders that work together in a collaborative way and in a way that values and leverages the expertise and nuance in each role and job.
Our research has shown that to attract and retain teams of quality educators we must put in place the policies and systems that support their development. Since we know this, we must honestly evaluate the system we have in place to ensure we have effective educators working with and teaching Nevada’s students.
Through our own evaluation as well as in consultation with the Nevada Department of Education, current teachers, and other stakeholders we’ve learned that we need to look at how we license and credential educators, not just teachers, to ensure that every student has the greatest opportunity for having a skilled and effective educator. The policy solutions our research has shown will help ensure that licensure is meaningful include:
Better defined standards for licensure to align with needed expertise in a team of educators
Elevated Educator Preparation Program (EPP) standards - how we expect educators to be prepared and what that will mean for the type of EPP programs we certify to operate in our state and how preparation should impact licensure. We know what effective programs can look like, we need to use this knowledge to our advantage.
Expanded Peer Assistance and Review for all educators
Statewide, aligned Professional Growth Systems
Summary: When discussing education in Nevada, the conversation usually splinters into one of a handful of topics. Leading the charge are funding, school choice, test scores, accountability and standards. While these topics are all important and impactful, focusing on them solely will not result in the types of increases in student achievement in our state that we hope to see.
The commonly discussed “solutions” make the mistake of focusing on the immediate problems rather than the systemic solution. Great charter schools provide opportunity for some kids, but in the long run just pull teaching talent from the available pool. More funding helps in certain situations, but if not spent well it becomes another issue for spending opponents to use against our public school system during campaigns and elections. A push to raise test scores can create a sense of urgency in the short-term, but ultimately fades as newer initiatives take the forefront. None of these solutions, or the bevy of others like them, will lead to the long-term, sustained increase in our student achievement that we need to solve our education crisis. The simple reality is that when all students have an effective, quality teacher in front of them, regardless of the outside factors, they excel.
To maximize the effectiveness of educators they must have career pathways that allow them to advance in ways that encourage their talents and skills while building their capacity in the instances they are lacking. To put it simply, the system must align educators’ self-interests with the interests of the system.
Teachers who stay in the job 8 years or more are our most effective educators and not only lead students to greater heights but become mentors and leaders among newer staff, which leads to less turnover and higher-achieving schools overall. Strong and varied career pathways lead to greater job satisfaction and therefore better retention of good teachers, while offering opportunities for our best teachers to stay in the classroom rather than leaving to become administrators simply because that is the only available path to greater opportunity.
While we can facilitate this design work, the bulk of the input on how this should be designed must be done by the professionals themselves to ensure the buy-in and commitment from the group as a whole. To ensure success, this project must be created for and by educators, which is why we went to great lengths to ensure the participation of teachers, administrators and support professionals, and other licensed educational personnel with varied experiences and expertise. We bring together more than 40 education professionals to drill-down on actual strategies for professionalizing the education profession. Each of the 4 groups meets every other week to work through a six-step change-design process.
Impact to Students: Nevada spends 45% of our state tax dollars on education and 90% of those dollars go to the human talent in our school districts. While there is a large focus on the other 10% of the equation which includes things like testing, accountability and school choice efforts, Nevada Succeeds knows that without effectively leveraging our human capital our schools cannot succeed.
The single most important variable to ensuring students learn and achieve are the teachers in the school. This project will attract, develop and retain more teachers to serve in our state and support them in guiding our students to high academic achievement. Ultimately, this work will impact all educators in the state of Nevada because the recommendations for systems-level policy solutions will impact all educators, including not just teachers but administrators, other licensed personnel, and support professionals.
When education professionals are presented with career pathways that support them and allow for their growth, student achievement skyrockets. Not only will we attract high-quality teachers into our schools, we will lose far fewer teachers who are currently exiting the system because of a lack of growth opportunities and support systems. As such, this project will ensure that our students have high-quality, committed teachers in every classroom.
Next Steps: The initial design work and recommendations are currently being presented to other stakeholders within the Department of Education, the Nevada Legislature, the Clark County School District and the broader Clark County community. The goal is to develop consensus around implementation of the recommendations during the next legislative session. This project is essentially making recommendations about, in many cases, changing very traditional components of the profession, and, while we are very optimistic, we know good systemic change can take time. We certainly see our policy approach as a phased-in approach and one that will take time, but we must think systemically now or we will continue to have the same conversations about why our students aren’t succeeding in 5 years, 10 years, and beyond.