Educational Failure in Nevada and Some Solutions

A recent report based on 2012 Education Department statistics reveals that while 71 percent of students graduate high school in Nevada, 29 percent walk away without a diploma. These are the statistics, but what are the reasons that just short of one-third of high school students fail to graduate.

I posed this question to my morning drive listeners on Newstalk 720 KDWN. I got a lot of calls and a variety of reasons for Nevada ranking as one of the bottom performing states when it comes to graduation rates.

One very understandable issue is the fact that Nevada is the home to entertainment destinations such as Las Vegas, Lake Tahoe and Reno. These destinations operate entertainment/gambling/dining opportunities on a twenty-four basis. The most favored shift in the various venues is the swing shift, the evening hours when tourists come out to play which pays the most in tips. Parents working these shifts are not home with their children in the hours after school and into the night. Students are often on their own, unsupervised and without an adult to make sure their homework and studies are complete.

Some suggested that there are better opportunities for those reaching eighteen years of age. If you can leave high school at eighteen before graduation and work in a valet service parking cars for eighty thousand, ninety thousand or more a year, a high school senior might reason he is wasting time in the classroom and will bolt for the immediate cash cow.

It was suggested that good-looking young girls could find big bucks dancing and participating in a variety of activities. These girls figure why graduate high school and why go to college when they can get those big bucks now. There is, of course, a limit to the years that these women can participate in some of these various activities.

There was the suggestion that social promotions play a big role in giving false promise to many students. Rather than holding students back from grade advancement when they are not truly capable of advancing, political and social pressure demands students are promoted to a grade for which they are not fully prepared. When they reach their senior year, they are unable to complete the graduation requirements do not receive the coveted diploma.

Another reason some students don’t graduate from high school in Nevada and especially in Las Vegas is the number of those who are non-English-speaking. Motivation to learn the language of the United States is compromised when their parents are complacent with limited communication using their foreign native tongue. What these students learn during the schools hours is not reinforced once they get home. It was suggested that non-English speaking students be separated/segregated for one year and become immersed in English to be returned the following year with a more proficient command of the language that is the unofficial way of communicating in the United States.

Other callers blamed the teachers’ union promotion of tenure. That is, teachers being granted a lifetime job guarantee regardless of their level of competence. If teachers are not competent and are doing a less than acceptable level of teaching their students, people wondered why they are allowed to continue in their positions.

Some callers suggested students can make more money selling illegal drugs than they could getting a diploma or degree and going to work “in the system”. There were those who suggested that students today have a lack of respect for authority and accomplishments and that this “lack of respect” favors a “don’t give a damn” attitude.

So the question is “what could work”?

The idea of vouchers came up time and again. Provide vouchers for all students to be used at the school (public or private) of their choice. Who would get in to the better schools would depend on how fast the student’s family applied. In other words, first come, first served.

Vouchers worked well for poorer black and Latino students in Washington, D.C. until President Obama cancelled the program not long after he took office. Those poorer black and Latino students no longer have the same educational opportunities that the President’s daughters are afforded.

The main element of a child’s education given all other factors is the degree to which parents participate and oversee their child’s progress. Are they hands-off parents rarely or never checking on their child’s efforts? Are the parents simply disinterested? Are the parents not able to assist their children because they do not speak the English language of this land? Or are the parents very much involved and in contact with the teachers and supportive of the teachers’ efforts?

Yes, a child must understand consequences of failure. Yes, students should be well advised that taking an early opportunity such as parking cars could vanish at any time and leave that person without any other educational or practical experience. Yes, vouchers would allow for a much more level playing field of opportunities for all students. But it is when parents, teachers and administrators work together all studies and experiences show that the chances of a child’s success in school are dramatically amplified. Our new Superintendent of Schools for the CCSD, Pat Skorkowsky has voiced these very sentiments on my radio program. I wish him the best knowing that if he is successful in his stated goals, our children and our entire community will benefit greatly.