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October 22, 2014

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Two reports find Las Vegas to be worst city in the nation for education

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Steve Marcus

U.S. Under Secretary of Education Martha Kanter delivers a keynote address during the Department of Defense (DoD) Worldwide Education Symposium and Expo at the MGM Conference Center Wednesday, July 25, 2012.

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.

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  1. "But if i was well off and had my kids in private school while living in a private community, why should i care about Las Vegas public schools?" - Markey

    You should care very much, those students are going to be voters, and they out-number you.

  2. Nevada's politicians fund their priorities. They don't fund education. Therefore, education is NOT one of their priorities. Remember this when you go to vote for the candidate that "supports education," even though they refuse to fund it.

  3. As long as education is forced, not chosen; and as long as the unions run it; it will never be successful. At current, the public school system is nothing more than public funded babysitting. Kick out the union, hire teachers as independent, licensed professionals, fire the administrators, and demand accountability from the students . . education should be a privilege, not a mandate.

  4. "...education should be a privilege, not a mandate." - blister8

    You're kidding, right?

    That is the second comment in about two hours that has tempted me to post something that should immediately be removed by the moderator.

  5. And for these we are wasting $ TWO BILLION every year. $1,000 more per kid per year than Arizona where they get graduates who can read and write.

  6. Oh, puleeeze! "We don't spend enough on education." What rot! If money was all the mattered, there'd be no more poverty, homeless or need for food stamps. We pour money down the drain like it's inexhaustible and hope things work out! And, do they? Absolutely not! Despite zillions, poverty rises ever year and the public school system in the USA gets worse! Comparing LV schools to others throughout the nation is liking comparing an apple with a worm in it to one that is rotten to the core - they both stink - and that's true of the public school system. It's an abject failure and has been for decades. Long ago, the public school system veered off course when "progressives" took control and began their insane agenda of indoctrinating rather than educating. Who cares if "Heather has Two Mommies" if the the students "graduate" without being able to read, write, add, subtract, multiply & divide? Who cares about "feeling-good-about-yourself" after "graduating" without the basic skills to compete in the work place? My answer? Condemn every public school as hazardous to the futures of the children forced into them and close them. Attach the funds for education to the student and let them attend any school their parents deem suitable and capable. Take politics and agendas out of the equation and do it now!

  7. Not a surprise. It doesn't benefit casinos to have our young people educated. Keep them dumb and ready to meet the demands of the service industry.

  8. When you read comments from the likes of Fink...

    Those hateful, vile diatribes, you begin to unnerstand the unnerpinnings of what keeps Nevader from suckseeding in Edumackashun.

    Those that continue to defend the lack of support & funding for our schools with lies & deceit (brainwashed by propagandists like Sheldon Adelson's NPRI) need to be exposed for the FRAUDS that they are.

    A NATIONAL EMBARRASSMENT...
    CCSD'S School Board members should resign en-masse, post-haste, & take their latest Superintendent with them.

    Parents...
    That's where this ALL COMES UNRAVELED, at it's core.

  9. With teacher cuts over the years, making a higher student to teacher ratio, I can understand that children get less and less attention and will suffer when their needs aren't able to be meet by their inundated teachers. And to speak of the teachers, how do you think they're coping with possible job loss with school vs union issues? The teachers are stressed out about pay and job security, maybe they're becoming less engaged and more checked out? Like so many American's they face job insecurity and it can reflect in their job performance.

    I would like to applaud the teachers who were featured in a recent article who went through extra educator classes during their summer vacation. Despite challenges some people continue to improve themselves to do a better job, and I can only commend their efforts and hope the school district looks at more efforts to improve.

  10. Why would we fund a failing schools system that is more corrupt than our government?

    The Progressive achievements include the 6th worst place to do business in the country, the 6th most vacant city in the country. They renamed Prostitutes, Sex workers.

    There are many reasons and one good solution to all of these problems. But the answer is more than progressives who live on the blood of others can bear to hear.

  11. Let me play Devils Advocate. If you spend billions Educating our young people, where will they find Jobs? California! So why spend the Money when Service Sector Industries only need Obedient Low Skill Workers?

    This Points to the Need for the NATIONAL Department of Education Standards - someone to CRAM the Right to a Quality Education for Every Student down Every Politicians Throat. And No, Money Will not Fix everything. Educators, Politicians, Parents and Students must be held Accountable, yet resources must be available.

    And wouldn't you know it, Dean Heller is opposed to the Department of Education - Always Looking to see where HIS next Dollar is coming from and forgetting the students - other than sloganeering.

  12. I wouldn't place any import on the Parents magazine rating if as suggested in this article their main criteria is tax dollars spent. This is of value primarily to those who receive the dollars in salary. If the schools are safe and healthy but have maintenance and replacement needs that aren't being met that is a concern that needs to be addressed but not one that necessarily affects learning and the quality of education.

    The other report that cites more pertinent criteria such as graduation rates, math and reading scores is one that is likely to be truly indicative of deficiencies.

    We want to graduate all our children with none left behind. But, we also need to recognize that in some cases drop out rates are in part a result of cultural and social factors that cannot be controlled by the schools. Examining how our graduates rank against the national average will tell us more about the quality of education than the number of drop outs. Not being able to motivate some to stay in school is heart breaking but not a good indicator of the quality of education received by those who do.

    I believe that Las Vegans are willing and ready to take steps to improve the quality of education received by our students and the outreach efforts to those most inclined to drop out if tax payers are convinced that the efforts and means asked for are those that will affect the students and not merely the usual request to throw money at the problem.

    Student achievement is what we need to concentrate on, not paying more for seniority and union officials who I would say hurt student achievement. If seniority is to be rewarded it should be rewarded a case by case for those who create a level of student achievement and who bring innovative and creative ways to get results to the classroom and the district. As we have seen in other public employee areas, high pay on a national ranking doesn't guarantee a level of performance equal in ranking.

    When the teachers union provides a unifying force instead of divisive one, when they protect the best teachers over those who show up the longest and when they have the students and communities interest over their own, then, the community can be asked for more. Not just because they ask for it, that won't fly anymore.

  13. The parents of these soon to be janitors, as well as the rest of the state are paying for results. Well, we got 'em. Now what? Some heads must roll. No more excuses. How can educators complain about their pay with results like these?

    It seems to me that that the school district is run by the most incompetent people in the state. It's blatantly obvious that tax money is wasted on the entire system. They have failed. Is there any evidence to the contrary?

    But let's not blame everything on the lazy, inefficient, slack-jawed idiots that are in charge of framing the future of this country by providing it with uneducated, credulous fools that are only suitable for manual labor. Parents have been aware of the problem for years and they should take some responsibility for properly educating their children. It should be clear at this point that the state cannot do what our tax dollars are paying them to do.

  14. I'm NOT a bit surprised !!!

  15. No surprize here. What do you need schools for to work in a casino ??

  16. Commenters here in the Las Vegas Sun have made it very clear that they value a population that is well educated. Also, Tanker1975 brings it all home with the final question, "How can you put students first, if you put teachers last?" as posited in his post:

    "By Tanker1975,July 28, 2012, 12:30 p.m.

    Recommend It is time to stop playing the blame game. You know, it's the teacher's fault. No, it's the parents fault. No, it's the union's fault. No, it's the districts fault. How about its everybody's fault. NOW, HOW DO WE FIX THE PROBLEM? It's not the blame game.

    For some reason, people think that getting rid of seniority for teachers is education reform. Changing the teacher evaluation system is education reform. NEWS FLASH, it's not.

    Why do we have a school calendar that gives students three months off during the summer? Does any other industrialized nation have a similar schedule? The answer is NO!! Our calendar dates back to the 1850's so kids could work on the farms.

    Why is the school year only 180 days? No other industrialized country has a school year that short. Most other countries have years of at least 200 days.

    Most other countries treat their teachers as valued members of the society, not like the teachers here are treated.

    The problem is that these reforms will cost money. Are you willing to put money into true education reform, or just lip service?

    How can you attract businesses to Nevada with an education system that is last in the nation?

    I have a question for you to answer, and hopefully you will understand it. How can you put students first, if you put teachers last?"

    It is an absolute joy for teachers to have students in their classes that not only want to learn, but are more than willing to do whatever it takes to learn, along with the active parental/family support towards outstanding achievement leading to lifelong successes.

    Blessings and Peace,
    Star

  17. The information in this article does not come as a surprise to anyone who has been a parent of a CCSD Middle School or High School student.

    As a taxpayer and parent/grandparent of CCSD students, my solution is simple: Close ALL of CCSD's Middle Schools and High Schools. It would be no great loss, in that the schools at that level are completely disfunctional, in reality acting as wildly over-priced babysitters of pre-teens and teens, nothing else.

    During that year of "closed schools" have the Legislature enact a voucher program so that the students can attend private schools and magnet schools if they so choose. The amount of the voucher should be 100% of the "per head" funding of CCSD, this year, at the middle school and high school level.

    If CCSD's self-centered, inept, indifferent teachers want to continue to receive a paycheck, let them compete for students and improve the quality of service they deliver.

    Of course, shutting down the CCSD schools and then using vouchers to force the public school teachers to compete and be excellent in delivering "services" is a mere fantasy, because in reality the Legislature is controlled by Democrats who are owned lock, stock and barrel by the public employee unions.

  18. First, I'd like to point out that the article says "Las Vegas" schools when in fact Las Vegas is only one part of Clark County. So whether the authors at Parent Magazine dis-aggregated the data or whether they just don't know Clark County isn't 100% Las Vegas is something to ponder.

    Second, they then jump to stats saying 25% of Nevada students aren't proficient in reading. Hmmmm. On July 3rd CCSD test scores were published. 70% of 4th graders WERE proficient in reading. In order for Nevada as a state to have a 25% proficient rate, the other 16 school districts would have to have a combined 22% pass average. Same for math. CCSD in 2012 has 73% of 4th graders proficient. The other 16 districts would have to have a combined 26.25% pass average for the state to only have 29% proficient as reported in the article.

    Since, the other 16 school districts have not scored that low in that past years, I highly doubt they did this year.

    Finally, I keep hearing people compare school years to other countries and our summers. When comparing the length of the year between countries it's important to take into consideration the vacation days built into the year. For example, most European countries start school around the end of August and finish in the beginning of July. On the surface it looks longer... however their Christmas break is longer, they have a "fall" holiday of 1-2 weeks usually around October, a winter break in February of about 1-2 weeks, and Spring break that is 2 weeks. They are actually in school either 180 days or really close (184, 182...).

    Additionally, vouchers and merit pay do not increase student achievement. "87 percent of children under age 6 with parents who have less than a high school degree -- 2.7 million -- live in low-income families" (nces) and with math and reading scores the lowest in kindergartners from households below the poverty level..... this is where the issue is. Students who enter school 2-3 years behind their peers- stay behind without changes in the household. Without parents providing experiences, talking to their children, reading with their children the academic gap will never fully close.

  19. If California had a PERS system like Nevada's, California wouldn't be in their current situation. It usually helps to actually research the 2 systems if you are going to compare them.

    NV PERS:
    -Over 80% of an individual member's retirement benefit is funded from investment earnings

    -The fund is invested in over 5,000 securities to
    ensure any individual asset will not have an undue influence on total portfolio risk. The rebalancing system is utilized to keep the portfolio in-line with its policy targets. As of March 31, 2012, total assets were $26.3 billion.

    -Since 1984 (PERS' performance inception date), the PERS' fund has generated a 9.4% net return

    -PERS' return ranks in the top 25% and risk ranks in the bottom 25% versus large public pension funds. PERS' risk profile is one of the lowest among state pension plans for long term periods, and the fund ranks in the top 13% in terms of risk/return efficiency since inception.

    Please stop referencing California as your comparison. Just because they can't invest properly, doesn't mean NV can't. Additionally, just because there is an ASSUMED 8% return for projection estimates, doesn't mean that NV actually HAD an 8% return.

    CA is in the trouble they are in because years ago they tried to make a quick million and lost a bunch of retirement money. Their investment wasn't tied to a strategy and set in policy, and the money wasn't protected from greedy politicians hands who used it to balance a budget (that never balanced).

    NV PERS IS protected by law, and no matter how many times Sandoval tries to change that to take our money, he can't. If he ever succeeds in changing that law, teachers won't be the only ones paying more.

  20. Not one reasonable thinking person should be surprised. What can you expect from a town that lionizes mobsters with a museum and youngsters are taught that decent jobs are bartenders, cocktail waitresses and dealers?

    In general there is a dumbing down of our entire educational system and we will pay dearly in the near future. Those of you whining about unions and salaries are being misdirected because of your bias, while third world nations surpass us in math and the sciences. No one, repeat, no one, goes into teaching thinking they will be well paid. They teach because they love children and teaching.

  21. Why would spending per pupil be a measure of academics? That's like determining who wins a basketball game by asking who spent the most on shoes. Measuring by drop out rate and test scores makes sense, spending per pupil doesn't.

  22. Nevada is not bad at funding K-12. The state pays per pupil based on count day AND the sales tax is sent directly to the schools WITHOUT moving through any state budget account--so this amount is not counted when comparing funding with other states. NOT APPLES TO APPLES. Nevada ranks right in the middle of the states, varying from 23rd to 29th or so when we count ALL SOURCES OF TAXPAYER FUNDING. Now if you add in the endless property tax bond issues, we'd be close to the top 10. And with all this money, they can't manage to teach the little darlings how to read and write, in grade school, before they've developed discipline problems. And later those discipline problems are in large part due to TEACHER EXAMPLES--teachers bullying kids, inconsiderate to rude teachers, teachers embarrassing shy students... Now there are many good teachers but there are many that are not. Perhaps we need to end all the steps to higher pay for longevity / seniority and pay entry level teachers a bit more, while paying the older guys a bit less....

  23. This fact will be and issue for the Nevada Development Authority to explain to companies interested in moving here. Where is the Governor's leadership: making certain that foreign mining syndicates can remove minerals from Nevada with the least possible expense.

    Brian Sandoval actually supports public education, but in other countries. Barrick Gold pays about 1% of it's income from Nevada in State taxes, then takes the rest back to Toronto and pays Canadian taxes which are much higher. This is why Canadian Schools perform so much better and their children are much better educated than those in Nevada.

    Canadians also have an unbeatable health care system that doesn't create bankruptcies because of medical care.

    Over 400 US Banks have failed since 2008 while NONE have failed in Canada.

    The wealth of an average American family was $126,400 in 2007 but dropped to $77,300 in 2010. The massive economic failure since 2008 is home grown, created by the privileged who pass their losses on to the public so that the financial industry can "operate more efficiently".

    Mitt Romney wants to lay off more teachers, police and firemen. He wants to downsize the Goverment. Think carefully in November. Nevada Real Estate can still take another tumble and the State economy, jobs, banks and education will have to pay the price.

  24. Again I repeat the unofficial motto of Nevada: We're Not Mississippi! For shame.