Education and Workforce Development
One of the biggest challenges facing Nevada’s long term economic expansion is the lack of career and college readiness for adults and K-12 students. Nevada’s ability to leverage our existing resources, maximize economic opportunities, and sustain growth over the long term requires an educated workforce that is equipped with 21st century skills. To increase postsecondary access and success, Nevada must build a more durable pipeline across our educational and workforce systems to prepare Nevadans for the jobs of today and tomorrow. The Guinn Center analyzes education policy in both K-12 and higher education systems, particularly as they relate to issues of opportunity and workforce development.
As part of this work, our team has successfully written grants to fund higher education and workforce development programs. We have conducted focus groups and designed and administered surveys to solicit input from community members. Additionally, our team is conducting program evaluations for several schools and districts in Nevada.
Policy Reports and Research
The Guinn Center partnered with the Nevada State Treasurer’s Office to organize and offer a series of free financial aid workshops for students, families, school counselors, and education advocates.
Comparative data and research suggest that rural students and school districts face their own, sometimes unique, challenges. This policy report provides additional context around Nevada’s educational outcomes for all students, while comparing rural and urban students. (August 2020)
The goals of this policy brief are to: (1) summarize the existing research on COVID-19 as it relates to children and young adults and their infection and transmission rates and test positivity rates; (2) summarize the guidance of national and public health agencies as it relates to school reopening plans; and (3) summarize the experiences of other countries that have reopened schools. (August 2020)
In order to continue educating Nevada’s approximately 500,000 students amid the current COVID-19 pandemic, Nevada’s K-12 public schools have shifted to virtual education. However, Clark County School District noted that approximately 27 percent of CCSD 2019-2020 student enrollment, or 120,000 students, would be unable to access virtual instruction once schools temporarily closed because they lack access to a computer and/or the Internet. Similarly, Washoe County School District noted that many of their students would not be able to retrieve their assignments electronically during the school closures. Many stakeholders have raised concerns that the “digital divide” could further widen achievement gaps. To better understand how significant the digital divide is for Nevada’s K-12 students, the Guinn Center analyzed data from the 2014-2018 American Community Survey (ACS) 5-year Public Use Microdata Sample (PUMS). This data provides useful information about the digital divide, and the geographic areas where the digital divide is more prevalent. (2020)
See here for infographic: https://bit.ly/2XgOtle
The Nevada Plan, the Silver State’s mechanism for funding education since 1967, was replaced during the 80th (2019) Legislative Session by Senate Bill (SB) 543 with the Pupil-Centered Funding Plan. It will be implemented beginning with the 2021-2023 biennium. While one purpose of the new funding plan is to differentiate per-pupil funding based on the needs of individual students, another purpose is to make the amount of funding dedicated to K-12 education more transparent. This report addresses the second purpose of the Pupil-Centered Funding Plan – specifically the State/local taxes and fees that will be dedicated to public elementary and secondary education. (2020)
Nevada’s system for funding K-12 education is complex and has not been substantially revised since it was created in 1967. It has been criticized for not providing sufficient funding to adequately educate students and for not fully recognizing the additional investment needed to educate special populations such as low-income students, English Language Learners, and special education students. This policy report updates the Guinn Center’s 2015 K-12 Finance Policy Brief and identifies several issues the Nevada State Legislature should consider in the 2019 Legislative Session as they seek to revise the current funding structure. (2019)
See below for summaries of the Nevada 2019-2020 K-12 budget:
Charter schools are public schools that may offer instruction remotely (virtual), in a traditional brick-and-mortar setting, or some combination of the two (hybrid or blended). This policy brief reviews the performance of virtual charter schools in Nevada and compares it to state and district averages. The document provides a set of recommendations that local policy makers may want to take under advisement to address outcomes at virtual charter schools. (2019)
Summary of report: Guinn Center Nevada Virtual Charters Summary
ACS Ventures (in partnership with UNLV and MYS Project Management) recently completed a multi-year external evaluation of several state education programs, including Zoom and Victory programs. Shortly thereafter, CCSD released its own internal analysis of Zoom and Victory programs. While the findings were similar, there are distinct and important differences regarding the program reviews. This policy brief discusses the limitations of the two reports and provides some additional analysis of the impact of these two educational programs. (2019)
While there are pockets of success, Nevada’s educational landscape is characterized largely by dismal outcomes. Among the successes are some of the State Public School Charter Authority (SPSCA)-sponsored charter schools. An analysis of recent accountability data indicates that state-sponsored (SPSCA) charter schools have higher star ratings, on average, than traditional district public schools. However, there is significant variation among charter schools. Specifically, virtual state-sponsored charter schools and district-sponsored charter schools, as a group, are among the lowest performing schools in the Silver State. This policy brief provides an overview of the performance of district-sponsored charter schools in the state’s two largest urban school districts, the Clark County School District (CCSD) and Washoe County School District (WCSD). (2018)
The Guinn Center compared enrollment, demographics, and performance metrics across traditional—i.e., non-virtual—state-sponsored public charter schools, district-sponsored public charter schools, and district public schools, as well as virtual state-sponsored public charter schools and virtual district public schools. (2018)
During the 79th Legislative Session, the Nevada Legislature passed a Nevada Promise program (Senate Bill 391), which was implemented in Fall 2017. This policy report presents data on higher education attainment in Nevada, surveys the potential need for a Promise program in Nevada, reviews a selection of Promise programs around the country, summarizes recent legislation to launch a Promise program in Nevada, and describes the impact of said programs around the country. (2017)
Researchers, education agency officials, teachers, and parents have widely acknowledged that greater autonomy at the school site can help school leadership teams, staff and educators develop and implement programs and interventions that best serve the specific needs of their students and improve education outcomes. This policy brief reviews the ways in which Nevada is looking to expand site-based school autonomy in schools, and summarizes models implemented in several states around the country. (2017)
This policy report describes the current high school graduation landscape in Nevada, including graduation rates, dropout rates, assessment data, and college remediation rates. It also compares Nevada to other states with similar population sizes and to states in the Intermountain West region. The report then identifies and discusses initiatives in other states that have strengthened college and career pathways, increasing graduation rates and bolstering postsecondary opportunities for students. The policy report concludes by offering a set of recommendations that the State’s decision makers, policy leaders, and agency officials may take under advisement. (2017)
Executive Summary Guinn Center Exec Summary
During his January 2017 State of the State address, Governor Brian Sandoval renewed his financial commitment to several programs aimed at improving educational outcomes in the Silver State: Nevada K.I.D.S. Read (formerly Read by Grade 3), Zoom Schools, Victory Schools, pre-K programs, and kindergarten programs. In this policy brief, the Guinn Center evaluates the implementation and initial outcomes of the five early education and literacy interventions since 2015. In doing so, this policy brief will explain how these five education initiatives, for which there exists strong evidence to suggest that these initiatives – under certain conditions – are robustly correlated with improved outcomes. (2017)
Executive Summary Guinn Center ECE Literacy Exec Summary
The Guinn Center for Policy Priorities commends the Nevada Department of Education for the inclusive process and emerging product of the ESSA plan. We applaud the connection to the transforming Nevada economy, the measurable benchmarks and goals, the structure of the organizing principles, the demonstration of aligned assessments through the K-12 education system, the focus on equity within our system and aligned accountability and structural reforms, and the clarity offered by articulating tiers of support for persistently struggling schools. In the pages that follow, we evaluate the ESSA draft against the Guinn Center’s education policy principles. (2017)
This policy report describes existing pathways preparing students with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities for post-secondary opportunities, and identifies some of the barriers facing students as they prepare to transition to life beyond high school. This policy report concludes by offering a set of recommendations that the State’s decision makers, policy leaders, and agency officials may take under advisement. (2017)
Around the country, school districts and policy makers have attempted to address these two phenomena by using financial incentives—namely performance-based compensation plans and incentives. This policy report explores how states and school districts have implemented these financial incentive-based compensation plans, describes the current landscape in Nevada, and offers recommendations that may be taken under advisement by Nevada’s legislative leaders, policy makers, and education officials. (2016)
At the Tipping Point: Educational Outcomes of Students in Foster Care in Clark County School District
National research finds that educational outcomes for children and youth in foster care lag behind their peers. Unfortunately, the landscape in Nevada is similar. For instance, recent data shared by Clark County School District finds that graduation rates and grade point averages are significantly lower for eleventh and twelfth grade students in foster care than their peers.
In September 2014, Justice Nancy Saitta assembled the Blue Ribbon for Kids Commission to look into deficiencies in the child welfare system and courts in Clark County, Nevada, following a series of tragic events and growing public concern. The following year, the Commission established a Public Education Subcommittee to address the challenges faced by students in foster care, particularly high school students. This policy brief evaluates educational outcomes for high school students in care in Clark County School District, and offers several policy recommendations that may be taken under advisement by Nevada’s leaders. (2016)
In Fiscal Year 2015, personnel costs accounted for 80 percent of Nevada’s $4.1 billion education budget. The policy report discusses instruction-related costs in Nevada, trends over time, and some of the drivers of personnel costs. It concludes by offering a series of recommendations for Nevada’s policy makers. (2016)
Over the past two decades, Nevada has experienced tremendous population growth, which has placed tremendous demands on Nevada’s infrastructure and the capacity of our State’s public school facilities. As such, the need to construct and upgrade K-12 public school facilities has become a major issue in both urban and rural counties.
In 2015, the Nevada Legislature established the Spending and Government Efficiency (SAGE) Commission (AB 421) to assess best practices in education and the fiscal management of education funding in the State. The first meeting of the SAGE Commission will address Nevada’s K-12 school facilities. The Guinn Center has prepared a report on Nevada’s K-12 school facilities in which we describe school capital facilities and maintenance needs across the State, discuss financial drivers of school construction costs, and conclude by offering a series of recommendations. (2016)
Breaking Up Is Hard To Do: Issues to Address in the Reorganization of the Clark County School District
Nevada has embarked on a process to reorganize the Clark County School District into local precincts by the beginning of the 2018-19 school year. An Advisory Committee and Technical Advisory Committee have been charged with crafting a plan to accomplish this goal. This policy report focuses on five critical issues the Advisory Committee should consider as it drafts the reorganization plan: community based communication, demographic and educational equity, funding equity, education facilities, and governance. (October 2015)
Interactive Maps: Click on the box in the upper right corner of the map below to enlarge and select different maps.
Three major K-12 initiatives approved by the 2015 Legislature include: Read by 3 (SB391), Zoom Schools (SB405), and Victory Schools (SB432). These three programs share many common goals and target similar populations. This policy brief recommends a framework for implementing these efforts in a comprehensive and integrated manner to maximize the impact on student achievement. It also includes specific implementation recommendations for the State Board of Education, Nevada Department of Education, and governing boards of school district and charter schools. (July 2015)
List of Interventions at Zoom and Victory Schools– Updated August 2015
In collaboration with other organizations, the Guinn Center contributed to a recent study examining the potential impact of full-day kindergarten on health outcomes: Full-Day Kindergarten in Nevada: A Health Impact Assessment (HIA). The purpose of the HIA study is to inform the Nevada Legislature as it considers expanding full-day kindergarten. This policy brief links the research and recommendations of the HIA study to legislation pending before the 2015 Nevada Legislature. (May 2015)
Related Legislation includes:
- The Governor’s proposed budget to expand full-day kindergarten
- SB 508, which funds kindergarten students at the same rate as other students beginning in FY 2018
- SB 503, which implements the Breakfast after the Bell program
- AB 206, which expands notification to parents of health issues identified during screening to include a list of any resources available in the community to provide appropriate medical attention
- SB 405, which removes the sunset on requiring Clark and Washoe School Districts to conduct a sample of height and weight for students in 4th, 7th, and 10th grades.
Nevada’s public charter school students are entitled to receive a proportionate share of school funding from Federal, State and Local Sources. In practice, charter school students have experienced limited accessibility to State and Federal categorical funds compared to students at school districts. Charter schools also have limited access to facilities funding and must use their operations funding to meet these needs. The Guinn Center recommends ways the Legislature can improve access to funding for charter school students. (March 2015)
Governor Brian Sandoval has proposed almost two dozen initiatives to help move Nevada’s education system into the 21st Century. The Guinn Center for Policy Priorities and Nevada Succeeds have co-authored a report that reviews empirical research to analyze which of these proposals are most correlated with improved student outcomes. Based on this review, the report ranks each initiative as high, medium, or low priority. The report finds that efforts to improve education outcomes do not work in isolation and that the quality of implementation is intrinsic to success. (February 2015)
This fact sheet illustrates the breadth and complexity of the K-12 public school financing system. While the Nevada Plan is the primary source of funding for operations, schools also receive revenue from a variety of local, State, and Federal sources. There is significant variation in funding between school districts and there are funding disparities between school districts and charter schools.
Issues for the Legislature to consider in 2015 include whether the State should move to a formula based on the cost to adequately educate pupils, whether to implement funding weights for specific populations, how to treat categorical funds and outside tax revenue, how to count the number of students, how to phase in implementation of the formula, and what revenue sources should be used for a new funding formula. (February 2015)
School districts throughout Nevada have critical, unmet capital needs and currently have insufficient resources to fund repairs and build new schools. Existing financing tools rely largely on local funding and have not generated adequate revenue in a timely manner. In addition, the existing structure has increased disparities between school districts, given that each district has a different set of funding sources that it can use. This policy brief provides recommendations to expand the financing options available to school districts to meet capital needs. (February 2015)
The Guinn Center for Policy Priorities and Nevada Succeeds argue that improving professional development for teachers is an essential driver for improving the quality of instruction and literacy outcomes for students. This paper explores current shortcomings in the professional development system and makes recommendations for improvement. It also examines how funds available for professional development are currently being used and makes recommendations for how resources can be reprioritized. (July 2014)
Outcomes on state and national reading assessments indicate that Nevada’s students face significant challenges in literacy. This policy brief describes the situation, outlines existing resources dedicated to addressing literacy, and identifies best practices adopted by other states to improve literacy in public schools. (March 2014)
Focus Groups and Workshops
The Guinn Center team has organized focus groups on the following topics:
• Impact of COVID-19 on students with differing abilities and the digital divide
• Needs assessment/gap analysis of college and career pathways in Nevada
• Knowledge of financial aid opportunities in Nevada
The Guinn Center team has designed and administered surveys on the following topics:
• Teacher attitudes on school reopening during the coronavirus pandemic
• Impact of COVID-19 on students with differing abilities and the digital divide