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EDTIORIAL: More national attention for NLV micro academy

If a single education establishment initiative improved results as much as North Las Vegas’s micro academy did, you’d never hear the end of it.

The Center on Reinventing Public Education recently released a report on the Southern Nevada Urban Micro Academy, the education alternative established in North Las Vegas in 2020. City officials created the campus to provide parents an in-person alternative to the distance learning offered by the Clark County School District. Nevada Action for School Options ran the program initially.

The odds were stacked against it from the start. The most obvious difficulty was the pandemic, which disrupted the lives of students and their families. The program was put together rather quickly and didn’t have access to the billions of dollars the school district has for facilities.

But perhaps the most important question was this: Could a group from outside the education establishment do better than the usual suspects? The answer was a resounding yes.

“Based on the personalized learning platform metrics, most SNUMA students that started below grade level made substantial progress toward accessing grade level by the end of the year,” the report concluded.

Some of the instruction at the academy was done by personalized learning platforms. The instructors found many of their students came in below grade level. They gave those students extra assignments on those platforms. That put them on a path to reaching grade level by the end of the 2020-21 school year.

It worked. Sixty-four students used the learning program, Lexia Core5. Of that group, 48 started below grade level, 15 were at a grade level and just one student was above grade level. At the end of the year, only nine remained below grade level, while 40 students were above grade level.

Twenty-eight students used a program called Zearn Math. Fifteen started below grade level. Just one was above grade level. But at the end of the year, 11 were above grade level and just one remained below grade level.

Researchers found that students who enrolled earlier in the year and had more time to use the programs “made more progress.”

A majority of the students at the micro academy were African American or Hispanic. For decades, the school district has unsuccessfully tried to significantly increase achievement among those groups.

These results provide yet more evidence that one-size-fits-all education isn’t the best approach. District officials should learn from these results. State policymakers should provide school choice so more students can benefit from innovative efforts such as this.

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