Strategies for Funding Innovation in Nevada’s Public Schools

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.