A groundbreaking new model for schooling underway in North Las Vegas is increasingly gaining national attention.
When it became clear that the Clark County School District would not be open for in-person schooling at the start of the year and height of COVID spread, the forward-thinking leadership of the City of North Las Vegas took a radical step – they contracted with a capable nonprofit organization to operate in-person microschools every day in its recreation centers and libraries.
Thus, the Southern Nevada Urban Micro Academy was born, as a first-ever public-private microschooling partnership to tackle pandemic learning loss equitably and measurably. Watch a two-minute mini-documentary about SNUMA here.
The microschool is free to North Las Vegas residents, and to the families of first responders and emergency workers across the Las Vegas Valley. The whole community, a working-class city eager to return to normalcy, wants to tackle rampant learning loss. When we found that three out of four children were entering the program assessing at least two grade levels behind proficiency, we knew that further learning loss would come with harmful consequences.
The program serves about 100 children in grades 1-8 with a highly-structured model that meets every learner “where they are” in their academic mastery by combining robust direct-instruction elements and self-directed learning platforms. Each child works to meet individual learning goals adjusted by program leaders each week, while whole-group and small-group instruction, novel study, and regular one-on-one work with learning interventionists keeps learning on track.
Classes are capped at 15 children per classroom, with strict attention and adherence to all government health and safety mandates. All children in the program have withdrawn from the Clark County School District (or some charter schools) and are registered homeschoolers.
The academic results have been a powerful testimony to the model and the people making it work every day – at the third-quarter mark of the school year, children who had been at SNUMA since opening day were already averaging 1.75 years of academic growth on the year in reading and math, with children who have joined during the year maintaining comparable growth trajectories.
The city funds the program on a fraction of the per-pupil funding spent by the Clark County Schools District, where North Las Vegas children have struggled for decades in schools posting academic growth below the already-low school district averages.
When the city approached us to create the learning model, the unique experience and knowledge obtained from our three years leading the Lexington Institute’s Lexington Education Leadership Awards Fellowship, the first national fellowship for school district superintendents implementing personalized learning in their districts, provided a rare and invaluable foundation for this work.
Will SNUMA Grow Nationwide?
The partnership microschooling model we designed for SNUMA is one built to scale and able to be replicated , as we explained in this recent article published by the American Enterprise Institute, with teaching and learning that can be modified to address specific learners’ needs.
For city governments whose residents are underserved by large, county school districts, this model is easily adapted under municipal services contracts.
For family-friendly employers, including military contractors who often must attract families to live in communities located near military installations depots or logistics hubs, where school quality is often an issue, partnership microschooling can be an ideal fit.
MicroschoolingNV, an initiative of Nevada Action for School Options, is working with groups around the country interested in replicating some of the success of the Southern Nevada Urban Micro Academy model. If you are interested in a briefing on how partnership microschooling can be an easy-to-establish option for families you are hoping to serve, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-202-3573.
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