On a prior post one of my classmates, Mike Curtis, left an insightful comment regarding one of the largest barriers to Reno’s future growth: education. Usually when comparing the quality of education, the ranking is performed on a state level. Nevada consistently sucks, and therefore you can usually scroll to the bottom of the list to find us. However Nevada as a state is not necessarily representative of Washoe County in particular, and even schools within Washoe county can vary greatly.
EDAWN conducted a study that compared Washoe County to the other 50 states and the results showed that Washoe County actually ranked pretty high in many aspects. As of December 2013, the Washoe county School District (WCSD) ranked 15th in the nation for “College Readiness in all Subjects,” which was better than California. The WCSD ranked 12th in “AP Test Takers,” 18th on the “ACT test for Math,” and 24th on the “ACT test for English.” Washoe County still ranked very low in some aspects: 50th for “”Per Student Funding,” 49th for “Student to Teacher Ratio,” and 43rd for “Graduation Rate.”
When I see those results it shows me that overall it seems the quality of our education is pretty good, as evident by test scores, but it also shows the funding for our schools is not good. I have a few friends who are High School teachers in the area and they reported that the quality of their students depends on the family they come from. They informed me high schools that draw students from affluent areas consistently see better results than high schools that draw from lower income areas. Because Reno is small, you often get students from both dynamics at the same school and therefore the results within one school can vary enormously. If the parents don’t motivate their kids then the teachers can only do so much.
What are the solutions to increase the ratings among schools in Washoe County and Nevada as a whole? The honest answer is I don’t know because it’s a field I don’t know enough about. However I can conclude we need to start by providing schools with the necessary funding to be successful, especially if we are dead last in terms of “per student funding.” I don’t know what the state’s budget looks like, but I have to imagine they can cut costs in some area in order to dedicate more to education. Or maybe they can increase sales tax to subsidize the cost, get a grant from the Federal Government, or find a group of wealthy private investors in Washoe County to donate money. Don’t tell me it can’t be done, because it can. Like anything else, it will require some creativity and persistence.
If a company were interested in moving to the area and education for the employee’s children was a major concern, I would recommend checking out the private schools in the area, such as Sage Ridge School. Although private schools can be expensive, they are much more likely to provide a better education than any public school, even public schools in higher ranking states. I went to a public high school in California and I don’t think the education I received was particularly valuable. I would fall back on the argument that the success of a student heavily depends on what the parents do outside of school to stimulate the student’s academics. I included a video about Sage Ridge School below since I had never heard of it before I wrote this post, and therefore you probably haven’t either. Hopefully Washoe County and Nevada will be proactive in reversing the negative ratings education consistently receives in this state.
What steps do you think Nevada needs to take to increase its education rankings? Leave me a comment and let me know.