Lawmakers were told Tuesday that standards are going up for all new teachers hired in Nevada.
But Deputy State Superintendent of Education Keith Rheault admitted that doesn't do much to bring thousands of existing teachers in the state up to speed for newly imposed standards in reading, writing and arithmetic.
The issue was raised by Senate Majority Leader Bill Raggio, R-Reno, during a meeting of the legislative committee on education. Rheault told the committee the proposal before the state Board of Education is to raise basic testing requirements for teachers seeking a Nevada license. That includes requiring a 70 percent on Nevada school law, the Nevada and U.S. constitution tests instead of 65 percent, as well as higher scores on other tests.
Skip Wenda of the education department said that as new requirements are imposed on students for graduation, the idea is also to move to a performance-based system in which probationary teachers would be required to "show us you can teach" those new standards.
Raggio applauded those efforts but wondered how that would help the teachers already employed by Nevada public schools get up to speed.
"I know I'm getting into a mine field here - teacher competency - but what can we do to ensure all teachers can teach in this way without infringing on their rights?" he asked.
Wenda said the best school districts can probably do is to tie those requirements to the annual continuing education credits all teachers are required to take.
"Professional development will be tied to teaching teachers to teach to the new K-12 standards," he said.
Rheault said later that is the big issue which will have to be worked out with the teachers' union, one of the most powerful labor groups in the state.
"We can address the new ones coming in through performance-based licensing, but all the current ones we're going to have a difficult time with," he said.
He said it will take years to get all of the existing teachers up to speed on core subjects.