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EDITORIAL: NLV micro academy posts massive learning gains

What happened last year in North Las Vegas should have the attention of every education official in the state.

At the start of the past academic year, the Clark County School District opted for virtual learning for almost all students. It was easy to predict the dire academic consequences given the well-documented problems nationwide with closing classrooms to in-person learning to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The predictions came to pass: The number of Clark County public school students receiving F’s rose sharply last year.

But the district’s decision led many parents and students to look for better alternatives. One of the most promising was the Southern Nevada Urban Micro Academy. The city of North Las Vegas created the academy in response to concerns about remote learning harming the most vulnerable students. It produced stunning results.

All of the approximately 100 children who attended the school for the full year achieved at least a year’s worth of academic growth in English. More than 85 percent gained two or more years’ worth of learning. These students didn’t start from a position of strength. Seventy-six percent began the year below grade level. Thanks to these learning gains, 85 percent of students ended the year at or above grade level in literacy. This data comes from Nevada Action for Schools Options, which operated the academy.

In math, students made similarly impressive gains. Every student who started the school year with the academy began below grade level in math. But more than 90 percent achieved at least a year’s worth of learning, with 35 percent learning two years’ worth of material or more. As a result, 87 percent ended the year at or above grade level in math.

If the school district enjoyed such results, it’s unlikely officials would have dumbed-down grading standards, as they did this month.

These results — assuming the assessments are accurate — should get the attention of every policymaker, parent and educator in the state. Lawmakers and district officials should study this program and incorporate their insights into district schools. Parents should feel emboldened to seek out alternatives to failing public schools.

The good news for parents in North Las Vegas is that the academy is returning next year. The school will be run by Pioneer Technology &Arts Academy, which is a public charter school network. It will serve students from kindergarten to eighth grade.

Repeatedly poor academic results may help district officials increase their budgets, but they don’t help students. Parents should keep seeking out alternatives — and bravo to North Las Vegas for providing one.

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