Next Up Blog

Nevada’s schools of choice provide the families who depend on them with educational opportunities they value and depend on.  And they do so navigating an extremely restrictive regulatory environment.  

In fact, Nevada has among the nation’s most overregulated nonpublic schools, a situation which increases costs of compliance and stymies innovation in ways that harm the working families who are the heart of Nevada’s nonpublic schools community.

Nevada’s private schools, serving some 20,000 students, are heavily regulated in areas such as seat-time requirements, teacher and administrator licensing, rigid restrictions on facilities, and adherence to the Nevada content standards. Nevada’s present, outdated private school laws and regulations seem overly rigid and restrictive, creating undue expense to comply with. 

While Nevada’s private schools which are operated by house of worship are eligible to apply for “exempt” status, in reality these requirements from which even they are exempt are still problematic. While there is important room for improvement here, it makes little sense why such an exempt status be preserved only for religious private schools, in America’s modern education environment where innovations can allow learners in all types of schools to benefit.

Additionally, a set of outdated, poorly-written, and overly broad prohibitions intended to govern paid tutoring in Nevada statute stands blocking families from being able to hire tutors for their children, an educationally disastrous situation in this period of pandemic learning losses. And while highly innovative microschools around the country can open as the small private schools families think of them as, in Nevada these harmful rules, in combination with one of the most restrictive regulatory environments in the country for private schools, often make this prohibitive for small, multi-family learning environments.

Technically, in Nevada under these current rules it can be reasonably concluded that it is illegal for piano and violin teachers, ACT and SAT coaches, religious tutors like Bar and Bat Mitzvah instructors, and coding teachers are prohibited from charging willing families for their services unless they hold current public teaching licenses.  

There are no comparable statutory prohibition in effect in any other state besides Nevada. And we know from our collective history that some of the worst laws are those which are overly broadly written and selectively enforced. 

Governor-elect Lombardo faces an important opportunity to modernize and update these outdated rules, and in doing so to usher in crucial new innovation to help meet Nevada’s education challenges.

Welcome to the National Microschooling Center, an empowering hub for pioneering small learning environments.

Microschools, rooted in relationships and understandings that every leader has of who each child is as an individual, are blooming in Nevada, and across the country.

We launched the Center to be America’s comprehensive resource center, movement-builder and authority for the most exciting new education movement in a generation  – a highly visible, tireless resource for microschooling leaders, families, policymakers, and those who can support them. Microschooling’s crucial early adoption phase calls for leadership able to foster sustainable growth while embracing diversity. 

Beyond the advantages that come with smaller sizes, our microschools are carving out new styles of educating that are often prohibitive or impossible in the highly-regulated charter or even private school sectors. Many have diversified missions embodying self-directed, social-emotional learning, or other specialized or nontraditional approaches to academic and nonacademic learning. All engage families as active partners in their child’s education.

Growing today’s three prevalent types of microschools, independent, partnership and corporate networks, depends on new leaders prepared to succeed. The Center’s core work here will be to:

  • Cultivate and grow demand;
  • Build and strengthen microschool leader capacity to equip for success;
  • Drive growth-friendly policies, and 
  • Mobilize united communities of practice. 

Visit the Center online here.

Originally published in Construction Connection magazine

So what was your biggest accomplishment in school this year?  Too often, this question gets met with a shrug and a mumble from our children. But if they attend one of the compelling new microschool models popping up around the county, we might well be pleasantly surprised.

Teenagers at Learning Choice Academy in La Mesa, California constructed a tiny house, complete with an electrical system featuring solar and battery system and a reusable water system. The project’s many phases took the better part of two school years, and the microschool plans to sell the home to pay for future projects.

Meanwhile, at Acton Buckhead, a microschool housed on a nature preserve just outside of Atlanta, middle schoolers research and line up their own internships at employers in different industries of interest to them. One boy is currently interning with a local food science company, pursuing the fascination he learned at the microschool researching one of greater Atlanta’s growing industries around the technologies driving food science.

When children and teens get to experience meaningful opportunities like these to “learn everywhere,” they are able to experience opportunities to equip them to succeed in their futures, in a competitive new economy that will likely be very different than the one we were bring prepared for when we were in school. Nevada needs to create more such opportunities, to help families meet their educational needs while also supporting a new workforce capable of filling fast-changing employment needs in our state’s dynamically evolving economy.

Microschools like these can, and regularly are, organized as private schools, home school support co-ops, and even as charter schools or schools-within-schools where their district leadership has the innovative leadership able to keep the innovation alive.

Children at both of these innovative microschools are officially homeschoolers, pursuing their learning outside of traditional schools and systems, while observing all applicable homeschooling rules.

Here at NCA, our Workforce Council has been exploring innovative microschooling models’ potential to help our members with workforce, and employees’ education needs.

Our first NCA microschool is, in fact, soon to be underway, a first-in-Nevada working partnership between NCA member Olson Precast Company and Leadership Academy of Nevada, a high-performing charter school with a popular online learning curriculum. The microschool will begin with 20 middle schoolers, who will matriculate toward earning their high school diploma while dedicating a full day each week to hands-on career learning, including working toward industry-recognized certifications that will help them quickly become workforce assets to our industry not far down the road.

Microschools’ appeal as small learning environments, which can be designed and operated around the particular needs of the learners and families, served is catching on — to the tune of millions of students nationally, and growing, according to researchers. These models have experienced a surge in popularity since pandemic conditions shut down schools broadly, here in Southern Nevada and around the country.

Here at NCA, we are well aware of the challenges many of our members’ families are facing amid the ever-more-complicated challenges in many of our public school, and we are highly intrigued in what we’ve seen studying some exemplary microschooling models. Partnership microschools where employers offer classroom space, expertise in fast-growing industries, and various other investments seem a particularly compelling match for a lot of what we are hearing from our member companies.

Scott Hammond is Director of Community Outreach at the Nevada Contractors Association. Don Soifer is president of Nevada Action for School Options.

Article originally published by ReimaginEd

new study from researchers at the venerable RAND Corporation takes the important step of evaluating the academic growth achieved by children at a prominent microschool, the Southern Nevada Urban Micro Academy (SNUMA). The academy was created by the City of North Las Vegas to serve families during the Clark County School District’s pandemic shutdown.

The report, which studied the microschool’s academic growth results during its first school year, 2020-21, found that most SNUMA students made substantial progress based on online platform metrics.

Like many teams behind the thousands of microschools that have been created to serve learners around the country, the North Las Vegas team chose to measure the reading and math gains of the children it served using learning tools with embedded assessments, aligned with academic content standards.

Leaders found this preferable, rather than distracting from learning to participate in more involved standardized assessments, like those used in public school districts. These methods often divert precious time, resources and staffing from other valuable activities, they had concluded.

The researchers wrote that they found SNUMA’s Year 1 evaluation “intriguing because leaders set ambitious goals for students whose learning was assessed as being below grade level.” By relying on interpreting the tools embedded in the digital tools being used by the microschool, the RAND team found that “most students made substantial progress and were assessed as performing at grade level” by the end of that first year.

The first of its kind microschool was the result of an active partnership between the city, which for Year 1 hosted SNUMA in its recreation centers and one library and paid for it out of city funds completely outside of state education dollars, and education nonprofit Nevada Action for School Options, which directed all teaching and learning.

Participation was free for residents who opted out of their public school district to register as homeschoolers and adhere to state requirements as such and included breakfast and lunch.

The microschool and its team of learning guides used an innovative approach to teaching and learning with which its leaders had worked in some of the nation’s highest-performing personalized learning classrooms. Digital tools like Lexia (literacy) and Dreambox and Zearn (math) were used to support personalized learning part of the day, while whole-group, small-group and one-on-one sessions balanced the day to embrace the best of an-person learning experience for children.

Impressively, the researchers observed: “Notably, student race and ethnicity, gender, age and grade did not predict …. progress or ending grade levels.”

Given the rampant equity struggles exhibited by public school systems everywhere during 2020-21, exacerbating pandemic impacts facing the most fragile populations, microschool leaders able to produce such equitable progress should be heartened by encouraging results like these.

Other important aspects of a rich overall learning experience, such as the value of prioritizing social and emotional learning progress, were raised by the researchers, and with good reason. Their analysis fell short of being able to compare the progress by children at the microschool compared with others enrolled in traditional schools.

Read the full article here on ReimaginEd.

Don Soifer discusses today’s fast-growing microschooling movement, its history, and its transformative potential with Virginia Gentles, Director of the Independent Women’s Forum Education Freedom Center.

While the “pandemic pods” during COVID school shutdowns really launched this current wave of microschooling, its rising popularity seems rooted in response to many other factors that have caused millions of American families to reevaluate their relationships with the institutions they have historically relied upon to meet their educational needs. With more tools than ever before, digital and otherwise, easy and affordable for most families, groups like Nevada Action’s MicroschoolingNV initiative are actively building microschooling capacity in diverse communities around the nation.