March 05, 2021
NOTE: The analysis will be presented at the meeting of the Commission on School Funding taking place today beginning at 9:00am which can be watched via livestream. The agenda can be found here.
CARSON CITY, Nev. – The Nevada Department of Education today released a report titled “Nevada Class Sizes: A Comprehensive Review” in conjunction with this month’s meeting of the Commission on School Funding. The report informs the Commission’s ongoing work to recommend an optimal level of funding for Nevada’s education system.
Senate Bill 543 (2019) charges the Commission with reviewing per pupil funding amounts and making recommendations to create an optimal level of funding for the public schools in Nevada. If the Commission makes a recommendation regarding funding education that would require more money to implement than was appropriated in the immediately preceding biennium, the Commission must also identify a method to fully fund the recommendation within ten years after the date of the recommendation. The Commission’s March agenda also includes a continuation of prior conversations regarding potential revenue sources for education.
The report authored by Data Insight Partners reviews data on the class sizes and access to experienced teachers that students have at different grade levels disaggregated by race/ethnicity and Nevada School Performance Framework star ratings. Key findings are as follows:
- Students who identify as Black/African American or Hispanic/Latino have significantly less access to experienced teachers compared to their peers who identify as white or Asian.
- Students attending 1- and 2-star schools have significantly lower access to experienced teachers than those attending 3-, 4-, and 5-star schools.
- Despite slightly smaller class sizes experiences by students in 1- and 2-star schools, research says the class size difference is not large enough to improve student outcomes.
The report identifies and provides evidence regarding some of the key challenges to Nevada’s efforts to recruit and retain more experienced and effective educators, including the teacher recruitment pipeline, Nevada’s relatively high ratio of non-classroom personnel to classroom teachers, teacher retention, and teacher morale.
“We know that the single most important in-school factor contributing to student success is the quality of their teacher,” said Jhone Ebert, Superintendent of Public Instruction. “For a long time, we have known that Nevada’s class sizes are too big and that we have far too many teacher vacancies. This analysis provides a critical look at the obstacles to reaching our goal of all students having equitable access to effective educators and puts a price tag on what it would cost to get us there.”
The report summary presented to the Commission on School Funding concludes that to improve core class sizes to the ratios recommended by the State Board of Education, the State would need an additional 3,000 teachers at an annual cost of $260 million in teacher salaries and benefits. The analysis looked at core classes in elementary grades (1-5) as well as the subjects of math, reading, science, and social studies at the secondary level (6-12). To meet national student-teacher ratios, Nevada would need an additional 9,800 teachers at an annual cost of $800 million. To lead the nation in student-teacher ratios, Nevada would need an additional 23,000 teachers at a cost of $2 billion. These results will be reviewed in greater detail as part of the meeting of the Commission on School Funding taking place on Friday, March 5 beginning at 9:00am.
Data Insight Partners’ educator workforce cost estimates include the cost of teacher salaries and benefits, but do not account for other costs associated with decreased class sizes such as the need for more physical space and additional classroom resources. In addition, these cost estimates require the recruitment, preparation, licensure, and retention of qualified educators. NDE is actively partnering with the Nevada System of Higher Education to expand and enhance the State’s educator pipeline.
In addition, the report considers whether investments in Nevada’s education system pay off. Since 2015, the State has made significant investments in K-12 education including in full-day Kindergarten, class size reduction, Zoom and Victory, and Read by Grade 3. After years of steady investments in early literacy, the first cohort of students who had the benefit of being supported by these programs performed on par with their national peers in reading on the 2019 National Assessment of Education Progress. The 2019 results for fourth grade reading represent the first time in history that Nevada’s students have performed at the level of their national peers.
“This report sends an important message that when our State invests in our students, our educators, staff, and families are able to do the work needed to improve education outcomes,” Superintendent Ebert said. “An investment in education is an investment in the future of Nevada.”