Next Up Blog

Presentation to the National Association of Charter School Authorizers 2020 Leadership Conference

Nevada Action’s Don Soifer, along with with InspireNOLA CEO Jamar McKneely and national charter school guru Nelson Smith, made this presentation addressing aspects of microschooling important to charter school authorizers on October 27, 2020.  The presentation discusses challenges Pandemic Pods present to charter schooling, including those related to equity for all students as well as to measuring success within existing charter school (and public school) accountability systems, and factors relating to many state requirements governing public charter schools such as seat-time and facilities requirements.

Current demands for nontraditional schooling solutions during pandemic and post-pandemic conditions around the country were also discussed. “Authorizing much small, possibly temporary learning sites could require reframing what’s meant by ‘school,'” the authors observe.  As charter schools, such as InspireNOLA, explore workable “Pandemic Pod,” solutions, and the appeal of microschooling expands, charter school authorizers will need new approaches, and new tools, to extend chartering principals and practices to their oversight.

Click here to download the presentation. 

The Meadows School this week announced its Windsong Trust Scholarship program.  Thanks to the generosity of the Windsong Trust and the Andre Agassi Foundation, the prestigious Las Vegas private school will provide scholarships for five incoming kindergarten children for the 2021-22 school year, with the opportunity for the scholarship to be renewed each year through the twelfth grade.

The school’s leadership notes that these scholarships are available for students who demonstrate the skills necessary to succeed in an academically challenging, college preparatory environment, but whose families cannot afford the cost of private school. All children are eligible as described in the criteria information sheet, and priority will be given to students from ethnic groups in the Las Vegas community who are underrepresented at The Meadows School.

The Meadows Lower School will provide scholarship awardees books and supplies for school starting in kindergarten and will continue to help with costs through Middle and Upper School as the scholarship renews.

Applications must be received by Friday, October 30, 2020.

The process for determining each scholarship amount will include an independent financial review documenting the family’s ability to pay tuition.

The Meadows School, founded in 1984, provides a comprehensive college preparatory education for preschool through grade 12.

Details and information about the Windsong Trust Scholarships can be found here.


More than half of students, 55.6%, enrolled in state charter schools attend 4- or 5-Star schools, the highest ratings awarded by the Nevada School Performance Framework. 

This compares with 30.2% of all Nevada public schools students.  This group of 486,885 students included the 41,823 at state charter schools, which are, of course, public schools.

These ratings on the Nevada School Performance Framework, as well as the student population totals, are from the 2018-19 school year, as no new ratings were issued by the state for the 2019-20 school year. 

Just as important, 35.2% of all students enrolled in Nevada public schools attend a 1- or 2-Star school, the lowest ratings issued by the state Framework, while 32.4% of state charter school students do.  

While both of these groups are still too large, and educators at each are working hard to improve their schools’ ratings, all of these numbers offer meaningful insights into the important contribution of Nevada’s charter schools within the fabric of Nevada’s education options.

These analyses by student population, a measure of equitable opportunities employed by the State Public Charter School Authority, differ somewhat from the breakdown by number of schools within each category that is more widely referenced in public deliberations.

Of all public schools in Nevada, 33% are 4- and 5-Star schools, while 40% are 1- and 2-Star schools.

However, 64% of state charter schools carry 4- and 5-Star ratings, while 23% carry 1- and 2-Star ratings. 

The Nevada School Performance Framework uses different formulas to evaluate elementary, middle and high schools in assigning its ratings.  Its use of the Smarter Balanced Assessments factors measures of both student proficiency and student academic growth over time prominently in its elementary and middle school frameworks.  Other measures include graduation rates for high schools and chronic absenteeism.

Nevada Action for School Options proudly welcomes the newest member of our team, Senior Fellow Kelle Snow.

Kelle is an educator and curriculum designer focused on disrupting traditional education and training models to provide more effective learning support to students and professionals alike. She is an experienced education researcher with a Master of Science in Educational Psychology and has successfully developed and launched multiple learning support, training, and mentoring programs in higher education and private industry. Kelle has additionally served as the Director of Assessment and College Effectiveness at UNLV where she leveraged qualitative, quantitative and action research models to support effective and fair instructional practice and outcomes across the college.

We are honored that Kelle has chosen to bring her compelling expertise, acumen, and inspiring leadership to our Nevada Action for School Options team.  She can be reached at and we are certain that as you get to know and work with her, you’ll understand quickly the reasons for our excitement.

Standardized or Customized? How Charter School Authorizers Can Better Support Diverse, High-Quality School Options. Ashley Libetti, Juliet Squire, and Justin Trinidad, Bellwether Education Partners: September 2, 2020.

The growth and evolution of America’s public charter schools movement represent a compelling narrative in American education, as Hillary Clinton noted in 1999 when she declared in a speech to the National Education Association convention that,  “When we look back on the 1990s, we will see that the charter school movement will be one of the ways we will have turned around the entire public school system.”

The ingenuity of high-performing charter schools resides across a broad swath of qualities, such as private-sector human resources practices, strategic professional development for educators, and data-driven instructional practices.  The resonance of distinctly inspiring missions and visions in many of the nation’s top charter schools also serve as strong attractors for families and educators alike.

The enduring impact of the latter is clearly on the minds of the Bellwether Education Partners team behind this latest, impressive report.  “We worried that the trend toward increasingly standardized authorizing practices would stymie the diversity of models in the charter sector and limit families’ choices,” the authors explain.

As charter school authorizers around the country – the authorities responsible for approval and oversight for charter schools – have become more experienced and guided by best practices in the field, their operating practices have come increasingly standardized. As the authors describe, the more standardized authorizing practices become, the more challenging this can be for the most innovative school models.

Dual-Language Immersion, Montessori, Technology-infused personalized learning, and project-based or even Exploratory Learning charter schools models are some popular examples of such schools.  From my own experience as an authorizing board member, some favorite innovative examples include a demonstration school for the Center for Inspired Teaching’s visionary professional development model, a powerful “high school of the future,” Washington Leadership Academy, which incorporates compelling personalized learning and social justice pedagogies, and DC International School, an International-Baccalaureate-for-all school where educators teach core content in three different languages, stand out.

So how can authorizers reverse this potential trend, and encourage the highly-innovative models that make their sector so magnetic for so many members of their communities?

Encouraging school-specific and mission-specific metrics in how their schools are evaluated for performance in school accountability systems is one promising suggestion.  In some jurisdictions, state accountability frameworks permit this sort of flexibility, and the authors of this report nod approvingly at such innovative measurement systems.

Other direct and indirect levers authorizers use in their work present additional possibilities, as this astute report describes.  Authorizing board and staff working to build relationships, sometimes along with local philanthropies, to encourage outside-the-box either through recruitment of outside operators or support for local education leaders, can also be particularly impactful.

Congratulations to this talented team of researchers for producing this ambitious project, which also includes toolkits for both charter school operators and authorizers.  The roster of experts they consulted in its design offers a compelling glimpse into a braintrust willing to work hard for the success of this crucial work.

As America’s public charter school movement prepares for its second quarter century in these most uncertain times, we can certainly hope this Bellwether report serves as the opening bell to a chapter of important reflection and meaningful action to continue cultivating the very best of a movement that has shown to be as effective as it remains innovative.