Washoe County School District’s enrollment is in the top one percent of the nation’s largest school districts, as the 59th largest district in the nation. Covering 6,342 miles, Washoe County is larger than Connecticut and Rhode Island. Our students reflect the rich diversity of our community as we educate in urban, suburban, and rural settings.
Every school in the District provides students with opportunities to explore, question, develop, and test new ideas to provide them with 21st Century skills that will help with their future success.
The population of Northern Nevada is ever-changing, with periods of rapid growth and contraction. These changes are reflected in shifting numbers and demographic characteristics of WCSD’s students over the past seven years. Trending upward, the number of students served by the WCSD was lowest in 2013, at the time when the effects of the Great Recession to housing were being realized and was highest in 2020 with 64,158 students enrolled.
Individualized Education Program (IEP): While the number of students has increased, the proportion of students with disabilities remains stable at 14 percent. For comparison, students with disabilities represent 12 percent of students in Nevada1 and 14 percent of students nationally2. The most common disability types held by WCSD students are Specific Learning Disability (49%), Speech/Language Impairment (17%), and Health Impairments (14%). About 100 students are Twice Exceptional, that is students who are academically gifted and have one or more federally defined disabilities. Giftedness and disability each have the potential to overshadow the other, which makes identification of twice-exceptional status more difficult, and the District is working hard to ensure accurate identification so that students receive appropriate supports to maximize their learning potential.
English Learners (EL): WCSD’s students are linguistically and culturally diverse and speak many languages—90 languages in total with Spanish, Filipino, and Vietnamese being the most common (outside of English). The WCSD employs bilingual educators to serve the nearly 9000 students who are learning English. The proportion of students who are learners of English is decreasing, from 18 percent in 2010 to 14 percent in 2020-2021.
Free or Reduced Lunch (FRL): Students whose families’ incomes are at or below the national poverty line and all students who attend Title I funded schools are eligible for free or reduced priced lunch (FRL). The percentage of students who qualify for FRL has waxed and waned over the past decade; however, a trending uptick in recent years is concerning—45 percent in 2018 to 51 percent in 2020—and could signify an emerging need for additional wraparound supports.
Gifted and Talented (GT): Through 8 models of service3, the GT program provides academically rigorous curricular and instructional services to students identified as having exceptional abilities4. In addition to meeting the advanced learning needs of GT students, the program seeks to foster creativity and provide social and emotional support. There were over 3100 students in the GT program in the 2020-21 school year. Of them, 57 percent are male and 63 percent are white. The under representation of diverse students in GT is a persistent problem in the WCSD as well as nationally. The WCSD is working to remedy this issue by closely monitoring identification and referral processes, strengthening access to core curriculum beginning in pre-kindergarten, and examining district policies through an equity lens.
Children in Transition (CIT): WCSD’s CIT Program serves children experiencing homelessness by providing resources, support, and comprehensive services to students from birth through grade 12. Over 3,300 students are identified for CIT services each year. Although the percentage if students identified for CIT has steadily decreased5, there remains a high need for CIT services in the Reno-Sparks area, particularly with the growing economic uncertainty resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, substantial challenges to identifying students who are homeless suggest that many students are under-identified for services and the number of students who qualify for CIT is actually much higher.
Foster Care: Students are placed into foster due to parental neglect, abuse, or exploitation. No matter the reason for entering, students in foster care often face challenges to their education resulting from disruption in their life circumstances, trauma resulting from the events that led to the separation from their parents, and feelings of uncertainty about the future. Although the percentage of students in foster care is small, the number of them is substantial (312 students in 2020-202school year)6. The learning and support needs of these students is often extensive – Partnerships between the WCSD and the Washoe Human Services Agency ensures all students in foster care receive dedicated support to meet their particular needs.
You are invited to explore the representation of various student characteristics across WCSD schools. To start, explore our student enrollment counts by school or select a different tab you are interested in to reveal detailed graphs. Use the sort buttons to illustrate the variation of those characteristics.
The contrast between the racial and gender composition of students compared to educators is stark. Most teachers in the WCSD are white (87%) and female (78%). Comparatively, 43 percent of students are white and 48 percent are female. The racial diversity of students is steadily growing, from 51 percent in 2011 to 57 percent in 2020-21, yet the proportion of non-white teachers remains stable at 13 percent. The racial group that saw the largest gains were Hispanic students whose representation grew from 37 percent in 2011 to 42 percent in 2020-21.
The WCSD is reimagining how teachers and school leaders are prepared, recruited, and supported throughout the educator pipeline to grow a more diversified staff. Although growth in diversity has not yet been realized, some progress is occurring. These efforts have led to strengthened relationships between the District with higher educational institutions, such as the University of Nevada, and the strengthening of WCSD’s Alternate Route to Licensure program.
The assets of WCSD’s school communities are invaluable. Illustrated in the infographic, over 11,000 volunteers serve across 110 schools, transportation is provided to more than 20,000 students each day, and approximately 46,000 meals are served to students every day. The commitment and talent of WCSD’s educators is evidenced by their higher educational degree attainment, where 66 percent earned master’s or doctoral degrees; and longevity, with almost one-third of them in the teaching field for 15 or more years.
The strengths of the District are perhaps most apparent in times of need. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, WCSD’s Family Resource Centers in partnership with WCSD’s Nutritional Services, the Food Bank of Northern Nevada, and countless volunteers from the community, provided meals to students’ families in need. Additionally, every student is in direct contact with an educator from his or her school and additional outreach is provided by dedicated staff within WCSD’s Intervention Department.
Key Terms in Education
|Total Enrollment accounts for all students actively enrolled at each school in our district.|
|The Race/Ethnicity for each of our students that makeup our schools is vast and ever-changing. As directed by the Nevada Department of Education, we track seven specific racial/ethnic identities (African American, American Indian, Asian, Hispanic, Multiracial, Pacific Islander, and White)|
|Free or Reduced Lunch (FRL) is provided to students whose families fall below a minimum income threshold and as determined by the federal government.|
|English Learners (EL) are our students whose primary language is not English and have been identified as English learning students.|
|Individualized Education Plan (IEP) is a written education plan for a school-aged child with disabilities that is developed by a team of professionals (teachers, therapists, etc.) and the child’s parents or family to meet the unique needs of students with disabilities who require specially designed instruction.|
|Gifted and Talented (GT) is a program that provides our gifted and talented students differentiated instruction that is commensurate with their exceptional abilities through a spectrum of curricular and instructional gifted services and opportunities.|
|Children in Transition (CIT) identifies our student population that is homeless. Homelessness is defined through the McKenny-Vento Act as “Individuals who lack a fixed, regular, or adequate nighttime residence.”|
|Our Early Warning System (Risk) identifies which of our students will struggle and who are at risk of not completing school successfully. WCSD has researched the factors that predict student success and risk and apply these factors to our Early Warning System to aide educators in predicting which students are at risk of failure.|
1. Nevada Report Card, retrieved at http://nevadareportcard.nv.gov/di/↩
2. National Center for Education Statistics, retrieved at https://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d18/tables/dt18_204.30.asp?current=yes↩
3. See webpage for a description of WCSD’s GT models of service at https://www.washoeschools.net/Page/5317.↩
4. Students scoring at or above the 98th percentile rank of cognitive ability (i.e., on an IQ test), are automatically eligible for GT services. Students performing between the 95th and 97th percentile ranks inclusive are scored according to a State approved eligibility matrix.↩
5. The number has decreased in part because foster youth had been included in counts prior to SY 2018-19. Beginning SY 2018-19 foster youth are counted separately.↩
6. The WCSD began reporting the number or students in foster care in SY 2018-19. Prior to that time these students were included in the CIT population.↩