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Charter schools, like schools across the nation, are creating school reopening plans for the fall. However, these plans make two (often unrecognized) assumptions. The first assumption is that teachers and school-based staff will be comfortable returning to the schools given the current COVID-19 public health crisis. The second assumption is that these groups of professionals will agree on the measures required to realize a safe reopening. To explore these assumptions, the Guinn Center, Nevada Action for School Options, and Nevada Succeeds partnered to administer an independent survey to school-based licensed and support staff, as well as school administrators.

The purpose of the survey is to understand the comfort level of these professionals in returning to classrooms given the current preparation underway by districts. The survey also asks respondents to consider the importance of specific actions schools and districts could enact to attempt to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The survey, which was administered between June 15th to June 24th, was anonymous and included 11 questions. Overall, we received 9,220 responses statewide. Of these, 380 were State Public Charter School Authority (SPCSA) charter school employees, which included 269 licensed educators, 47 support staff, and 64 school administrators. The data presented below include only responses from SPCSA charter school employees. While this summary represents initial discoveries, a more complete report with additional findings will be forthcoming.

Comfortability Returning to Schools The survey included two questions about the respondents’ comfort levels returning to their school and/or classroom. The first question asked individuals to provide their comfort level given the current school/district policies, while the second asked about their comfort level given all the public health precautions they felt necessary to adopt (except the availability of a vaccine).

As displayed in the figure below, a greater percentage of SPCSA charter school employees felt comfortable returning to schools given the current policies than those that were uncomfortable or expressed neutral feelings (54 percent to 46 percent, respectively). If additional precautions are taken, a larger percentage of employees would be comfortable returning to school in the fall, but a sizable group of employees — 22 percent of the respondents — will remain uncomfortable returning to school in the fall. This challenges one of the assumptions of school-reopenings during the pandemic — that all school employees will be comfortable returning to schools in the fall.

Student-Centered Focus of Respondents The survey also offered respondents the opportunity to provide comments regarding the actions that the district and Nevada Department of Education could undertake to increase their confidence in reopening schools safely. Specifically, the open-ended question asked, “What actions — if taken by school leadership, districts, and/or the Nevada Department of Education — would increase your confidence that schools are ready to reopen in the fall?” Individuals provided opinions ranging from reopening schools without any changes necessary to moving to 100 percent virtual instruction until a vaccine is available. However, despite the differing opinions provided, students and learning were the primary foci of respondents’ concerns – as evidenced by the word cloud below that was created with the open-ended responses from this survey question.

Even though school building professionals may have different ideas about the best set of actions or strategies district and state leaders should pursue to enhance safety, the ideas are informed largely by concern for the students, both their safety and learning environment.

Options for Reopening The survey asked respondents how strongly they agreed or disagreed with various actions schools and districts could undertake as a reaction to COVID-19. These results are presented in the Appendix. Respondent groups held similar views on the importance of various actions — with the percentage of respondents agreeing with the statements in remarkably similar patterns. However, noteworthy differences did emerge (challenging the second assumption that differing groups of professionals will agree on the best course to reopen schools). Significant findings included:

  • Overall, licensed educators, support staff, and school administrators provided remarkably positive responses to nearly all proposed actions the district could take to support schools to combat COVID-19 related issues.
  • While respondents note they want more disinfecting supplies in the classrooms, actions that engage families in the process of keeping the students, teachers, and the school safe also elicited high levels of support — particularly educating families on when they should make the decision to keep their child home due to illness.
  • Licensed and, to a lessor extent, support staff more strongly support more flexible sick leave policies for all school-based personnel than do school administrators.

Additional analyses from the survey data will be produced throughout the summer.

 

Nevada’s Opportunity Scholarship program supported 1,459 eligible students during the 2019-20 school year. The scholarships were used by students from lower-income households to attend K-12 private schools across Nevada.  The average scholarship awarded was $5,859.  Since Nevada spent on average $10,3oo per public school student last year (all revenue sources, Legislative Counsel Bureau fiscal analysis, 8/9/19, the Opportunity Scholarship Program produced savings to the state of over $6.5 million.

Below please find MicroschoolingNV‘s Newsletter #1, discussing trends and opportunities for microschooling networks during the 2020-21 school year. To receive future newsletters, write info@nevadaaction.org. 

 

Scrambling to keep up with changing school plans from your school district (and charter/private schools too!) for educating your child during the fast-approaching school year? Worried that the plan, whatever it turns out to be given present and looming uncertainties, won’t work for your family the way that you need it to?

If so, this aligns you squarely with the many families we hear from every week through MicroschoolingNV, the Greater Las Vegas Microschooling Collaborative. You are not alone. In fact, chances are that other families with similar needs are making progress toward solutions – whether short- or longer-term – they can feel better about than present options.

The fast-growing microschooling movement may be for you, and if so, we are here to help. We are working to incubate and help grow a dynamic network of a dozen affiliated microschooling arrangements right here in Nevada in time for the coming school year, including working with a number of inspiring microschooling practitioners already with their own programs well underway.

Take our microschooling survey so we can better understand your priorities, needs and interests.

Read our newsletters regularly to learn about microschooling examples that might work for you.  The survey and other ideas on our homepage might give you some ideas.  Join one of our discussion forums, which we work to organize according to families’ interests and needs.

There will be costs, and commitments, for families to make these collaborations work. We will be constantly working with our affiliated microschooling leaders to minimize the lift required for families, and strengthen the microschooling product in a variety of ways. Give some thought to what of these you are willing to commit to. Hint: Sharing responsibilities with other like-minded families helps. Let us help you connect with other families, and potential educators, who share needs similar to yours.

Microschooling tends to be home-based, so give thought to whether hosting a home-based microschooling cooperative setting might work for you.

And most of all — let us know how we can help you move forward.

We work with a variety of schools, especially private and charter, and we love the schools we work with and would be happy to connect you with these schools. We are collaborating with a variety of people in the community to create this network of microschooling opportunities to meet this very real new demand we are hearing.

SailAway in Kingston, Tennessee, offers a church-connected, faith-based private school model that serves both full-time and home-based students:

HEdFEx, in Minnesota’s Twin Cities, is a secular, inclusive, homeschool co-op offering high-quality, professionally-taught classes for ages 3-16, emphasizing friendship and support for kids and parents alike.

Prenda Schools, in the East Valley near Phoenix, feature a home-based cooperative learning model supported by a professional team and replicable model, with relatively low costs to families.

Roots & Wings, (Columbia, Maryland). This microschooling co-op, located on a 6-acre farm, offers farm-based holistic, experiential-based learning experiences.

Educator:  Hello, my name is Melissa Flaxman and I am the founder of FutureMakers. FutureMakers is committed to providing equal access to engaging creative education and advocacy to children and families through community based workshops, classes, and events focused on Art, Wellness, STEAM and Young Entrepreneurs programming. We have classes and workshops for children of all ages in downtown Las Vegas. For more information, please contact me at futuremakerslv@gmail.com. Please also check out our website www.futuremakerslv.com and follow us on social media @futuremakerslv

……….

Parent:  Hi, I’m Renee and am the mom of three children, grade ranges 3-6, looking for a microschooling group to join, preferably with a flexible schedule and no more than 10 children in a group, with a focus on science. I’m in the Henderson area and am willing to travel up to ten miles.  Please email me at my3andme.LCE@gmail.com if this sounds like your group. Thanks!

……….

Want to be a part of our Nevada Microschooling Connection? Let us know what you’re looking for (if you’re looking to join a microschooling group or looking to start your own), please include the grade range of your children and your email address. We will post this information in our newsletter, please do not share any personal information.

 

Today, the Supreme Court of the United States issued a landmark ruling supporting families’ right to choose any private school, including religious-affiliated schools, for their children as part of state school choice programs.

The Court ruled in Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue that Montana’s prohibition against using tax credit scholarships to attend religious schools “discriminated against religious schools and the families whose children attend or hope to attend them in violation of the Free Exercise Clause of the Federal Constitution.”

This ruling represents a rejection by the Court of so-called “Blaine Amendments,” contained in many states’ constitution, which block families seeking to utilize publicly-funded school choice program to attend faith-based, or religious-affiliated, schools.

In a legal brief included in the case, EdChoice Vice President of Legal Affairs Leslie Hiner argued that the Montana rule violated the right of religious entities to fully engage in public life. “Ultimately, Montana residents with extremely limited educational options are being denied the ability to provide a better education for their children.”

Nevada’s Constitution also contains such a provision — Article 11, Section 10 — which stipulates, “No public funds to be used for sectarian purposes.”

The implications of today’s ruling for Nevada are limited, in the near-term. The tiny Opportunity Scholarship program currently includes less than 2,000 students using their scholarships to attend faith-based private schools. While the Nevada legislature cut funding to this program last year, no court has found the program problematic.

Today’s ruling may hold future implications should state decisionmakers reconsider Nevada’s Education Savings Account law, passed in 2015.  Nevada’s Supreme Court in 2016 concluded in response to a legal challenge to the program that it is, in fact, allowed by Nevada’s constitution, although Section 10’s prohibition on funding for sectarian purposes required that lawmakers identify alternate revenue sources for the program.

Also last year, lawmakers acted to strike the Education Savings Account language from state law, although this legislation, SB 551, is currently the subject of a different challenge before the Nevada Supreme Court, filed by the eight Republican Senators who voted against the bill.

It is unlikely that today’s Supreme Court ruling will cause any changes to school choice programs in Nevada unless the legislature revisits these questions, either in a currently-pending special session or in its scheduled 2021 session.

It is nonetheless, a widely-anticipated positive development for school choice and for families seeking to exercise educational freedom to choose faith-based schools to meet their educational needs.  Nevada families have persistently registered overwhelming support for programs that include private school choice, most recently at a rate of 70 percent statewide.

 

ESSER Competitive Grant Preliminary Award Summary_9.16.2020

This project produced in partnership with the Guinn Center for Policy Priorities and Nevada Succeeds.

The Clark County School District, like districts across the nation, is creating a school reopening plan for the fall. However, these plans make two (often unrecognized) assumptions. The first assumption is that teachers and school-based staff will be comfortable returning to the schools given the current COVID-19 public health crisis. The second assumption is that these groups of professionals will agree on the measures required to realize a safe reopening. To explore these assumptions, the Guinn Center, Nevada Action for School Options, and Nevada Succeeds partnered to administer an independent survey to school-based licensed and support staff, as well as school administrators.

The purpose of the survey is to understand the comfort level of these professionals in returning to classrooms given the current preparation underway by districts. The survey also asks respondents to consider the importance of specific actions schools and districts could enact to attempt to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The survey, which was administered between June 15th to June 24th, was anonymous and included 11 questions. Overall, we received 9,220 responses statewide. Of these, 6,932 (75.1 percent) were CCSD employees, which included 5,407 licensed educators, 1,346 support staff, and 179 school administrators. The data presented below include only responses from CCSD employees. While this summary represents initial discoveries, a more complete report with additional findings will be forthcoming.

Comfortability Returning to Schools The survey included two questions about the respondents’ comfort levels returning to their school and/or classroom. The first question asked individuals to provide their comfort level given the current school/district policies, while the second asked about their comfort level given all the public health precautions they felt necessary to adopt (except the availability of a vaccine).

As displayed in the figure below, a greater percentage of CCSD school employees felt uncomfortable returning to schools given the current policies than those that were comfortable or expressed neutral feelings (52 percent to 48 percent). If additional precautions are taken, a larger percentage of employees would be comfortable returning to school in the fall, but a sizable group of employees — 32 percent of the respondents — will remain uncomfortable returning to school in the fall. This challenges one of the assumptions of school-reopenings during the pandemic — that all school employees will be comfortable returning to schools in the fall.

Student-Centered Focus of Respondents The survey also offered respondents the opportunity to provide comments regarding the actions that the district and Nevada Department of Education could undertake to increase their confidence in reopening schools safely. Specifically, the open-ended question asked, “What actions — if taken by school leadership, districts, and/or the Nevada Department of Education — would increase your confidence that schools are ready to reopen in the fall?” Individuals provided opinions ranging from reopening schools without any changes necessary to moving to 100 percent virtual instruction until a vaccine is available. However, despite the differing opinions provided, students and learning were the primary foci of respondents’ concerns – as evidenced by the word cloud below that was created with the open-ended responses from this survey question.

Even though school building professionals may have different ideas about the best set of actions or strategies district and state leaders should pursue to enhance safety, the ideas are informed largely by concern for the students, both their safety and learning environment.

Options for Reopening The survey asked respondents how strongly they agreed or disagreed with various actions schools and districts could undertake as a reaction to COVID-19. These results are presented in the Appendix. Respondent groups held similar views on the importance of various actions — with the percentage of respondents agreeing with the statements in remarkably similar patterns. However, interesting differences did emerge (challenging the second assumption that differing groups of professionals will agree on the best course to reopen schools). Significant findings included:

  • Overall, licensed educators, support staff, and school administrators provided remarkably positive responses to nearly all proposed actions the district could take to support schools to combat COVID-19 related issues.
  • While respondents note they want more disinfecting supplies in the classrooms, actions that engage families in the process of keeping the students, teachers, and the school safe also elicited high levels of support.
  • Licensed and support staff more strongly support mandatory temperature checks for everyone entering the school building than school administrators.
  • Licensed and support staff more strongly support more flexible sick leave policies for all school-based personnel than school administrators.

The full, statewide report and analysis will be published in early July.