Next Up Blog

Nevada, and especially the Las Vegas Valley, is home to the nation’s most dynamic landscape for growth in the demand for K-12 education. Projections by the U.S. Census indicate that the state will need to create some 250,000 new seats in schools during the next decade or so. Over the past 12 months, Clark County’s population growth — 47,000 new residents, a 2.2 percent population increase — ranked second in the United States, continuing a trend that has persisted most of the past three decades.

This means that not only will we need new seats, teachers and educational materials to serve these new students, we will need new schools. And building new schools is an expensive endeavor.

Click here to read the rest of Nevada Action founder Don Soifer’s article in the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Implementing innovative instructional practices in schools is important work best done deliberately and strategically. This can mean lots of different things.  Particularly, the work should support classroom teachers and encourage them to continually iterate and evolve their practices so that they can ensure what they are doing is the best match for the specific education needs they are seeking to address.  Educators need to be prepared with professional development strategies that best support success.  Often, this work requires shifting pedagogies entirely, in ways that allow teachers to own their goals for progress, and teach students to do the same.  And education decisions need to drive technology decisions, and not the other way around.

And for school districts, this work needs to be scaleable across multiple classrooms and school buildings if it is to realize its potential for raising productivity of teaching and learning.

For school and district leaders, this process begins with identifying the particular educational needs they are looking to solve.  Investments in technology, broadband infrastructure, digital content, and professional development are major ones, and generally require prioritizing within the budgeting process (for more on this, school board trustees should run, not walk, to read The New School Rules by Anthony Kim and Alexis Gonzales Black).  So they need to be made deliberately and strategically, and preferably in consultation with experts who bring experience solving educational needs like those schools are looking to solve.

So how to pay for this work?

This 2018 report by the national nonprofit iNACOL describes strategies being used effectively in other states to fund promising innovative and personalized learning practices in schools.

Another useful publication, aptly called “Learning How to Pay for Personalized Learning,” comes from Education Elements, the Silicon-Valley based consultant behind many of the nation’s most accomplished personalized learning program.

“Even without a formal funding strategy, states can begin planning and working to transform K-12 education with personalized, competency-based education,” the authors describe. An important first step is to create space in state policy for practitioners and educators to redesign learning. Such policy could, for example, provide seat-time flexibility or establish innovation zones. Effectively planning, launching and scaling high-quality, personalized, competency-based learning often requires a focused approach to fund statewide initiatives to build educator capacity for student-centered learning.

In Nevada, a competency-based learning pilot program is already established for school districts looking to innovate beyond traditional seat-time requirements.  While the pilot is unfunded, the Nevada Ready 21 program has already provided crucial resources in way that has enabled some schools around the state to leverage classroom technology in important ways.  The E-Rate program funded through the FCC’s Universal Funds provides significant discounts for technology purchases by schools.  And two of the state’s most recent funding streams targeting resources for our most struggling student population groups, Zoom and Victory Schools, are already enabling promising innovative practices structured to begin to narrow achievement gaps.

Meeting our present and growing educational needs is going to require innovation, and resources.  Nevada Action would be glad to meet to discuss your school’s and district’s plans to spearhead classroom innovation – just let us know.

The federal Every Student Succeeds Act, the 2015 law which governs much of the nation’s elementary and secondary education, requires that students attending nonpublic schools receive equitable services in certain specified categories, including professional development for teachers and administrators.

Under Title II, Part A of the legislation, funding for educators’ professional development can be carried out by state education agencies or local school districts.  The law requires that these entities must provide written assurances, in exchange for the funding they receive, that they have provided equitable services for these activities to the private schools as well as to the public schools they serve.

Private schools in many jurisdictions may be operating without a full understanding of these provisions, and their students and teachers may as a result be receiving less support for these activities than the law requires.

Also under Title I, which supports the needs of disadvantaged students, states and school districts must provide proportional funding for students without first excluding the costs of certain expenses, which had been permitted under the previous law.

This analysis from the Center for American Private Education discusses these provisions in detail.

If you are operating a Nevada nonpublic school and are concerned that you may not be receiving the equitable resources which the federal law provides, let us know, and Nevada Action for School Options would be happy to review your situation with you.

When California’s Fresno Unified School District announced, “We Declare Our Vision for Education,” they ratified a new commitment that stands to benefit all of their schools’ diverse population of learners.  In doing so, working with pioneering education nonprofit Go Public Schools, they raised the bar for teaching and learning in ways Nevada schools can both learn from and find inspiration in.

“We, together as a community of educators, students, parents and community allies, must design new public school systems, schools, and learning environments organized around new principles,” the declaration announced.

Nevada Action’s Don Soifer discusses in this  3-minute video.

This report, issued last month by the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, discussed “charter school deserts” in communities where families do not have access to quality charter school options within a practical distance.  The analysis lists, “Central/northwest/northeast parts of the Last Vegas metro area, central/western/northern parts of the Reno metro area,” as Nevada’s most prominent “charter school desert” regions.

To be certain, Las Vegas is in a desert.  And more, high-quality schools, including schools of choice, would represent valuable education opportunities for families in those areas, many of which are underserved by quality public schools.

Some of Nevada’s newest charter schools, including those under the jurisdiction of the Achievement School District like Futuro Academy and the soon-to-open Nevada Prep, have done an inspiring job marketing their school to otherwise educationally underserved communities, and finding ways to locate their campuses where families there can access them.  For other schools, however, finding viable facilities in underserved areas and a dearth of effective public transportation options has made it extremely difficult for schools of choice to serve those families most in need.

The Nevada Educational Opportunity Scholarship program presents one potentially valuable way to help schools serve families with the most limited options (this summer we will launch an initiative we think will help).  Hopefully, Nevada policymakers will continue to explore ways to help schools of choice locate nearest those families most in need of the opportunities they have to offer.