Las Vegas Sun

January 27, 2015

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Where I Stand — Guest Column:

Reforms vital for Nevada education

Three high schools and two elementary schools in the Clark County School District have been designated as needing help to turn around poor performance. Starting today, the Sun, with the cooperation of the district, will chart their progress.
Also today, in partnership with the Sun, KSNV Channel 3 launches its coverage of “The Turnaround: Inside Clark County Schools” at 11 p.m. Sunday. News 3 anchor Jessica Moore will explain the project and introduce the five leaders of the turnaround schools. Starting Monday, coverage moves to “News 3 Nightly at 6,” focusing on one school each day. These schools will also be featured by the Sun throughout the week.

  • Monday: Principal David Wilson’s effort to restore “Chaparral Pride.”
  • Tuesday: The new “relationship-builder” at Mojave High, Principal Antonio Rael.
  • Wednesday: How Western High Principal Neddy Alvarez will pass on lessons learned from her father.
  • Thursday/Friday: Where many principals focus on teachers and students, Elizondo Elementary’s Keith France says his focus will be on parents. When it comes to her staff, Hancock Elementary Principal Jerre Moore says, “I don’t have three months for them to get it.”

In August, Brian Greenspun turns over his Where I Stand column to guest writers. Today’s columnist is Gov. Brian Sandoval.

With the release of this year’s No Child Left Behind accountability reports, Clark County residents were confronted with more bad news concerning our public schools. Unfortunately, a similar story was told throughout our state. Although we are all eager for changes to the federal law’s matrix, and we can acknowledge flaws in the way schools are evaluated, we cannot ignore the fact that too many of our students lag behind.

I have placed education reform at the forefront of my agenda as governor. That is why I worked with legislators from both political parties to institute systemic reforms in our schools during the recent legislative session. I am pleased that we made tremendous progress.

The comprehensive package of reforms enacted this year represents the most significant overhaul of our education system in recent memory. We passed reform bills that will not only change how we govern education and hold the system accountable, but also how we evaluate and reward educators, enhance parental choice, and encourage a new and more diverse teaching workforce.

With the passage of Senate Bill 197, Nevada governors will appoint the state superintendent of public instruction — giving direct control over education policy to the state’s chief executive for the first time in Nevada history. A new state board of education, to be constituted in 2012-13, will ensure closer coordination as well.

Educator accountability was one of the most crucial issues this session, and we responded with sweeping reforms. We have ended teacher tenure — first, by making it harder to achieve tenured status and, second, by requiring that underperforming teachers and administrators be placed on probation.

Equally as important, we have ended the practice of “last in, first out” decision-making in the event of teacher layoffs. This practice currently limits how school districts handle layoffs, but our reform package will ensure that low-performing teachers — not just new teachers — exit the system first if layoffs are necessary. As part of these reforms, we also laid the groundwork for a pay-for-performance program to reward our very best educators.

Senate Bill 212 establishes the State Public Charter School Authority, making Nevada one of only eight states to have a specific entity focused on authorizing and supporting charter schools. I intend to leverage this reform into increased choice for parents and to highlight the best practices of innovation among our charter schools. In future years, we will continue the choice conversation by revisiting school vouchers and pursuing reforms that give parents more control over their schools.

Finally, we enacted two “alternative routes to licensure” bills. These measures will make it easier for qualified professionals from other fields and other jurisdictions to join the ranks of our teaching workforce. Nevada will embark on new professional development efforts as a result of recent legislation. The Principal Leadership Institute, a public-private partnership spearheaded by the Clark County Public Education Foundation, will pave the way for improved school leadership, while efficiently leveraging scarce public resources with private contributions.

All these measures, together with many other new laws, offer the promise of opportunity to transform our public schools. Although schools and school districts must work to ensure students receive the best instruction possible, statewide efforts must build a new infrastructure for the governance and operation of our public education system. We are well on our way, but we are not finished. Closer attention to test scores, graduation rates and accountability measures will indicate if the system is responding to Nevadans’ demand for improvement.

I believe we can and must do more — and I urge all Nevadans to help build on the reform foundation we have established. Volunteer in a school. Join the Nevada chapter of StudentsFirst, Michelle Rhee’s advocacy organization that helped pass this year’s reform package. Read to your children or grandchildren. Provide a scholarship for graduating seniors. There is a role for everyone.

If we work together, we will produce a system that delivers the results our children deserve and our economy requires.

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  1. "If we work together, we will produce a system that delivers the results our children deserve and our economy requires."

    I think this gets at the crux of the column and one of the problems we face. Is the purpose of public education to produce results that are useful to the economy or something broader, such as citizens?

    The former requires an education focused on basic skill that will allow a student/citizen to train and retrain throughout his or her career to meeting the changing needs of the economy.

    The latter is more complex and difficult to assess. Much is asked of the school system that is either preparatory to achieve the above or supplemental to this end.

    When you look at the results, there appears to be a consensus that neither goal is being achieved to the extent that is necessary.

    Maybe it is time to look at the schools as a place to deliver the basics. Narrow the scope of what public education should provide to the basics in k-8 and then perhaps look at alternatives thereafter that are based on a desire of the student to achieve--whether vo-tech or chemistry.

  2. Governor Sandoval,

    You have accomplished NOTHING, save putting some political "window dressing" on the Educational problems of Nevada.

    I applaud your efforts to raise the bar...
    but you are barking up all the wrong trees.

    Your methods are aimed solely at perpetuating Republican dogma and currying political favor with constituents...
    that ain't gonna git er' done, Brian.

  3. For Brian Sandogibbons to talk about fixing education is like Casey Anthony giving a lecture on motherhood.

  4. Everyone who is NOT a teacher has great ideas about how to be a teacher.

    There is a REASON that most people have 2 or 3 children of their own. Because kids are needy and have to be nurtured. And most people I know who aren't school teachers would not last one day in my North Las Vegas classroom. If anyone would like to try - come on over to Jesse Scott Elementary and try it out. BUT I'm warning you I will be looking at your scores for the day and grading you on the 3 foot by 3 foot rubric that is used on me.

    There is a REASON that our nation still has NOT solved the problems of racism and poverty. Somehow our Governor Sandoval has now directly implied that school teachers are the root of these problems. Children are failing to live up to the rich white person standard! WOW - that's new! OOOOOO wait - that's been America's problem for a long time hasn't it! If you look at the data, the students who fail are the students who are poor, the most disadvantaged, and the minorities. DUH! Kids who comes from disadvantaged or disenfranchised minority families don't score as well as white middle class kids. Scores are poor in minority areas - who would have know! I wonder why these disenfranchised children don't score well on the white man's test? Hmmmmmm I wonder?

  5. I won't even touch the first language issues here. But I would think a Governor with the last name Sandoval - might have a clue about why kids with homes that have a second language as their primary communication might struggle in an English only environment.

    Yet, you are going to "hold the school teachers accountable" for these nationwide problems. RACISM and POVERTY and DISENFRANCHISMENT and DISADVANTAGE. After all it must be the teacher's problem if the child doesn't do as well as a rich kid in Connecticutt who got into Harvard the moment he was conceived, right?

    At a time when our state has an unemployment rate at around 14%, our good Governor would like to "fire" a few veteran school teachers - in favor of some new ones? What exactly does a new teacher have that I don't? OOOOO I guess I get paid more - maybe it's a ploy to fire skilled labor and replace with less expensive labor? I have spent decades honing my skill. I am able to handle a variety of educational skills with skill and tact. My degrees ARE valuable - no matter what the "NPRI - think tank" purchased by big money such as KOCH BROTHERS might tell you. A master's degree in education is valuable - take it from someone in the classroom, not a person receiving money to tell you teacher's have no worth.

    Big money smells - and all the research the Governor and GOP are reading from ALEC and big corporations organized to funnel money into states to destroy public education is all about bloody hands - and fired teachers.

    The Governor wants to brag in a article about getting rid of teachers? WHERE ARE ALL THE JOBS YOU PROMISED TO CREATE. Last I heard the Governor laid off several thousand and had not created one job in the state of Nevada. AND you are wasting state money hiring "cheat for scores" think tanks like Michelle Rhee's company - she's a confessed cheat and you paid her with state money for her advice. So you really weren't ever going to create anything right? Just fire a few veteran teachers to get your jollies? SHAME on you - go do something productive with your life. That is worthless.

  6. Let me tell you as a person who is actually in the classroom and has been working in schools for a few decades - veteran teachers are valuable. I love all the staff I work with, and there a real need to keep some great "older" teachers in the classroom. And dare I say, not all young new hires will be able to last. In fact most teachers quit in the first 5 years; CCSD has 75% of the teaching staff with 3 years or less of experience. Is this good for our children to ONLY have teachers with such little life skill? You want to beat up on a few more veterans? How can you be a job creator if all you have done is fire people?

    So I guess I'll start the school year looking forward to a pay cut, my district trying to take away my healthcare, my Governor bragging about plans to fire me, and I get to "mentor" the new teachers next to me - because why would anyone stay in this profession without some help. You are treating teachers like dogs, it's not fair - it's ugly.

    May God have mercy on your selfish, horrible soul. I will stand before Him one day and testify against your acts against children. SHAME, SHAME, SHAME.

  7. This whole article screams of being ghost written by Dale Erquiaga; who isn't an expert on anything but PR Spin.

    "Join the Nevada chapter of StudentsFirst, Michelle Rhee's advocacy organization that helped pass this year's reform package."
    The "StudentFirst" organization is little more than a focus group crafted name attached to a ton of failed policy; similar to the way "No Child Left Behind" effectively left every child behind.

    Michelle Rhee is a phony now just as she was when she worked in Washington, DC. The only thing she is advocating is busting up unions, taking money from rich ignorant donors, and pushing legislation that allows the governor to take credit for fake improvements while reducing education funding. All of which got her run out of her last town.

    Anyone that does a little digging on Michelle Rhee's career will quickly find out she's a snake oil saleswomen.

  8. First grade teacher,

    You are correct about language education. The research demonstrates that dual language is superior to emersion - Republicans are wrong about that.

    However, you are wrong about tenure and seniority. Much research shows (that for many reasons) teacher quality does not improve with more eduction, more money, or more years of service beyond the first 5.

    In fact in some cases veteran teachers are worse than first year teachers. Paul Peterson at Harvard showed this was true in Florida for both reading and mathematics for 4th grad and 8th grade teachers.

  9. Patrick Collins,

    Make your check out to the Friedman Foundation for Education Choice.

    For a year 7 teacher the pay jump went from 10 percent to 16 percent depending on classification. Additionally the max steps was decreased from 16 to 14 years meaning teachers could max out more quickly (more money, plus getting the more money more quickly).

  10. PS,

    base pay for first year teachers ranged from 12 percent increase to 19.1 percent increase depending on classification.

    (Patrick Collins, aka CMON) bet $1,000 to the charity of my choice that I couldn't prove CCSD teachers recieved a pay increase during the recession).

  11. Mr. Lamy, do you ever notice your posts come with a distinct lack of factual sources. I mean seriously...have you heard of citing sources? LOL.

    Btw, I've notified my friends at Friedman to look for your check - they won't hold their breath.

  12. Joe Lamy makes up 99.73568 and 1/4 percent of all his facts. :)

  13. btw, Joe, if you look at teacher salaries across states you have to adjust for years of experience....older teachers make more and younger teachers make less. States with teachers who are just a few years younger than the average will have a statistically significant pay difference between others.

    This would also effect the percentage increase over a decade.

    Knowing how all this works would make you look like less of an ass. ;)

  14. During our past election we did away with our Hawaii Board of Education panel and have finally placed the accountability in the hands of our most recent elected Governor. This will help to minimize all the hands that stir the pot concerning our state's educational system. We had the legislature who held the purse strings, a state wide District Superintendent, a Board of Education panel and last of all the bullying HSTA teachers union themselves.

    Sadly, Hawaii itself ranks among one of the lowest in the nation based on academic scores and has for the past twenty years. Although I'm not always in agreement with our Governors policies at this time, he has finally laid down the law concerning the most recent teachers contracts by standing his ground when it came to the states "last, best and final offer" in which the union is now bringing this issue before Hawaii's labor board.

    I'm bringing this up because I think your Governor is trying to past the buck by electing a new state board of education in hopes of avoiding and taking any responsibility for your states educational system. From Hawaii's past experience with our own BOE, you've just increased the pool of players when it comes to who will be held accountable and "who do we point the finger at next" when test scores continue to plummet within your state.