Nevada Public Radio Listen Live

"All Things Considered"
Facebook Twitter Follow Nevada Public Radio

Support Nevada Public Radio
KNPR's State of Nevada About SON Archives Participate Specials

Nevada's Failing at Graduation Rates
Nevada's Failing at Graduation Rates

AIR DATE: August 17, 2012

Nevada's graduation rates were recently published, leaving a lot of people shaking their heads. Clark County School District has made a preliminary estimate that the graduation rate for 2011-2012 is 65 percent. We talk with Nevada’ s superintendent of public instruction James Guthrie about the latest figures. And, we also discuss the latest on Nevada receiving a waiver from the federal government that now allows educators to throw "No Child Left Behind" out the window.
James Guthrie, Nevada’s Superintendent of Public Instruction
    comments powered by Disqus
    In case some of your audience does not know, last year's classroom sizes included 45 students in high school art rooms, 60 high school students in government classes, 70---yes I wrote 70--students in a kindergarten art class and 60 in a first grade class art class. Those numbers will repeat this year as well, and larger.
    anotherteacherAug 15, 2012 13:47:29 PM
    I only heard a few minutes - enough to chuckle at imagining Mr. Guthrie standing in front of a group of students and trying to teach them. If only requiring these "leaders" to spend time every year doing the work they criticize teachers for, under the same circumstances, was part of their job description. A teacher can dream, can't she?
    justateacherAug 14, 2012 21:20:21 PM
    Mr. Guthrie provided the typical governmental BS regarding the educational system. It obviously does not work. Nevada has one of the worst graduation rates. Why are the children not being educated correctly. It seems that Nevada is trying to re-invent the wheel; use a system of education that works in another city. I went to a public school and a public university and a public medical school and I think I did "FINE". I bet that Mr. Guthrie's children and his grandchildren (if he has any) went to private schools because of the "PUBLIC" sigmata. Listen to the teachers. Your data tells you what you wnat to hear. Data can always be manipulated in a favorable manner. The truth lies with the student outcomes as well as the faculty moral.
    DRAug 14, 2012 21:17:34 PM
    you did an excellent hosting the discussion re. education. your guest seemed so out of touch with what is happening on the ground and relies on his w experience and total reliance from a specific groy up of researchers that he sees nothing else. forget having researchers on air. challenge him to go in to several different intermediate and high school classes for the entire period and observe. he may learn something!
    Tom Aug 14, 2012 21:12:15 PM
    Take him up on his offer to discuss research on class size. But do it on a day when teachers can listen. Guthrie picks and chooses his facts. He said class size isn't as important as an effective teacher. Then goes on to say that effective teachers don't have any reward because we are all paid the same. The DATA SAY that merit pay is ineffective: Teachers don't go into teaching for the pay and teachers are doing the best they can. Maybe class size matters less, but how are teachers to ever become effective if they are engaged in crowd control? Are burned out, and dropped out teachers going to be effective? I have tried to look over this unequivocal data he claims exists. I found a Nevada study done several years ago comparing in-state students (class size reduced)to out-of-state students. It appeared that out-of-state students were counted as non-class-size-reduced, with no attempt to explain what their previous class size had been. Studies in California, and Tennessee state that class size does have a lasting effect on achievement, if there is also an effective teacher! I'd like to see the data that say even a quality can teach 30 as well as 20.
    AlAug 14, 2012 11:24:14 AM
    Good for you to give James Guthrie a hard time on class size. You unmasked him as a right-wing ideologue, hell bent on blaming teachers and dismissing class size as problem in Clark County schools, rather than a thoughtful participant in this important discussion
    JimAug 14, 2012 10:57:00 AM
    I would like to comment that as a researcher in education and education facilities there is no study that shows larger class sizes to be effective, quite the contrary. The following link offers a nice general summary of the understanding on class size in education. The unimportance of class size has been a longstanding position by the NDOE to justify underfunding education in the state regardless of findings by the Federal Department of Education and every other source of research on the subject. SON should take Mr Guthrie up on his offer to come back with statistics provided KNPR invites appropriate individuals to present the conclusive evidence to the opposite.
    Kevin KemnerAug 14, 2012 10:35:52 AM
    I am beginning my 19th year as a teacher in the Clark County School District. I began in Elementary Physical Education, work as an ECS and taught high school computer classes, and am back in Elementary Physical Education. In the first four years of teaching I had 75 students in one Elementary Physical Education class. I was forced to choose activities that would allow a safe environment for the students and a high supervising situation for my aide and myself. It was very stressful. The closing comments from Superintendent Guthrie was to bring in research experts to "show the numbers" in support of larger class sizes. The question I pose to Superintendent Guthrie and these researchers: Have you taught a class that was overcrowded to the point where students did not have a desk or chair to sit in/on, did not have a textbook or classroom materials because there wasn't enough for every student. Research numbers can be adjusted to support any claim for any reason. Credible research is justifiable when the researchers have had first hand experience with all factors, pro and con, of a given situation. Without experiencing overcrowded teaching the study is false.
    Paul RanstromAug 14, 2012 10:25:01 AM
    James Guthrie is completely out of touch. I have taught kindergarten, elementary school, highschool and most recently graduate school full time.. In all cases class size matters extremely.... And with respect to Data.... : Real Information / Intel On The Ground aka Techers Comments and opinions.... gives far superior understanding of how complications in the operation of successefully educating our youth ...must be mitigated.... Then some paper pusher / number cruncher that may very well has never taught highschool. Additionally, the number crunchers are being paid very well to cause confusion and discord in the district.... Which in turn builds a need for more number crunching. It is ridiculous for James Guthrie to suggest that teachers develop a teaching model more similar to college environments and adapt it to highschool to make up for the failure in the Official's ability to manage budgets and provide teachers and proper teacher pay... Along with the proper number of schools and space for students. James Guthrie's incentive based teacher pay grade system shows his out of touch status as well, considering the fact that most teachers are good teachers...
    Mark Aug 14, 2012 10:17:38 AM
    At the end of your conversation, Mr. Guthrie said that he didn't expect teachers and parents to agree with him and then asked to give him an hour with "researchers and data". I wonder: can we quantify what happens in a classroom without actually being in a classroom? Can we realistically get an idea of the issues challenging education by "researchers and data"? I would love to see the data that his researchers have and I would love to participate in a study of this sort in the state of Nevada.
    Mary Louise GucikAug 14, 2012 10:16:11 AM
    Where does the data come from that he is referring to constantly? No one is asking where it comes from and how it was done. What institution condducted it. Why does no one ask about this???? It is critical to the discussion. Sandoval and Guthrie both are ideologues in with Michele Rhee. When she applied for money from The Gates Foundation she was refused a grant. They said that she was a "bomb thrower". Nevada is a pilot state for this educational "reform" approach. Michelle Rhee is very involved. Why is this not discussed? Also, it is so obvious that they do not listen to teachers and our comments are "anecdotal evidence". We are constantly invalidated in every way. At my school, we work so hard, and our classes are very large. Therefore, this interview was so discouraging to learn about the arrogant attitide and the "ideologue" approach they have toward teachers. Again, where did this research come from, how was research constructed, what academic institutions were involved in this research???? These questions were never asked, and are never asked. It is a crucial question. Thank you sincerely for the great interview. How sad it is. Anna Marie
    Anna Marie NagaiAug 14, 2012 10:13:50 AM
    Mr. Guthrie has just tried to re-position his view on class size that stating that class size vs. effective teaching is the myth. Based on the responses by callers and email, the issue of class size appears to be more than anecdotal. That some college classes are large by comparison blurs the issue. Certainly there are large classes, but if students experienced these large lecture classes throughout their entire college experience then he attended an institution that is completely unfamiliar to me. In my experience in 15 years of college teaching, class size has mattered. It matters in the discourse, it matters in the work assigned, and it matters in individual attention. Moreover, by the time students get to college, they have attained a greater sense of maturity. Having taught in middle and secondary schools years ago, I know that students are more easily distracted.
    Chris CochranAug 14, 2012 10:13:11 AM
    Dear Mr. Hernandez- Thank you for your support! In my year and a half in Las Vegas and as a teacher with CCSD, we haven't had a lot of support. It seems that everything that's wrong with education falls on the teachers. I'm moving to CA to work with foster children and may go back to education in the future, but won't come back to Las Vegas. Mr. Guthrie honestly comes across as a bully. I remember the first time he was interviewed on SON and it was frustrating to listen to him and not be able to comment. His comments were ridiculous and I appreciate every response that you made. I'm sure that I speak for teachers with CCSD when I say....Thank you so much! Heather
    HeatherAug 14, 2012 10:10:58 AM
    Could you talk about the arts? There is solid evidence that children exposed to the arts do well in other 'academic' subjects. With NCLB we are very focused on reading, writing, math--all very important, of course, but since they are enhanced by knowledge of the arts (which has benefits for their own sake), how can we re-institute the arts in public schools?
    Liz HawthorneAug 14, 2012 10:00:32 AM
    If Mr Guthrie is correct, that class size doesn't matter, what does he propose to address these concerns? He dismisses the anecdotes as inconsequential, but the frustration expressed by teachers is real. Does he have an answer?
    JohnAug 14, 2012 10:00:12 AM
    Not all of what we teach students show up on a report card. With more and more children lacking an adult role model at home, it falls to teachers to fill that gap. Take my computers, take all my technology from the classroom and give me 20 students.
    brianAug 14, 2012 09:59:59 AM
    Mr Guthrie stated that "what passes for data around here needs to be scrutinized." What type of data do you seek from the district or in collaboration with the state's higher eduction facilities to make more informed, data driven decision for the District?
    Sam HoldenAug 14, 2012 09:59:27 AM
    I barely graduated high school in 2004 from an LV school which stuffed 40+ students into every classroom. If it wasn't for the individual attention of a saintly counselor, I would have given up caring entirely. I was considered one of the brightest students, but no teachers simply had any time to devote any attention to me in class. Smart kids get bored, they see the teachers just don't have the time or resources. This man saying classroom sizes don't matter in education seems to think a college style instruction which heavily emphasizes self study could work for children. This is simply wrong, what child would choose to study when the material lacks any depth because of overblown class sizes.
    JuliaAug 14, 2012 09:59:02 AM
    Very insightful, and very correct! -M
    MarkAug 14, 2012 10:32:44 AM
    It seems that Mr Guthrie is comparing apples and oranges. The real comparison would be between an effective teacher in a small class or an effective teacher in a large class.
    JohnAug 14, 2012 09:55:42 AM
    Your guest had me until he made the comment of the class size. it was stupid. One, to compare high school students and college students, is idiotic. Second, controlling a class of 40 7th graders is very difficult and would take a very special teacher. The time to control that class takes away from the teaching time. I was a school psychologist and know that for a fact.
    Will SchroederAug 14, 2012 09:53:58 AM
    I wonder when the last time Mr. Guthrie was in the public school classroom. As a teacher, I'm tired of having professional politicians create educational policy that seems to consistently focus on poor teacher performance.
    MARY Louise gucikAug 14, 2012 09:53:28 AM
    The basis of the problem has to do with outsourcing jobs in the US. Students see the struggles their parents face, low wages that barely allow people to exist. Why would they want to become a part of that society? Furthermore, if corporations would invest in education in the US, citizens would have a solid reason to buy into education. I think that as long as citizens do not see a payoff, they will not excel. Mr. Guthrie is disconnected to reality.
    CynthiaAug 14, 2012 09:52:28 AM
    The comments made about class size are ridiculous! As a teacher in elementary and yes, even high school having more than 30 students really ties teachers hands. Many of our students are special needs as well and need one on one that you just can't give in a class of more than 30. We have kids with serious discipline issues that act out, not including the fact that all of these kids have to be individually tested. What happens is you just can't reach every kid. Also these classrooms were set up for 25 students...we shoudn't have to cram in 35 -40 students. I can't believe that Mr. Guthrie is comparing a college lecture hall to our K-12 public school classrooms. His comments today are ridiculous! He is completely out of touch as are many of the upper level administration at CCSD. They are not in the classrooms everyday. I'm a teacher who is resigning from CCSD this week....I've had enough!
    heatherAug 14, 2012 09:49:56 AM
    As a parent I would like to know how they are going to deal with class size. Classes in CCSD are too large. My daughter's science class last year had students sitting on the counters because there were not enough seats. 40 students is too many!! And, I know her school is not the only school facing these issues. And, please don't blame it on teacher's salaries. I'm tired of hearing that excuse!
    JennaAug 14, 2012 09:38:55 AM
    Class size does matter. It makes it much more difficult to respond to students. My students acknowledge this fact.

    JohnAug 14, 2012 09:47:34 AM
    Web hosting facilities provided by Switch.