GMG - Las Vegas Weekly

September 12, 2013

Las Vegas Weekly

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yo u If build it Parents, teachers and students are all crying out for bold educational options. But answering the call is a complicated mix of vision and logistics BY ERIN RYAN We have refrigerator magnets that speed dial for pizza with a single push, putting greens that double as toilet mats and dusting slippers that strap to cats. From curing pandemics to putting the Internet inside a pair of eyeglasses, humans see a need and invent the way forward. So why hasn't that unbridled creativity revolutionized American education? In December, the Program for International Student Assessment will release its new rankings of academic performance. Odds that the U.S. has improved its global standings since 2009—14th in reading, 17th in science and 25th in math—are almost as poor as the outcomes of public schools in Las Vegas. Stats are gradually improving in the Clark County School District, but it still has the third worst high school graduation rate in the nation. Student-to-teacher ratios are high, and per-pupil funding is low. Local families are hungry for alternatives. Early in 2012, Nevada launched a State Public Charter School Authority to drive creation of new schools and hold them to a higher standard. Gov. Brian Sandoval and then-Superintendent of Public Instruction James Guthrie signed off on its call to action in an open letter, beseeching community members to get directly involved in expanding the education system: "A review of the data on student outcomes reveals the undeniable need for new schools to offer innovative and effective models to tackle Nevada's most persistent challenges in K-12 education …" Hoping to meet that need, two groups spent the past year building a public high school online and a private early childhood education center Downtown. Curriculum to classroom experience, both went way outside the box. But vision is the easy part. That's why most people stop at wishing and hand-wringing instead of actually making change. [continued on Page 20] SEPTEMBER 12–18, 2013 LASVEGASWEEKLY.COM 18-21_Feature_20130912.indd 19 19 9/11/13 4:25 PM

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