View Neighborhood Newspapers takes a look back at some of the top 2012 developments in local education:
TEACHERS UNION VERSUS THE CLARK COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT
The Clark County School District and the Clark County Education Association, or teachers union, start the new year much the same as the last - at odds.
The two sides had submitted proposals to an arbitrator at the time of publication and said they expect a ruling by Jan. 15.
In May 2012, an arbitrator ruled in favor of the teachers union, which required the district to give contracted raises for seniority and continuing education credits. The district sought to freeze employee salaries to make up for the district's budget deficit.
As a result, more than 1,000 teaching positions were eliminated and more than 400 teachers were laid off during the summer. The approximate 600 other positions were not filled following retirements.
But because a larger-than-expected number of teachers retired or left the district voluntarily after the 2011-12 school year - 1,215, or about twice as many as predicted - the district rehired the same 400-plus teachers in August it had fired a month earlier.
Both sides' proposals are similar to their previous requests. The district wants to freeze salaries to at least keep the number of teachers it has, and the teachers union wants guaranteed raises based on seniority and no cuts to teacher benefits.
Membership in the CCEA has declined for years, from more than 13,000 in 2007 to 10,590 at the beginning of August, according to the Nevada Policy Research Institute. That is about 62 percent of the 17,100 teachers in the district.
SCHOOLS OVER CAPACITY
More students than ever are attending Clark County public schools. Enrollment topped 311,000 this school year, and many schools are feeling the pinch.
Elementary schools districtwide are 9 percent over capacity, with the most overcrowded being in the southwest valley. Wright Elementary School, 8425 Bob Fisk Ave., is over 150 percent of its designed capacity and has about 20 portable classrooms on the playground to house the extra students.
The district hoped to build two new schools to alleviate the problem, but Clark County voters overwhelmingly rejected a Nov. 6 ballot initiative that would have increased property taxes to help pay for school repairs and construction.
The Clark County School Board of Trustees is considering various options to address overcrowding, such as opening schools consisting entirely of portable classrooms; adding more portables to existing schools; moving fifth-graders to middle schools under capacity; changing some schools back to year-round scheduling and more.
The board is expected to make a decision this week at Thursday's 4 p.m. board meeting at the Edward A. Greer Education Center, 2832 E. Flamingo Road.
GRADUATION RATE, ACHIEVEMENT IMPROVE
Clark County School Board trustee Lorraine Alderman said her favorite moment from last year was the district's inaugural summer graduation ceremony. More than 400 students spent last summer retaking failed classes or studying for the state proficiency exam in order to walk across the stage Aug. 15 during a ceremony at Las Vegas Academy, 315 S. Seventh St.
"Having been a high school teacher, I have really appreciated all the efforts the district has made to graduate our students," Alderman said. "Teachers worked hard and students worked hard."
The district's graduation rate improved to 66 percent during the 2011-12 school year, up from 59 percent.
All students in grades three through eight also improved the pass rate on the state's standardized tests in math and reading, according to the Nevada Department of Education. And though there was improvement, there is still a lot to be made. About half of middle school and two-thirds of elementary school students passed the reading test.
All Nevada students are going to be receiving a better education through the Common Core State Standards curriculum being implemented statewide.
District spokeswoman Amanda Fulkerson said it is "exciting for parents" because "eventually we're going to get to a place where Nevada students are going to be learning on the same levels with students internationally."
"Students may not be so excited," Fulkerson said.
She also warned that because the district will be raising the bar, there could be a drop in test scores in the immediate future. She said it would be beneficial in the long run and that most states in the country are moving toward the Common Core curriculum.
Fulkerson also said she is "optimistic" about the upcoming legislative session and does not think the district will lose any more money. The district has had to cut nearly $600 million from its budget during the past four years.
She also said the state Legislature is expected to introduce a statewide teacher evaluation system that will eventually reward teachers based on performance instead of only longevity.
Contact View education reporter Jeff Mosier at email@example.com or 702-224-5524.