Next Up Blog

Week 5 – Day 5 – Highlights

As we wrap up our last day of summer school, we wanted to briefly share a few highlights with you.

We are incredibly proud of our students who worked so hard. We are especially proud of all of our learners who moved from working on below grade level content to working on grade level material. Over the past five weeks, our students spent a total of 466.7 hours on DreamBox and completed 3,120 lessons.

As well-designed and impressively implemented with a national team of master teachers, our program would not have been the success it was without our dedicated, talented team of local partner teachers teachers. We had the joy of talking with several of our teachers today, and the stories they shared were impactful. We heard about parents jumping into Zoom classrooms today to thank the teachers, students crying when saying goodbye, and our teachers acknowledging how much they will miss these students.

This week also found us filming a mini documentary with Freethink. There was a small camera crew dispatched to Ms. Kylie Gempler’s house on Thursday to film her teaching her class. They showed up at the start of the day and stayed until she had finished PD. They also interviewed one of our students and her mom about how the experience has been beneficial. We will be sure to share this project after it is posted.

Our student who completed 716 Lexia lessons!

We held another raffle on Friday, and celebrated our students who had completed the most lessons in their self-directed learning platforms. One student completed 716 lessons in Lexia, they completed 3rd grade (the grade they were enrolled in) plus all of 4th grade too! Way to go kiddo!

We are sure going to miss our summer school families and teachers, but this isn’t goodbye. We will continue to keep in touch with our families. We will also continue to follow our teachers. We hope to bring you more blog posts from them in the future. We want to check in with them to see how their school year is going, how NSSI helped them to prepare for this school year, and of course, we want to share any new projects they take on.

We will continue to update this blog with data, survey results, and more for the next couple of weeks, so keep checking back in!

 

Week 4 – Day 5 – Celebrating SDL Progress

It’s hard to believe that we are finishing week 4 with our students.  Some of my favorite aspects about this summer program are the ways the model utilizes the impressive Self-Directed Learning (SDL) platforms that NSSI was able to secure for our students, Lexia, DreamBox and Newsela, to support learning gains. 

Our students are already demonstrating significant academic growth using this model.  For instance, 71% of fourth grade students started our program assessed below grade level in English Language Arts. These students have been hard at work in Lexia, and just past the midpoint of our five-week program this rate has dropped to 62%.

Our students are working with Lexia and Newsela for ELA, and DreamBox for math. These world-class, adaptive learning tools are usually expensive to purchase, however NSSI fundraised in order to make these programs available to every NSSI student for free. Using these programs is an essential piece of the NSSI program to minimize learning loss that occurs over the summer. 

Because these programs are so essential, we really wanted to make sure that everyone was using these programs daily. NSSI recommends that students use Lexia and DreamBox for 20-30 minutes for each program daily. 

In order to encourage our students to spend time outside of summer school hours working on these SDL programs, we decided to hold a raffle at the end of week 2 with our students. The students that had met their goals in the both SDL programs were entered in the raffle, and the teachers in each homebase class pulled one name out of the raffle to win a gift card of their choice.

Our teachers said that the students had a lot of fun with the drawings, and that students were more excited than ever to work on their SDL platforms. We owe a big thank you to our teachers for really talking up this raffle and getting the kids excited to work on Lexia and DreamBox. Our teachers have put so much time, energy and effort into seeing their students succeed, and our program would not be doing this well without them.

We saw the biggest increase in activity on Lexia. We went from 48% of our students working regularly on Lexia the 1st week, to 60% of our students working on Lexia now. We are really happy with that increase in Lexia, because we are seeing many students working on below grade level material on Lexia. 

As more of our students started logging in, we saw that our number of students working on below grade level material rose to 48%. Currently, we have 45% of our students working on below grade level material,with fourth grade showing the strongest gains.

We have a great group of incredibly hard-working students, including our third grade student who finished the entire 3rd grade level of Lexia in week 1 of our program! He has moved onto 4th grade content and is continuing to work through that.

It is our goal to have our students continue working on these platforms as long as possible, and NSSI is working to let these students continue to access the platforms for weeks after our summer program ends. We held another raffle on Friday, , and will hold one next Friday as well in hopes of continuing to motivate the students. We look forward to sharing our progress with you.

 

Week 4 – Day 3 – Ms. Francesca Spina

Today’s blog post comes from Ms. Francesca Spina. Ms. Spina is our NSSI 6th and 7th grade ELA teacher. She is passionate about working with students with special needs. She has formed a strong connection with her NSSI students, and just like her students, we will be sad when our time with Ms. Spina comes to end in a week and a half. Take a look at her experience with NSSI.

The Surprising Favorite Parts of Our Summer

What a whirlwind the past four weeks have been. There I was in the eye of the storm. But right beside me were my amazing mentor teachers Kimberly Tan and Ben Esser, educators with New York City’s Ethical Culture Fieldston School and Achievement First East New York Middle School. Letting me know it was going to be okay. It was a tremendous help to be refocused and be given the grace to be myself and just simply teach. 

Online teaching can be seen as a daunting task, especially when you previously thrived by making personal connections with your students.  I was worried about teaching online and getting the level of success with my students that I am used to. I didn’t want to let my new students down. 

At first, I thought teaching school online and only having  5 weeks with students was going to be an almost impossible task. I asked myself, Was it going to be hard for me to build relationships with students who I have never met in person? 

In a short amount of time my students are participating in deeper levels of discussion and have improved their writing skills. My 6th grade students are more confident when they answer and are less fearful of being wrong. My students are continuing to work on getting the deeper level meanings of texts; however their claims have become stronger. We will continue to see how my students grow in the weeks to come. I am so proud of my students and their passion for learning. More and more my 6th grade students are feeling more comfortable with turning on their cameras. 

I thought of the connections I had with my other kids, who when they meet me in person think I am the crazy lovable teacher, who holds them to high expectations because I know what they can achieve. A student once told me, “When I first met you I thought you were weird and crazy but then I knew you were crazy. However, I have grown to love your crazy weird teaching style.”  I was unsure how to recreate the same feelings in this unfamiliar territory.  However, I was reminded that I always feel this way when I am starting something that is new to me.  I wouldn’t let my students down because I wouldn’t let myself down. 

Last week, I asked my students what their favorite part of summer school was. I got a lot of  students saying the social aspect was their favorite. That has been an unexpected joy for me as well.  Here are few things my students had in response: 

“I love the book because I’m from Pakistan and I can relate to the things that happened. I get to meet amazing teachers and students.” ~Iza 

“My favorite part is socializing” ~ Tarek Lahlou

“I finally get to socialize and meet new friends.”

“My favorite part of summer school is that I get to socialize with my teachers and students.” ~ Firdoos

I love these kids and it will be hard to say “goodbye” to them in two weeks. Today as I reminded my students we only have two more weeks of summer school left. That chat exploded with “NOOOOOOOOOOOO!”  I thought students were upset about still having two weeks left.

I told the students, “I am sorry you feel that way about summer school. I have been really enjoying our time together.” Many students jumped off mute at once. Saying, similar sounds of “No, No, Ms. Spina we don’t want it to end. Can we still keep meeting after?” “What about one more week.”  I was pleasantly surprised and touched by their response. It will make the goodbye only that much harder. 

What have I learned over the past couple of weeks? So many things. As expected I have been able to learn “new” tips and tricks from teachers all over our country. I look forward to being able to apply what I learned in the upcoming school year. I understand that the upcoming school year will still hold challenges, but I am more confident in my ability to help scholars be successful. 

I am so grateful for this opportunity.  I have not only grown as an educator but as a person. I have learned so much from my students that some days I think they taught me more than I taught them. I felt an incredible amount of support in this unknown arena.  I want to especially thank Ashley Campbell and Don Soifer for their support and encouragement. I hope to be able to do more projects like this in the future.

Want to know more about Ms. Spina?

My name is Francesca Spina and I am a Social Studies teacher who has taught for the past six years in Nevada at Somerset Sky Pointe Academy. I have taught special education and grades 6th – 10th and World History AP. I was born and raised in Western New York. I attended Keuka College where I received my Bachelors of Arts in Adolescent History and Special Education with a Minor in Business Management. After graduation, I moved across the country to Las Vegas to start my teaching career. After three years of teaching, I decided to obtain a Masters of Education in Curriculum and Instruction from Western Governors University of Nevada. I have a strong passion for teaching and helping students learn. I believe by being an online student, it gave me profound insight and experience to help my new online learners. In my free time, I enjoy traveling and exploring the world.

 

Week 3 – Day 5 – Ms. Melissa Flaxman

Today’s blog post comes from Ms. Melissa Flaxman. Ms. Flaxman is our 3rd grade ELA teacher. She is also the founder of Future Makers. Ms. Flaxman is passionate about education and truly wants to make a difference for all the children in Nevada.

The partnership between National Summer School Institute and Nevada Action for School Options demonstrates what is possible in the world of virtual learning. 

Virtual learning connects educators in a way that wasn’t possible before. During professional development for this program we had the opportunity to dialogue with some of the best teachers across America. Such strong and diverse discourse between educators only strengthens teaching and learning. NSSI has also chosen to root their curriculum in anti-racism. Strong and diverse professional development also prepared us as educators with the tools needed to do the same. 

I have also found through this experience that it truly is possible to create a connected, collaborative, and fun virtual classroom with students that have never met in real life before. Students have been able to learn from one another about other places and experiences right in our own city that they may not have otherwise. 

I see relationships and friendships developing that are much needed for children in this difficult time of social isolation. Many of the kids say things like “this is fun” and “I really like coming to this class.” Parents also feel very connected to the program, sometimes jumping on Zoom after class so we can chat face to face, strengthening the most important school-family connection. 

This opportunity for virtual learning also helps to equalize access for kids that may have had differing experiences with virtual learning at their zoned schools. Students are not only gaining excellent content area skills, but they are also learning skills in technology that will help them navigate through this new normal. Students have shown great flexibility and a strong wanting to learn. 

NSSI has met a great need for thousands of students across our country. I knew as soon as I heard of the opportunity through Nevada Action for School Options that I wanted to do my part to help children and families navigate this difficult time. Children want to learn, teachers want to teach, families want to participate. Virtual learning and partnerships like the one between NSSI and Nevada Action for School Options continue to make that possible. 

Want to learn more about Ms. Flaxman?

Hi! I am Melissa Flaxman, founder of Future Makers. It is my personal mission to create equal access to engaging and conscious education for the future of Las Vegas.

After pursuing an M.A. in Special Education and serving as an educator both in public and private schools in our local system for more than a decade, I found myself wanting more for the future of our children. So with a goal to create a new kind of classroom right in the heart of the community, I founded Future Makers in April of 2018. Our brick and mortar space at Fergusons Downtown opened in December 2019. 

I am a mother, 4th generation Nevadan and determined that together we can make a difference for the future of ALL children in our community. 

 

Week 3 – Day 4 – Words From a Parent

This post is from the mother of one of our fourth grade students. We always appreciate hearing from our wonderful families, and we value the conversations we have with them.

We thank you for being so invested in the children of our community. Your program allows children to refresh and not forget what class taught after an abrupt end during a world crisis. This is a new way of life but through your program, you are creating a bridge to a transition, giving the kids more time and exposure to convert to virtual learning. One issue that will be a major issue is, how will a single parent be home with their child to homeschool and be a working mom? How do I choose between safety for my child’s health and being a viable household? It weighs heavy as I think of how this has affected every human being across the world.

There is nothing more important to a mother than her children . My heart can’t thank you enough for doing what you do. You are ESSENTIAL. Your position as an educator to young children could very well be the most meaningful influence our future will ever have. 😢 To the village that raises a child ❤️❤️❤️❤️plants the seed that feeds the world 🌎 bless you, stay safe.

 

Week 3 – Day 4 – How it Works, and Where Do We Go From Here?

We are on our third week with students (4th week of the program) and we don’t want it to end! Our students and parents are engaging with us daily, and many of our families don’t want it to end either. We are seeing these children grasp concepts they are learning, and we are seeing their growth when we monitor their Self-Directed Learning (SDL) platforms.

Some of our parents are asking us, “what’s next?” We find ourselves working to solve that question as we are hearing it asked more and more. Our parents are making it clear, there is value in the National Summer School Initiative (NSSI) program. 

We have even had parents tell us that their children are learning more and are more engaged in this program than they were during the school closures.

This curriculum is uniquely designed with the program’s master teachers presenting the content initially while teaching a small group of students via Zoom. The master teacher records these lessons, edits them, and shares the lessons with local partner teachers, like ours, all over the nation. The master teacher also shares assignments and a lesson flow with the partner teachers.

Our amazing team of partner teachers then share these videos with their students, and follow the lesson flow to check in on their students and ensure that their students are comprehending the material. Our partner teachers use a combination of the videos, presentations, and their own lessons to cover the material.

One of the most striking positive aspects of this, is that it allows the partner teacher more time to focus on providing individual feedback directly to students. Our partner teachers have been hyper-focused on student work, and providing timely feedback. The partner teachers have been able to deliver feedback to our students in a way that is beneficial to the student and will allow them to better understand the concepts they are working on. 

Our partner teachers are also able to focus on how the students are doing in DreamBox (math) and Lexia (English), their SDL platforms. Part of the “secret sauce” that makes this program so successful is how it incorporates student work on these platforms to help our teachers know where their students are, and what lessons their students are struggling with. For example, DreamBox will allow teachers to see how many times each student has attempted to pass a lesson, and how much time they have spent on the lesson. Teachers can also see what standards each lesson focuses on, and if the student is proficient in that standard.

In Lexia, teachers can also view what lessons and standards their students are working on. They can see how many times a student attempted to pass a lesson, and if the student needed additional help from guided or direct instruction to pass the lesson. In addition, the teacher can find skill builders that the teacher can deliver to the student to help them work on specific skills they may need more assistance with.

It’s easy to see how this type of program works well for distance learning in a way that ensures that every child’s work matters, and contributes to supporting their progress by connecting it directly to support their classroom learning. That’s what effective Blended Learning is all about — empowering each learner to take ownership of their own learning trajectory, and allowing teachers to truly look at each student’s individual progress to inform lessons for each student. 

Exposing students and teachers to working within this sort of well-designed, effectively-delivered blended learning model, focused around an individualized learning plan for each student based upon their own progress, has been one of our major motivations at Nevada Action for School Options in serving as Nevada’s partner for this work.  And it is something valuable that we hope many families participating in remote learning this upcoming school year will benefit from.

The unique, specially-built NSSI program is one we are hopeful we will be able to utilize after our summer program ends.  We have been hearing not only from many of our NSSI families, but also families all over the Las Vegas Valley, that they are looking for something different for the upcoming school year.  We hope NSSI can be a bridge to future opportunities here.

For example, through our MicroschoolingNV project, we hear from several new families every day, and a growing number of educators, interested in moving forward to launch microschooling here in Nevada. The curriculum that NSSI has developed is exactly what some of these microschooling leaders are looking for and would like to offer their families. This style of learning is so flexible and adaptive, it would allow microschooling families a high-quality alternative option to traditional schooling. 

It’s also possible Nevada schools can continue to strengthen their distance learning work by utilizing the NSSI content we have been working with, and is continuing to be developed.

Please let us know what of this interests you.

Meanwhile, we are looking forward to hearing what’s next from our partners at NSSI, and we hope to work together with them in the coming months to build on this work

Week 2, Day 5 – Mr. Justin Bogaerts

Today’s blog post is from another one of our NSSI Partner Teachers, Mr. Justin Bogaerts. Mr. Bogaerts teaches our 7th grade math class, as well as providing individualized help for some of our 3rd grade math students. We are wrapping up our second week with our students (third week with our teachers) and I have really enjoyed getting to know our wonderful teachers. Take a look at what Mr. Bogaerts has to say about his 3 weeks with NSSI so far. 

We are closing in on the end of the 3rd week of online learning with the NSSI program!  COVID-19 has thrown parents, teachers, and students a curve-ball, and we have had to adjust to meet the educational needs of students.  Online teaching, in the content areas of Math and ELA, has been interesting to say the least, but my 7th graders have really come through during the summer.  These students have shown me that online learning can not only be accomplished, it can be fun and cooperative!  While it definitely isn’t perfect, we are learning as we go.  Our kiddos in Las Vegas have shown they are tough, yet smart, and willing to do what it takes to learn.  We are managing to be social, work in groups, and work together as a whole to accomplish teaching and learning in an online environment.  I am excited to say that I have taken a part in the NSSI Summer Initiative, and know that we are helping to bridge a gap in education due to world events.  

Want to know more about Mr. Bogaerts?

My name is Justin Bogaerts and I am one of the Special Education Teachers at Somerset Sky Pointe Academy. I work with the High School students in all subject areas. I help mostly in ELA and Mathematics. I am from Nashville, TN and have lived in Las Vegas, NV for roughly 5 years. I play guitar and love to swim. The Vegas weather has been fantastic for me! I am available to assist any student that may need help with any subject. Please reach out to me for assistance with anything that may be of concern with your education. I am here to help!

 

Week 2, Day 3 – Families Register Positive Reactions

Our summer school program is structured to encourage feedback from learners and families, and we’ve learned lots of insights from them already through phone calls, emails, and surveys. Some of what we’ve learned will help us to better understand the ways the program matters most to our crucial family stakeholders.  In other areas we are eagerly learning ways to keep continually improving our program.

Parents have provided insightful feedback about what they like and what changes they want to see. One trend that appeared in our survey was that parents see real value in using this program to prepare their children for using technology effectively if they are part of a distance learning program next year. As our families move forward in the midst of uncertainty regarding what schooling looks like in August, they see the importance of their children being able to navigate online learning environments. This is especially beneficial for some of our families whose children did not have access to an online learning environment after schools shut down. 

Our families also see unique value that the NSSI structure and curriculum offers. A parent of one of our 5th grade students responded, “[she] seems to be more engaged than she was during regular school. I feel it is moving at a good pace.” 

One of the things that I like best about NSSI is that it allows our students to learn from a variety of teachers with various teaching styles. Our students learn from not only their two partner teachers, but also from two additional master teachers. Our parents are recognizing the value of this as well. One parent responded that students are, “using their time wisely learning from different teachers [with] different style.”

When asked what they would improve about the program, our families provided thoughtful responses. Learning to navigate the different online components was definitely at the forefront of these responses. “The technology has been a challenge. It would be good to have a tutorial for parents so that we know how to help our children. The first few days have been stressful and overwhelming with learning the ropes with how to write in documents and submit,” one of our third grade parents replied.

Our parents are also interested in their students learning more from NSSI. A few parents also suggested having more classes, asking for more subjects including a coding and science class. We are happy to announce that starting this past Monday, our students will have a weekly science class on Mondays.

One thing is certain, our parents and students love our teachers (and so do we). One of our 5th grade students replied to the survey saying, “I like that it is a positive attitude and the teachers focus on us a lot.”

Another 5th grade student said, “I like how the teachers are not in such a rush and they let us take our time, because sometimes I feel like I need my more time on a question and they give me the time I need.”

We appreciate our families, their dedication to learning the new technology, and how they support their students’ academic endeavors. NSSI will conduct another survey in week 3, and again in week 5. We look forward to sharing the results with you then!

Do you have any questions about the program? If so, please contact Ashley Campbell at ashley@nevadaaction.org.

 

Week 2 Day 1 – Evidence-Based Strategies at Work

We are just starting our second week, and our students have been hard at work! Not only have they been participating in engaging and thought-provoking lessons with our incredible teachers, they have been working on their own as well.

NSSI has given our students access to a variety of self-directed learning platforms. One of these platforms is DreamBox. DreamBox provides students individualized lessons and is proven to increase math performance. The majority of our students have not used DreamBox before, as it is not commonly used in Nevada schools. We are excited to have our students try out this remarkable platform, and to see the growth they make along the way..

DreamBox is an adaptive program that automatically adjusts to the student’s level based on the responses from the student. Dreambox has won over 40 industry awards, and received a STRONG rating from the Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Research and Reform in Education. 

In the 2016 Center for Education Policy Research (CEPR) at Harvard University study on Dreambox found that the amount of time a student spent on DreamBox had a net positive impact on their reading attainment as measured by NWEA-MAP scores. CEPR measured how students in multiple school districts used DreamBox both in and out of the classroom, as well as using data from NWEA MAP results in order to measure the impact of using DreamBox. 

In a second case study, elementary school students in Louisville, Kentucky also experienced significant gains after using DreamBox for one year. 

Our students are asked to work independently on DreamBox after they have finished their school schedule for the day. As of July 5th, even though not all of our students have logged in yet, our students who have logged in have already completed 130 hours and 820 lessons on DreamBox, with a 4% average growth per student. If our students are already growing 4% in week 1, we can’t wait to see where they will be after 5 weeks with this program.

NSSI has also given our students access to Lexia. Lexia is another adaptive program that allows students to work independently to develop critical reading and language skills. Like DreamBox, Lexia is a platform that the majority of our students have never used before. 

Lexia’s Core5 Reading and PowerUp Literacy, two programs our NSSI students are using, has garnered numerous industry awards, including EdTech Digest’s EdTech Awards finalist status in multiple categories in 2019 and 2020, and the International Society for Technology in Education’s (ISTE) 2019 Best in Show award.

Paul Marcaruso, Shani Wilkes, Sarah Franzén, and Rachel Schechter published the results of a three-year longitudinal study in 2019 that followed students in kindergarten through second grade while using Lexia Core5 Reading. The study found that over 90% of the students that entered kindergarten scoring below average on their standardized tests ended up scoring average or better on their second grade standardized tests.

Additional case studies replicated similar findings, including research in Macon County, Tennessee where students showed significant improvements, including in grade-level proficiency, after using Lexia for just one year. 

Our Nevada students are asked to spend 20 minutes outside of class each day working on Lexia. Of our students who have begun work in Lexia, 46% overall started work below grade level proficiency. Among our fourth-grade students working in Lexia, 67% working began our program below grade level, an indicator that points to why we see such value in this project.

We look forward to continuing to monitor our students’ progress in DreamBox and Lexia. We will be sharing the progress with you as we move forward in the program.

We hope you’re having as much fun learning about the NSSI summer program as we are! We appreciate the relationships we are building with these remarkable students and their outstanding families, and of course, we value our teachers and admire their determination.

Check back often for continued updates!

 

Week 1, Day 5 – Ms. Kylie Gempler

Our blog post today is from one of our very own NSSI Partner Teachers, Ms. Kylie Gempler. Ms. Gempler teaches our two 5th grade ELA classes, teaching students from 29 different schools from Nevada. Ms. Gempler is a high school ELA teacher at Somerset Sky Pointe and an Adjunct English Professor at CSN. Take a look at what Ms. Gempler had to say about her first week at NSSI.

Online learning has become the new norm of our everyday life due to COVID-19. I have seen firsthand how students have fallen behind on essential skills because of this worldwide pandemic. It has definitely been a challenge for both my students and myself. However NSSI has built a great summer program that helps fill in these gaps in an innovative way. 

I can say this first week of ELA instruction has been beneficial to not only myself, but these new students! I found it quite surreal teaching students I have never met in person (they probably thought the same about myself). This is a new learning curve for all involved so it made me happy to see students WANTING to learn during the summer! Students were eager to engage and participate with a teacher and peers they had never met before. 

Some challenges that arose this week were undoubtedly…technology. Being away from the classroom means technology is a MUST! Students had difficulty knowing how to work Zoom and Google Classroom. However, students were quick to learn and by Thursday- became technological mavens.

Some positives from the program are the nationwide togetherness NSSI has incorporated. It is great to see teachers from all over the country come together to discuss ways to assess student learning, increase student engagement, and help fill in learning gaps. It is great to hear discourse from like minded teachers from all over the country who want to help students thrive! When educators come together on a national level, it creates a type of power and positive change. As educators, we want and believe that we can help ALL types of students from ALL around the country thrive and not fall behind. 

Overall, I believe students are eager and excited for this summer program.I think this program gives students the ability to either regain or learn critical foundational skills needed for reading and writing. I have never experienced teaching like this. I believe this experience has taught me as an educator that nothing is ever certain, but to always be prepared and willing to go above and beyond for our students. It is definitely a privilege to be a part of something that is making real change in the way in which students access education. 

Want to know more about Ms. Gempler?

My name is Kylie Gempler and I am an English teacher who has taught for a little over three years. I have taught ELA for grades 5th, 9th, 10th, and at the collegiate level. I was born and raised in a quaint Northern California town near Yosemite. I attended college at Southern Oregon University where I received my Bachelor of Arts in English and Writing with an emphasis in Literary Studies. After my undergraduate studies, I decided to move to Las Vegas because of the teacher shortage and to also enroll at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas to obtain a Masters of Education in Curriculum and Instruction: Secondary English Education. My favorite hobbies are reading, hiking, being in nature, and traveling around the world. My main objective and goal for teaching is to expand the minds of the youth through the power of language, reading, and writing through the process of critical thinking, cultural diversity, and creativity. 

 

 

Week 1, Day 1

The day we are all waiting for finally arrived! Today was our first day of class for our NSSI summer school students.

We are so appreciative of our families that signed up for this program. Their children eagerly logged in today, spent a little time meeting their teachers, and then they dived right in and got to work.

In ELA, students began studying their novels, with grades 3 and 4 reading One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia and grades 5 through 7 reading The Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani. They will read these novels together as a class through this 5 week course, as well as focusing in on close readings from news articles and other sources.

Our students used word problems in math to discuss equations, and different strategies for solving them. They will continue to work closely with their teachers to discover different problem solving strategies and strengthen the ones they are already familiar with..

As students logged into their student directed learning platforms for their first time, it was striking to us and our team of educators that this is the first time they have gotten the chance to work with high-quality learning platforms like Lexia, Dreambox, Newsela, and Sora. 

Our students are asked to work independently in Dreambox daily, as well as in Lexia or Newsela (based on teacher recommendations).

There were a few bumps to smooth out today, but everyone (teachers, students, and families) handled those with flexibility and grace. 

Finally, a huge shout out to our 9 wonderful teachers who have willingly jumped in and taken part in a program that is being built as we go. We appreciate all of them, and their unique strengths that they bring to our program.

 

Professional Development  Week – Day 2 – June 23rd

Our hardworking team of local partner teachers are in day two of dedicated professional development with the National Summer School Initiative (NSSI) team, with classes themselves less than a week away. The feedback is coming in, and our teachers are thrilled with what they are learning from their national master teachers. 

At Nevada Action for School Options, we have been gearing up for this week for the past month.  Our 231 enrolled students from across the state, and 9 spectacular teachers, are about to embark on our first-ever summer school program.  Schedules for each student (and teacher) have been finalized, registrations completed and confirmed, necessary information shared by email.  

For our students, from 62 traditional district schools, public charter schools, and private schools statewide, summer school will start next week. This week, our teachers are preparing with some of the nation’s top master teachers and curriculum designers. We couldn’t be more excited to hear what our teachers are learning about. As we have dropped into different virtual training sessions, it has been inspiring to see our teachers, engaging and participating with a cohort of teachers from across the nation.

We want to share this experience with you. We will be updating this blog post often throughout the entire summer school experience.

You’ll get to meet and hear from our teachers, what they think about the program, how they are interacting with their students, and what exciting projects they have coming up in their lives. We are pretty certain that you will come to like and appreciate them as much as we do.

You’ll also get to find out what the students are learning about, how they are enjoying the experience, and what their parents think about the program.

We hope you find this NSSI experience as interesting and exciting as we do. If you have any questions that you would like to see answered on our blog, email Ashley Campbell at ashley@nevadaaction.org.

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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