Saturday, July 28, 2012 | 2 a.m.
Despite some gains in student achievement, Las Vegas has been named the worst city in the nation for education, according to two rankings released this week.
Parenting Magazine came out with a list of the top 10 worst cities for education in America in 2012. Topping that list is Las Vegas, which was dinged for its schools’ high pupil-to-teacher ratio and a lower-than-average per-pupil funding.
The magazine, which has a circulation of more than 2 million readers, cited the recession as a cause for Las Vegas’ low education ranking. The Clark County School District was recently downgraded by two Wall Street credit-rating agencies, complicating the district’s plans to address $5.3 billion in school maintenance needs, the magazine said.
The Baltimore-based children’s reach group Annie E. Casey Foundation also released its 22nd annual Kids Count data book, which ranks states on a variety of factors, including education. The foundation worked with UNLV to determine the rankings.
According to the foundation, Nevada ranks 50th in the nation in education despite improving in several key indicators.
Joining Nevada in the bottom five states for education are Arizona, West Virginia, Mississippi and New Mexico. The top states for education are Massachusetts, New Jersey, Vermont, New Hampshire and Connecticut.
Three-quarters of Nevada’s fourth-graders are not proficient in reading, and 71 percent of eighth-graders are not proficient in math, according to Kids Count. Furthermore, 44 percent of Nevada’s high school students don’t graduate on time, the report found.
Although Nevada’s dropout rate declined slightly, the Clark County School District — the state’s largest school district — saw its dropout rate increase to 4.8 percent from 4.5 percent in 2009-10, the latest year of statistics available.
Black and Hispanic males are the most likely to drop out, especially in their senior year, according to Kids Count. Nationally, the dropout rate hovers around 7 percent, according to federal statistics.
Las Vegans’ opinions of public education in Nevada are in line with the findings of the rankings released this week, according to a UNLV survey conducted in 2011.
More than three-fourths of the 682 survey respondents believe that the quality of education in Nevada’s public schools is “a big problem” or “somewhat of a problem.”
More than half of the respondents thought increasing teachers’ pay based on merit instead of seniority would help improve the quality of education in Las Vegas, according to the UNLV poll. Other popular ideas include reorganizing high schools into smaller campuses and adding full-day kindergarten, according to the poll.