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Ten miles north of the bright lights of the Las Vegas strip, one of the nation’s more powerful beacons for the future of schooling completed its first academic year in comparably stunning fashion.

The Southern Nevada Urban Micro Academy (SNUMA), the first-of-its-kind public private partnership micro-school designed to tackle pandemic learning loss, has operated in person every school day. Clark County public schools, meanwhile, operated a distance-learning program that few felt was working close to optimally.

North Las Vegas is one of Nevada’s poorest and fastest-growing cities. Residents and the public officials who serve them have complained for decades about being underserved by their massive school district, the fifth largest in the nation. Three out of four children who attended SNUMA last year arrived at the start of the year and six months into the pandemic at least two grade levels behind in their mastery of English language arts and math.

So, it was even more valuable when 100% of SNUMA students made at least one full year’s academic growth during the year in reading/English language arts, and 87% posted at least two years’ growth.

The results in math were comparable, if slightly muted; 92% finished the year having accomplished at least one school year’s academic growth in math, and 35% completed at least two years of academic growth.

The most striking results came from the program’s third and fourth grades. Every one of them who attended for the full year accomplished at least two years of academic growth in English language arts. In math, all accomplished at least one full year’s academic math growth, and 75% completed at least two years of math growth.

Read here for the complete article as published on RedefinED

Join our free, Thursday evening event series for all current and future microschooling and homeschool coop leaders, and for parents interested in joining this exciting, burgeoning edu-movement.

An opportunity to meet together with some of Vegas’ most interesting microschooling models and leaders, learn from each other and discuss ideas.  RSVPs required for health safety reasons to ashley@nevadaaction.org or 702-202-3573. Door prizes and snacks.

Learn more about microschooling at MicroschoolingNV.

Microschooling Leaders Connections with MicroschoolingNV

Thursday, 6pm July 8th

At Nevada Action for School Options, 6625 South Valley View Boulevard, Suite 422, Las Vegas, NV 89118

An important development for Nevada’s families of children with special needs emerged in the final hours of this legislative session.

A provision inserted into SB 461 by Senator Scott Hammond created a $5 million fund for grants to children with disabilities.  These funds can be accessed for a wide range of education-related purposes to confront learning loss, including in-person or online tutoring, assistive or other technology, career training or even transportation.

All learners under 18 years of age with special needs are eligible, regardless of where they receive their schooling.  The grant program utilizes funding from the federal American Rescue Plan and will be administered by the Nevada Treasurer’s office via the ABLE Savings Program.

Maximum grant amounts and other details will be made public in the coming weeks.

“I was thankful that the leadership of the majority party was willing to work with me to create this valuable opportunity for our special needs learners during the final days of the session,” said Senator Hammond.  “The pandemic made it difficult for all families to keep their children’s learning on track, and especially for children with disabilities.  This special program of assistance will make a valuable difference for all of Nevada’s community of special needs learners, including those who homeschool or attend nonpublic schools.”

Today’s ruling by the Nevada Supreme Court issued a clear declaration that legislated increases to tax revenue require a two-thirds supermajority vote in order to remain constitutional, but supporters of school choice were left disappointed when the decision left untouched other provisions of the problematic law which undermined popular choice programs.

The decision reversed parts of a law, SB551, passed in the final hour of the 2019 Nevada legislative session along straight party lines, that increased tax revenue in different ways.  This has substantial implications for a state budget that relies on that revenue (about $100 per biennium) and also for future legislative deliberations with an eye on new tax dollars.

School choice advocates had hoped that the highly-anticipated ruling would strike down SB551 in its entirety, while the court instead decided to include in its scope only those sections that directly addressed the funding increases.

The most impactful of the law’s restrictions on school choice addressed Nevada’s Opportunity Scholarship Program, interpreted as mandating that only students who had received scholarships for the previous school year would be eligible for new scholarships, and only then only from the same scholarship organization.

Another provision in SB551 eliminated the Education Savings Account program from statute.

The law in question was also harmful to Nevada’s state charter schools, with a provision that excluded them from $72 million in supplemental support for other Nevada public schools.

These three school choice programs have consistently registered by Nevadans as among the most popular among all policy programs.  In a poll published by Nevada Action for School Options during the last legislative session, seven out of ten Nevada Hispanics and African-Americans registered their support for the Opportunity Scholarship program (with support even higher among parents with school-aged children within both groups).

Among parents of school-aged children, 80 percent indicated that the Education Savings Account program, as well as Opportunity Scholarships, should be available to all families, regardless of their household income levels.

Nevadans have also remained strong supporters of charter schools, with 70 percent of Hispanic and 69 percent of African-American respondents in support of these public school options.

These findings are aligned with numerous other scientific polls in recent years.

It can be hoped that state lawmakers, avid studiers of trends in popular opinion, will register this striking disconnect between the strong popularity of school choice programs among Nevadans and the agendas of the leaders responsible for the anti-choice measures in SB551, and look for opportunities to move toward strengthening diverse school options for more Nevada families.

This article was originally published by the American Enterprise Institute on April 13, 2021, as part of the organization’s Sketching a New Conservative Education Agenda Series, where it can found in its entirety here.

Key Points:

  • The Southern Nevada Urban Micro Academy (SNUMA) is a first-of-its-kind partnership between the North Las Vegas city government and an innovation-focused education nonprofit, Nevada Action for School Options, to create microschools, operated entirely outside of incumbent public school systems and designed specifically as an in-person solution for city families to counter pandemic learning loss.
  • SNUMA microschools produced academic learning gains that surpassed those of local public schools—and at a fraction of their average, per-pupil funding levels.
  • This report outlines the successful SNUMA model and explains how it could be scaled nationally.

Scaling the Model

This partnership microschooling model is adaptable and can be used in a variety of settings, including employers looking to help their employees with schooling options for their children, churches working with their congregations and communities, and other municipalities. A wide range of locations are suitable for microschooling, from empty office buildings to church rooms to rec centers and libraries.

The whole concept, even the municipal services contract that created SNUMA, bringing together knowledgeable education leaders, capable managers, and forward-thinking government leaders, is elegantly simple. As such, it is an attractive solution to a massive, common problem: oversized, mismanaged county school districts whose ineffectiveness threatens the future livelihoods of their own communities.

At first, SNUMA met with sharp resistance from some in or aligned with school district leadership, who publicly worried about the complications family withdrawals from underperforming district schools would present for future budget cycles. Critics scrutinized state education laws, seeking any statutory lines this radical new model may have crossed. As more state officials visited SNUMA and observed its success firsthand, such challenges have waned.

Nonetheless, leaders in different states who are considering adopting their own public-private microschooling partnership models should search their states’ statutory and regulatory infrastructure for prohibitions or obstacles that could be addressed early in the planning process.

Partnership microschools using the SNUMA model should appeal to conservatives for several reasons. They are substantially less expensive than most existing schooling models and much more productive in terms of inputs and outcomes. They are nimble and able to meet the evolving needs of small groups of learners in ways that even charter schools struggle to do. They can operate outside the regulatory tentacles of public school systems and the lawmakers and regulators who incessantly complicate schooling.

And most importantly, they are what families want. When asked if they would return to traditional public school when it reopened, the majority of the parents who have children participating in SNUMA responded that they would prefer their children stay at SNUMA. One parent stated on a formal survey, “I think SNUMA is as strong or stronger academically due to smaller class size, more personalized attention, self-paced learning. I can see kids achieving much more in this type of setting than in a traditional school.”

Born as a necessary, rational response to the pandemic, partnership microschools like SNUMA are not going away with the end of this school year. The model is well suited to be a reasonable alternative to large, underperforming county school districts going forward, and it should be championed by any seeking new options for families underserved by present systems.

You can read the full article here at the American Enterprise Institute’s website.