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Nevada School District Highlights Teaching Credential Needs

The Clark County School District in Nevada covers a lot of territory, including the cities of Las Vegas and Henderson. That area of the state has been on a development bender for several years and the impact on the school district is astonishing. This year alone they will be opening three new elementary schools, one replacement elementary school and three high schools, according to the Las Vegas Review Journal.

It's the fifth largest school district in the nation; they are expecting 313,688 students to come through the doors next Monday, August 24th. They are managing all of this in spite of absorbing $120 million in funding cuts. Their hiring policy for teachers is set at 97% of need, despite the state-mandated class sizes and the requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act.

There are several interesting facts behind the headlines in this story. One is the personnel issue regarding special education. Despite the cuts in staffing they have been unable to find enough people with special education teaching degrees to meet even their reduced requirements. The district has resorted to alternative licensure programs and assistance for staff getting specialized degrees in order to reduce the shortage, which is still a problem four days before school opens.

They are also having difficulty filling math and science teaching slots. There just aren't enough people with teaching degrees at multiple levels to meet the demands of this exploding school district. The administrators have developed a very professional resignation to the fact that "it's going to be a difficult year," in the words of Superintendent Walt Rulffes.

The district's personnel department has been "very frugal" in its hiring practices, while waiting to see what the actual enrollment is. They will make their final teaching adjustments after they can count heads in the classrooms - a last-minute approach that is going to lead to classroom confusion in the early weeks at many of their schools.

And then, there will still be shortages for math, science and special education teachers. For anyone considering a career in teaching this snapshot of a massive school district provides good information on where the worst of the chronic teaching shortages lie.

It is also interesting that this particular district went to the extreme of underwriting continued education training for some of its existing staff in order to reduce their special education needs. Teachers that want to continue to teach can reorient their careers by acquiring the classroom credits needed for specialization in a new area - and in many cases they can do so via accredited distance learning programs.

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