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Nevada Teacher Shortages, Solutions Discussed at AACTE Press Briefing

In advance of the 68th Annual Meeting, AACTE held a press briefing last month at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, focused on educator preparation providers’ work to address the teacher shortages in Nevada. Panelists discussed the challenges they face and innovative solutions under way to meet the urgent demand for qualified teachers in the state’s two largest counties and in both rural and urban areas.

Presented by AACTE in partnership with member institutions in the state, the briefing featured an interactive panel discussion moderated by Mark LaCelle-Peterson, AACTE senior vice president for policy and programs, with the following panelists:

  • Kenneth Coll, Dean, College of Education, University of Nevada, Reno
  • Kim Metcalf, Dean, College of Education, University of Nevada, Las Vegas
  • Dennis Potthoff, Dean, School of Education, Nevada State College
  • Thomas Reagan, Dean of Arts and Sciences, Great Basin College
  • Staci Vesneske, Former Chief Human Resources Officer, Clark County School District, on special assignment to the superintendent’s office

Panelists discussed local job market dynamics and the low marketability of teaching as a career among other factors contributing to teacher shortages and the inequitable distribution of educators.

“A growing body of research shows when millennials look at teaching, they don’t view it as a reasonable career option because they don’t want a job but a career,” Metcalf said. “They want a clear career path that gives flexibility, autonomy, and focus on education and professional growth rather than professional development.”

Vesneske shared that as the fifth largest school district in the country, Clark County actually has a higher retention rate than many other urban areas. In high-poverty areas, however, turnover is high, in part because teachers live outside those neighborhoods and want to work near where they live. In recruiting teachers from other states to fill vacancies, districts struggle to address outsiders’ perceptions on what Nevada’s urban schools and high-poverty schools are like.

The state’s colleges of education are collaborating with each other, local districts, and the state’s board for higher education to develop innovative solutions to the staffing challenges, resulting in new partnerships and pathways to prepare teachers for the classroom. Dean Reagan said Great Basin College, for example, works with local rural districts to provide course work and intensive training for individuals who want to enter the profession. Teacher candidates at Nevada State College are being prepared to obtain licenses in two or more areas to make them more flexible and marketable. The Nevada Teach program at University of Nevada, Reno, provides students options for pursuing a dual degree, which has attracted a large number of students into the program.

As states scramble to stem shortages through provisional licensing and other methods, all of the panelists urged a thoughtful approach to uphold teacher quality, evaluation considerations, and student accountability measures.

“We must have metrics for how teachers are trained and how they perform,” said Coll. “Quality has to be outcome based, and outcome metrics must be uniform for all providers.”

The press briefing was covered locally on Fox 5 News and Vegas Seven. To view a video recording of the session, visit the AACTE Learning Center.

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Jerrica Thurman

Director of Marketing & Communications, AACTE