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Education and Lifelong Learning Category


Education is a critical element in our community's quality of life. Our vision for that future creates a world-class education system that is challenging and diverse enough to encourage the highest levels of student and faculty achievement, works in partnership with families and the community, and provides life-long learning opportunities. A thriving education system is essential to healthy families, and the opposite is true too. Healthy families ensure that students are ready to learn. 


The selected indicators paint a complete picture of education in our community. They include how much we spend on each child per year for schooling, our graduation rates, how well we educate our kids, and how many young children participate in early education programs. 

Please continue reading to learn more about the state of education and lifelong learning in our community. We aim to improve all of our education measures. We must continue to support teachers and administrators, invest in our schools (including facilities and programming), emphasize parental involvement, and provide modern and meaningful programming that launches children from school to higher education, careers, and beyond.

To learn more about each indicator, simply click on the icon, chart, map, or graph to be directed to the Community Data Portal, where you will see maps, charts, graphs, year-over-year comparisons, and more.***

***Please note that graphs and other visual aids may only be visible on a desktop or laptop computer. If you are viewing this page on a mobile device, please switch to a desktop or laptop computer for the best viewing experience and the most access to information. 

Overall Community Education & Lifelong Learning Grade

GOOD Overall rating scale for Education and Lifelong learning
Education & Lifelong Learning Rating: Good

Learning allows everyone to be productive citizens, self-sufficient, and ready for life. Respect for and access to all types of educational opportunities throughout life equips us with the ability to learn, realize earning potential, think, and access information to make effective decisions while enriching our understanding of our diverse world.

Learn more below about the state of education and lifelong learning in our community. 


Per-pupil expenditures allow comparisons between years, necessary for formula funding. All taxpayers lose unless our education system is adequately funded to ensure student success throughout their lives. Supporting quality education with tax dollars is critical unless alternative funding sources are tapped. And although quality education is not guaranteed through state funding, the fact remains that there is no such thing as free education.


According to the US Census Bureau, in 2020 the national average per pupil expenditure was $12,612. That same year, New York spent $24,040 per pupil. or about 2.5x the amount spent per student in Nevada.

This indicator looks at the total per-pupil expenditures (not including state or district sponsored charter school data) as reported in Annual Reports of Accountability by WCSD.

Per Pupil

Per Pupil Expenditure at WCSD

Washoe County Per Pupil Expenditure: $9,653.00
Per pupil expenditure is going up. The last value recorded is $8,173.00 per pupil.
Graph of Washoe County School District Per Pupil Expenditures from 2010 to 2021.
Table: 2021 Per Pupil Spending listed by state. The national average is $12, 756.00 per pupil.


For many people, having a bachelor's degree is the key to a better life. The college experience develops social and cognitive skills and allows learning about a wide range of subjects, people, cultures, and communities. Having a degree also opens up career opportunities in a variety of fields, and is often a prerequisite for higher-paying jobs. It is estimated that college graduates earn about $1 million more per lifetime than their non-graduate peers.

This indicator shows the percentage of people aged 25 years and over who have earned a bachelor's degree or higher.

Higher Education

People with Higher Education Degrees

30.8% of people 25 and older in Washoe county have higher education degrees.
Washoe County's value of those with bachelor's degrees or greater is higher than Nevada average.
Graph showing the increase of people 25+ with a Bachelor's Degree or Higher in Washoe county.
Bar graph showing the people 25+ with a Bachelor's degree or higher by race.
Map showing the residential locations of People 25+ with a Bachelor's Degree or Higher.


The number of new freshmen attending university at the University of Nevada, Reno, peaked in 2015 and continues to remain relatively high. We did see a drop in new enrollment in 2020, likely due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The graduation rate for higher education in Nevada is a percentage of the number of students entering the institutions as undergraduate full-time, first-time degree-seekers in a cohort year who complete their program within 150% of standard time (6 years for bachelor's degrees, 3 years for associate's degrees, 1.5 years for certificates).

Elementary Proficiencies


How do you measure the risk of children not succeeding in school - or life? Measuring what students learn and how they apply it in new circumstances is difficult on standardized tests. Recognizing the correct answer on achievement tests doesn't mean students understood the question or the deeper context. However, it is essential that we test for proficiency at various points along a child's educational journey. 

The WCSD's own site describes its new measurement tool, the Smarter Balanced Assessment System, as follows:

"In 2015, following the adoption of new Nevada Academic Content Standards, the Washoe County School District began assessing students in grades 3-8 using the Smarter Balanced assessment. The Smarter Balanced assessments are criterion-referenced, computer-based tests that measure student knowledge of Nevada's English language arts/literacy (ELA) and Mathematics standards. These assessments replace the former paper-based, multiple-choice assessments for students in grades 3-8. The Smarter Balanced assessment system is intended to be a valid, fair, and reliable approach to student assessment that provides educators, students and parents meaningful results with actionable data to help students succeed.

"Why are these results important to us? Although statewide standardized assessments can never provide a complete description of how well a student is learning, or how well a particular school or district is supporting each child, they can provide a good starting point. The tests are designed to assess how students are mastering appropriate standards, developed by educators, that signal how a child is progressing along the pathway to career and/or college readiness. We have studied local data, and state tests do indeed have a strong relationship to on-time graduation for each child, which is central to our core mission.

"The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium includes 15 states. This collaboration allows for quality test construction, at scale, and provides an opportunity to compare how our district measures up against other consortium districts and states.

Reporting Achievement Levels and "At or Above Standard": Aggregate results from the Smarter Balanced assessment can be reported in multiple ways. Chief among these are Achievement Levels and "At or Above Standard." Frequently, communication around assessment results centers on "Percent Proficient," which is the proportion of students scoring at or above standard. This oversimplification leaves out important information regarding student performance at very high levels, very low levels, and levels that approach but do not quite meet the standard. This site will utilize achievement levels and At or Above Standard in order to provide more context to the reader. Remember, the Smarter Balanced assessment is not the only way to quantify success. Each of these measures should only serve as a starting point for discussing student learning in the district. We encourage community members and all members of the WCSD family to engage in dialogue in what these test results mean, and how we can improve on all measures of student success."

The following indicators show WCSD's proficiency metrics for math and reading over the past few years. 

*Note: All WCSD data listed below is published for the most recent year, 2021.

Elementary Proficiencies for Math & Reading

Bar graph of English/Language Arts proficiency by grade, "at or above standard".
Bar graph of English/Language Arts proficiency by grade, "at or above standard".

The display above shows the proportion of students "At or Above Standard" (Achievement Levels 3 & 4) by grade. While all numbers hover around a 49% midpoint, some grades stand out as higher than others. It will be interesting to examine these data in future years to see if this is a trend. However, that achievement level and standard setting are an inexact science, so test grades are not necessarily directly comparable. For WCSD, the comparisons that are important over time will be ensuring all grades increase toward 60%, and eventually 90%, as we want all children to meet the high standards adopted by our state and measured by this assessment.


*Note: All WCSD data listed is published for the most recent year, 2021.

Bar graph: Percentage of  Mathematics proficiency by grade, "at or above standard".
Bar graph: Percentage of  Mathematics proficiency by grade, "at or above standard".

Examining the proportion of students “At or Above Standard” in Math, by grade, shows some differences compared to the same display in ELA. The proportion of students performing at standard is closer to 41%, compared to 49% in ELA, and there is much greater variation between grades. The WCSD states that it "continues to strive for and work towards closing this achievement gap."


A benefit of belonging to the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium includes the ability to measure Nevada and WCSD against other member states and districts. The chart above shows how our district and state compare to other states in the consortium. While we will continually strive toward higher performance and to outperform other states, it is encouraging to note that WCSD students outperform or align closely with other students, as a whole, in several other states.

This indicator demonstrates how WCSD compares in proficiency to other states.

Proficiency by State

Proficiency Comparison by State

Mathematics proficiency comparison by state title graphic.
Mathematics proficiency comparison by state bar graph.
English/Language Arts proficiency comparison by state title graphic.
English/Language Arts proficiency comparison by state bar graph.


According to the Washoe County School District data site, "The Washoe County School District (WCSD) Class of 2021 saw a District graduation rate of 82 percent." Four thousand sixty-two students earned their diplomas in 2021. Moreover, this marks only the third time WCSD has awarded more than 4,000 diplomas to a single graduating class.

The WCSD's data site states, "One of the most important indicators of a quality K-12 educational system is the on-time graduation rate of all students. In order to achieve higher graduation rates and continue to give each of our students every opportunity for success, we must shine a light on our data, and both celebrate and confront the strengths and challenges the data presents. This allows us to support every student, every day, along their pathway to graduation.

Why is graduation so important to us? Graduation represents the culmination of our time with, and investment in, our students. This is important to their lives and to our community. The graduation milestone provides a launching pad for many opportunities, including college, other postsecondary education, highly skilled careers, and military service. The economic and societal benefits of graduation have been shown by many economists (Alliance for Excellent Education; Bureau of Labor Statistics; The New York Times), who estimate that the net benefit to taxpayers ranges from $77K to $127K per graduate. In WCSD, this would conservatively translate to a benefit of more than $60M over the past 5 years. In addition, high school graduates earn at least 50% more than high school dropouts in lifetime income, and unemployment rates are double for high school dropouts vs. graduates."

This indicator demonstrates the rate of graduation for WCSD across different years and diverse community groups.

This indicator demonstrates the rate of graduation for WCSD across various years and diverse community groups.

Graduation Rates

WCSD High School Graduation Rates

Graph of graduation rates by year, Washoe County versus the state of Nevada.
Bar graph of graduation rates by schools in Washoe county.
Bar graph of graduation rates by ethnicity in Washoe county.

Key Takeaways

Overall, much of the data and research typically published to help determine this report were unavailable or not updated in 2020. So much of the world's energy went into tracking, surviving, and recovering from COVID-19 that significant reports and research projects were set aside. Despite the challenges, this preparation for this report uncovered several key takeaways.

  • WCSD has seen significant improvements in per-pupil spending, with $9,653 invested in each student in 2021 compared to $8,067 in 2010.

  • Despite these increases, Washoe County spending still ranks far below the national average of $12,756 per pupil. For comparison, Delaware and Hawaii public schools each invest more than $15,000 per year per student 

  • For English Language Arts, students improved proficiency rates in middle school over their scores in elementary school.

  • WCSD students lost proficiency in mathematics as they moved through middle school compared to elementary school.

  • Though WCSD has made great strides in student proficiency, we still rate within a percentage point of the Nevada average but flag behind other western states such as Montana, California, Oregon, and Washington.

  • A benefit of belonging to the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium includes the ability to measure Nevada and WCSD against other member states and districts. WCSD will continue to strive toward higher performance and outperform other states - ideally first raising proficiency to 60% and then to the ultimate goal of 90%. WCSD notes that WCSD students outperform or align closely with other students, as a whole, in several other states.

  • In WCSD, the average proficiency for English Language Arts is approximately 41% - the comparisons that are important over time will be ensuring all grades increase toward 60%, and eventually 90%.

  • Since 2016, the achievement gap has narrowed among each population, with substantial gains seen in our American Indian, Hispanic, African American, and Pacific Islander student populations through 2020. However, stark gaps still remain, as seen in 2021. The WCSD's mission is to continue to improve and personalize support for ALL students in our system.


Communities In Schools of Western Nevada logo

Making a Bright Future for

ALL Students

Communities in Schools (CIS) of Western Nevada is part of a larger national organization that is the leading dropout prevention program in the country. We serve over 8,000 students in 12 schools throughout the Washoe County School District, almost all of which are Title I. Its mission is to surround students with a community of support, empowering them to stay in school and achieve in life. CIS of Western Nevada serves students in our community experiencing the highest levels of poverty, food, housing insecurity, medical and mental health needs, trauma, and ultimately are the most at risk of dropping out of school. 


Serving on campus throughout the school day, Site Coordinators work tirelessly to become that trusted adult on campus to whom students can go for whatever they need to remove barriers to staying in school and graduating. Working with collaborative partners, schools, businesses, and community agencies to deliver case-managed support to students and families. By assisting students with attendance, behavior, course performance & social and emotional learning, students have made progress toward achieving those completion goals. 


In cooperation and coordination with school administration and support teams, Communities in School of Western Nevada offers assistance for academics, basic needs, enrichment, family engagement, life skills, behavioral interventions, college and career prep, mental health, physical health, and community and service-learning. CIS of Western Nevada's graduation rate during the 2020-21 school year was 93% compared to the statewide average of 81.3% according to the Nevada Department of Education Report Card.

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