Ep. 270: Cool Schools with Don Soifer

September 23, 2021

In this installment of our Cool Schools series we chat with Don Soifer, President of Nevada for School Options, and his Chief of Staff Ashley Campbell. They speak to us about the innovative schooling option they helped make possible in their state of Nevada.

Mike McShane: Hello, and welcome back to another edition of EdChoice Chats and specifically our EdChoice Chat series, Cool Schools. This is Mike McShane, Director of National Research at EdChoice. And today on the podcast, we have Don Soifer and Ashley Campbell of SNUMA, the Southern Nevada Urban Microschool Academy. And I’m always, always self-conscious when I say Nevada, because I’m pretty sure I’m saying it wrong and anyone who’s from there will correct me. It’s either Nevada or Nevada. Nevada is funny because I’m from Kansas City, Missouri, and there’s a town in Southern Missouri called Nevada. And I’m confident that that is not the right way to say it, but SNUMA, we’ll just go with SNUMA from here on out.

Well, anyway, Don is the President of Nevada Action for School Options. He’s been a partner of EdChoice for a long time in the work that we’ve done to expand educational choice in Nevada, Nevada, oh boy, someone’s cringing, anyway. And Ashley Campbell is his Chief of Staff.

So, we had a wonderful conversation today to talk about this really interesting thing that they built. That’s sort of outside what Nevada Action for School Options does all the time. They describe themselves as a kind of action tank that supports the growth of school choice, of diverse choices of rich, high quality, and personalized educational opportunities. But when the pandemic struck, they moved kind of from advocacy to actually operating a school.

Well, look, from Facebook, here is how SNUMA describes itself. It says, “Established in 2020 by the City of North Las Vegas, the Southern Nevada Urban Microschool Academy, SNUMA, is a free, innovative, microschool program for North Las Vegas families and children, and first responders, that provide safe, in-person learning opportunities with individualized lesson plans for children’s in grades one through eight. SNUMA provides students with access to nationally recognized online educational resources by grade level in small learning pods with a teacher that supports customized lesson plans for each student. All curriculum follows Nevada Academic Content Standards, classrooms are capped at 15 children. SNUMA follows SNHD and CDC best practices and abides by all directives from the state, including mandated face coverings, socially distance seating, and frequent cleaning and sanitizing of classrooms and facilities.”

So, this started with the pandemic and, as we will talk about, evolved and changed while that was going on, and is going to continue now that the pandemic is hopefully starting to wind down. It was a great conversation. I think you all are really going to enjoy it. So, here’s my conversation with Don Soifer and Ashley Campbell of SNUMA.

All right, SNUMA, tell me about how SNUMA came to be.

Don Soifer: Two weeks before the start of the last school year, right in the middle of the pandemic, it became very, very clear that the Clark County School District, the fifth largest in the country, was not going to open and was not going to provide a place for kids go to conduct their schooling at school during the day. The City of North Las Vegas has had a long, decades long, relationship as being somewhat of the redheaded stepchild within the large Clark County School District, its schools have been under-resourced, the children have underperformed. It’s frequently the place that the lower-performing administrators and educators sometimes get rotated, you know how that works in a large school district.

So, the leadership of the City of North Las Vegas did not in any way feel responsible to be bound to be part of the Clark County School District plan, if that wasn’t going to best serve their families. So, we were in, talking to them about some other topic entirely, I think it was a charter school question. And as we heard their hopes and dreams and what they wished that they could do for their residents, so that they could get the residents back to work, with the idea of establishing a microschool and their rec centers and libraries that could serve their families outside of all of the current establishment for public schooling, open for their residents, that they could then fund in ways that would be no cost or low cost for their residents or families that work in North Las Vegas and also emergency workers, first responders, across all of Clark County.

North Las Vegas is the lowest-income, fastest-growing municipality in Clark County in the state of Nevada. And we knew exactly what we wanted to do. We went home, worked through the night, walked back into their office the next morning with two thick briefing books with our plan to launch partnership microschooling in Nevada and the rest came from there.

Mike McShane: So was it a tough sell? Was it an easy sell? What were some of the questions that they asked when those briefing books showed up?

Don Soifer: Well, number one is, “Can we really do this?” I mean, the ideas come about, but can we actually provide the schooling needs of our families? We’re not a school district. We don’t have levels and levels of administration and backup and back office and backup plans. Can we really do this as thin as microschooling is described? And we did that.

So, Nevada Action, and Ashley and I led the program and we didn’t charge them for our time. And we were the quality control in the program. And we can talk about this a little bit, but I’ve done a lot with personalized learning in different settings around the country. And I was able to bring from that, the two things that mattered most. Number one is just make it a commitment to continuous improvement and constant iteration, because the decisions you make before you start might not be the way you can really serve your families the best. So, being nimble enough to be able to do that and do that in a way that matters.

And number two is to really shift to the active learner paradox, so that your kids no longer know that if they just go and sit in their seats and get measured, the wrong end of the kid gets measured for the amount of time that they’ve spent in their seat in the school year to advance, that every decision they make in that day is going to really matter, and their learning is in their own hands. And if we can accomplish both of those things, we can make it work.

So, there was a radically new way to do things for everybody involved. And there was some hesitancy, there was some pushback, the school district partisans, when they realized that we were going to do something that families would need to disenroll from the school district and be homeschoolers to do cause some heartache and some political pressure. But from day one, everybody involved was rooting to do this. It was an active partnership. We weren’t just hired to do it, but we were partners with the city in a very active sense every day. And everybody came in looking to do something new that mattered, and that feeling, it was prevalent and permeated everything we did.

Mike McShane: For sure. And that’s great to know. That was a good question that was coming down the pike was that the students for the state’s perspective are homeschooled or they identify as homeschooled, classified as homeschooled. And this is classified, is it sort of thought of as an enrichment program, is it daycare or childcare? Like what’s that kind of regulatory structure?

Don Soifer: Well, the City of North Las Vegas did run a before and after care program and continue to do that, because they wanted their families, so many of our families were single-parent families, non-traditional families, kids raised by a disabled grandparent. North Las Vegas is lower than average income in Clark County, which is not high to begin with. Kids who were living in a one room with four or five members of their family or in a hotel room. It was important to the city to get them back to work and let them do what it was they’re going to do.

So, the beauty of microschooling is that you can really focus on the learners and the families and create something that meets their needs and build it that way. So, we knew it needed to get kids at a place that they were safe during the day, every day, we knew we wanted to be a pretty highly structured program, so it was maybe more structured than people are used to see in microschools. Free breakfast and free lunch for every kid every day.

North Las Vegas and Clark County got hit really hard during the pandemic. So the health safety rules were real important and really defined what we did. For health safety reasons, we had to adhere to all of the health safety mandates. So, we were required to be 18 kids in a classroom tops. For teaching and learning reasons, we were able to get 15 kids, which is again, a learning environment everybody wants, especially in Clark County where there’s so much overcrowding.

So, those decisions that we made and the fact that they were really rooted in what their families wanted and what the community wanted and the individual learners, what could work for the individual learners, were a reason that this was set up to succeed from the beginning. And if we just pulled something like so many educators or education people in America, they would love to have a rocket ship school or a mastery or a summit. And they pull what works in other jurisdictions. And microschooling, it really has to come from what your needs are, your understanding of your learners and the relationships you build from that. And that was a big reason for this test that we had.

Mike McShane: Well, I’m glad you brought up your learners, because I’m interested in how did you identify and recruit the students to participate in the program.

Ashley Campbell: Originally it started with the City of North Las Vegas sending out an email to their residents and letting their residents know about the program. Then, it was a lot of conversations that Don and I had with these families. It was a new program and a new idea for the families. So, there was a certain comfort level that they needed to get to before they felt confident enough in pulling their child from the school district and putting them in a homeschool program with us.

So, lots of time spent talking to our parents and really getting to know them. We started small with the first semester and then as families transitioned from, “We just need a safe place for our kid to go,” to now, “My child is really excelling and learning care in ways that they never have before.” Our families started talking to other parents about it and telling them, “Hey, this is where you need to put your child.” And at the second semester, we more than doubled our numbers.

Mike McShane: So, maybe to help listeners get an understanding of what we’re talking about here. Could you just walk through like an average day from the perspective of a student?

Ashley Campbell: Yeah, absolutely. So, as Don mentioned, we were a little more structured than what you typically see with microschools, because our families needed to go to work. They needed a full-day program. Also, as I talk about the comfort level with the families, it really helped to be able to tell them that we were matching our program to the Academic Content Standards, the Nevada state Content Standards. So that if they chose to go back to public school the next year, they would know that they could transition back easily. So, that really helps the comfort level also.

So, kiddos would get dropped off in the morning, the city had a really great before and after program. So, they could get dropped off as early as 6:30. And because it was during… In the middle of the COVID pandemic, kids stayed with their individual group. So, we had groups of first and second, third and fourth, fifth and sixth, and seventh and eighth grades. So, if a kiddo got dropped off early, even if there was only one other child in their group, they were still just there with that one kiddo so that we did not mix groups for health safety reasons.

Then, when the academic day started, our learning coaches came in, they did a combination of whole group and small group instruction, as well as personalized learning that took place with software on the computer. So, the kids received instruction in math, social studies, science, literacy, as well as fun enrichment programs. It was a full-day program. They did novel studies. They experienced a lot of really rich discussion-based learning. So, that was a new thing for a lot of our kids. And it was really great to see them start to realize that what they were saying had value and what their classmates were saying had value as well to really be able to listen and have that give and take in the conversation was really exciting to watch that transition happen.

Then the city also provided breakfast and lunch. So, that was available during the day for our kiddos as well. And their rec staff would come in at lunchtime and oversee lunch with the kids, and then they would also take them to the gym. So, they would get an hour in the rec center gym to play socially-distanced games and have a chance to get some of their wiggles out before coming back and having the rest of their academic day.

Mike McShane: I missed a question I should’ve asked earlier, but the where. Where were these classrooms?

Don Soifer: The City of North Las Vegas operates two rec centers, two community rec centers that are full on buildings with classrooms and gyms. One has a senior center and they have, we operated in a library. So, libraries were completely closed during the pandemic. So, our first and second graders had the run of the place all to themselves to run around the library, which is so great for those kids.

Mike McShane: Awesome. I mean, that sounds like a great time.

Ashley Campbell: Yeah. I have to add, as somebody who libraries are near and dear to my heart, always exciting for me to see that this brand new generation of kids that maybe don’t typically go to the library really develop a love of the library while they were there.

Don Soifer: And the fact that the city, I mean, partnership regular schooling to me is best potential. And the fact that we are able to do this so inexpensively had to tie in this assets that our partner, the city, already had. So, they owned the buildings. They had staff in the buildings. They have an IT department that had old desktop computers. So, those took some of the big ticket items. Their staff didn’t do the teaching and learning, the contracted us to do that, but they did manage morning drop-off and afternoon pick-up, and keeping the buildings clean. And obviously during a pandemic, there’s an awful lot that you have to do for maintenance to keep health safety, and to act, and we had an IT department that could help us run the computers. So, using a partner that had those things, as we talked to employers or libraries or other municipalities, being able to leverage the assets that they had really let us do this thing and put the resources into what mattered.

Mike McShane: Well, since you brought it up, I feel more comfortable asking you about money. So, this sounds awesome. How much did it cost? Where did you get the money from? How did that all work out?

Don Soifer: So, the city hired, and I think what was so exciting about this as an education model moving forward, the city outside of all education funds, drew a straight municipal services contract, hired our nonprofit to run, the teaching and learning to run the microschools and be responsible for the operations every day. It was an active partnership though, so the city was responsible for the functions that we just mentioned. You have to price those, because the city already had an IT team.

But all in, the overall cost by anybody’s best estimate, was about a third of what per-pupil funding in the Clark County School District is. So, just a hair above $3,000 a kid. And we’ll get to the academic results, but they were phenomenal and it was learning gains and just schooling, just the relationships with families, they never want to go back, because they had a relationship with their schooling and a level of control and involvement with it that they just had never had the opportunity to have before for, again, a far less than per-pupil funding, which makes it sustainable.

Mike McShane: Sure. And there’s so much in there of what you’ve said, but I want to go back to something, Ashley, you were talking about, you mentioned the learning coaches. So I’d be interested, how did you recruit these folks? Did you do professional development with them? How did that all work?

Ashley Campbell: So, our learning guides came from a wide variety of backgrounds, which was really beneficial for our program. We had everybody from veteran teachers, who had been teaching in the school district for 20 years. We had previous private school teachers at… One of our just amazing rockstar learning guides was a retired Catholic educator. And then we also had some of our interventionists were coming to us currently going to school to be an educator. So, we had that wide variety of backgrounds and, yes, professional development was something that was really important to us and something we really wanted to make sure that we got right, because this was a brand new way of teaching and learning that our learning guides had not been familiar with before.

So, making sure that they really understood what we were doing, why we were doing it and the importance that their role was, that was really crucial to us. And I have to say, I was really excited about it. One of our teachers at the end of the program, who had taught for over 20 years, told us that it was the best professional development that she’d ever received. So, that was really exciting to hear.

Mike McShane: That’s great. How many students did you serve or are you serving currently?

Ashley Campbell: We ended the year with roughly 100 kiddos.

Mike McShane: That’s great. So now, Don, you mentioned it, but a question that I often ask on this podcast is how do you measure success? How do you know that what you’re doing is working? So, I will ask the question, how did you all measure success? How do you know that what you’re doing is working?

Don Soifer: So much of what you read about pandemic pods and microschools, but sometimes raises more questions than it answers in terms of are these effective? Are they equitable? So, we wanted to make sure that everything that we did was both of those things and measurably so, and part of that was political, because we had everyone in the City of North Las Vegas, who was approaching us to do this work, was an elected Democrat. And we really wanted to make sure that we were going to be able to… They were going to take some political heat for doing something so outside of a school district that’s such a major employer in their community and in the county. So, we wanted to make sure that it was measurable from day one.

So many of our kids were going to be coming to us so far behind. Remember, when you’re talking about a first grader who hasn’t been in school for so much of the year before, these are kindergarteners that had a few months of kindergarten and especially the older kids, many of whom had been retained already. On the very first days of the program, we measured that three quarters of our kids were at least two grade levels behind academically. And to do that, we used the internal assessments that were in the digital content that we chose, and we chose deliberately. So, a lot of that was Lexia and a lot of that was DreamBox. So, these are the internal assessments.

The world of assessment, so we got some questions about, is it apples and oranges? Comparing our results to other people, because our kids did not take the state test and we could have used something like NWEA map. Mike, you know from so much education research, different assessments, it’s not just a matter of integrity of assessment and including all kids, but they measure different, but we really believe that microschooling can measure and can measure growth.

So, when we did that, we knew that our kids were going to be all over the place. So we wanted academic growth to be important to us. And we promised, we stuck our neck out and promised the city that we could guarantee 125% academic growth. Those kids would gain 125%. And if you look at that compared to the highest fine charter schools, the Masteries, the Rocketships, that everybody is dying to have and Nevada can’t afford. That would compare pretty favorably.

And the results were really left out in the dust. So, the kids that we had for the whole year, and we had other gains for kids that joined us mid-year. But for kids that we had all year, 100% of them achieved a full year’s worth of academic growth in the ELA literacy, and 87% posted two plus years of academic gains in the one school year that we had. And in math, it was comparable, with 35% accomplished, two plus years of academic growth in math.

And for the kids that joined us midway through the year, we had a lot of growth at the semester break and we took kids throughout the school year. It was a pretty comparable trajectory once kids got the first three, four weeks behind them of how to adjust to this pretty radically different learning model, which in schools of choice, those are pretty radical student outcomes and compared very favorably to what the student outcomes were, as opaque as they can be, in something like the Clark County School District for the schools that were the homeschools for these kids, previously in North Las Vegas.

Mike McShane: I was going to say, and it’s an important compared to what question, comparing them to what they otherwise would have received during that school year, which wasn’t probably as strong as even they had received previously in years before . So, that raises some questions about the future. So, obviously, it’s like the Genesis of this program was to meet the needs during this Lord-willing, once-in-a-generation cataclysmic event, but families liked what was going on that what’s happening. So, what does the future hold as we’re recording this in early August of 2021, is there going to be a new school year of SNUMA students this year?

Don Soifer: The new school year starts on Monday.

Mike McShane: All right.

Don Soifer: It’s up and going in the same facilities. So, I mentioned before, we really donated our time for running it day to day in year one, and we’ve got a movement to build. So, we’re coming back to our jobs. We’ve been serving in an advisory capacity, but the city has new operators, a charter school network out of Texas that’s looking to expand into Nevada, PTAA, which is a proven serious network with a STEM-base focus. Is the operator, they’re recruiting families, most of the families we serve never want to go back to the traditional relationships with their school district that they had had, before they imagined that microschooling was possible. But they’re recruiting new kids. It serves grades one through eight in North Las Vegas, and the city is committed to keeping this thing going. And our involvement in an advisory capacity. This group is going to hit the ground running on Monday. Microschooling is going to continue for this school year and hopefully forever in North Las Vegas as a better way of doing things.

Mike McShane: And the city is just going to pay for it?

Don Soifer: They are.

Mike McShane: Is that coronavirus money? Is that just out of the general funds of the city? Where are they finding the money for it?

Don Soifer: So it is the municipality. So, the city council and the mayor had to get together on a budget and go through. And there’s going to have to be a combination of the federal rescue package has some non-education municipal and government funds that are definitely going to go into it. But the city is going to have to find other and additional resources, including applying for grants. The forward-thinking leadership of North Las Vegas is what you want in a municipal government. And they’re fully capable of doing that and keeping things on track. So, they’re going to have to be creative to keep it going. But again, it’s such a great deal for far less than per-pupil funding that they’re committed to demonstrating to their community, that they can do something better.

Mike McShane: You mentioned a couple times the belief of family that they’re just, they don’t want to go back to their old schools. I was wondering if we could tease that out a little bit. So, what is that experience that was different? How does it compare? And how did it sort of spoil them that they don’t want to go back to a traditional school model?

Ashley Campbell: So, our families, as we really got to know them and took time to answer their phone calls and talk to them about their kids. We learned a lot about what they had gone through in previous years in the school system. And I think one of our parents put it best when she explained to me, “For years, I’ve been told that there’s something wrong with my child and that she’s not on grade level, but nobody’s ever told me how to fix it.” And she said, “Now, with you guys at SNUMA, you’re showing me where she’s at. You’re showing me where she can be by the end of the year. And you’re showing me how to get her there.” She said nobody’s ever explained that to her before, what it’ll take to get her child to be on grade level. And that really made all the difference to her.

And we had countless other stories that echo to that same thing of their child just feeling forgotten, you’re sitting in a classroom with lots of other children in an overcrowded classroom, and there’s just not that individual attention. Here, all of our learning guides knew each kiddo, we knew what was going on. We knew if mom was out of town for the week, that kiddo might be having a rough week. And so we adjusted their learning goals as needed, and they just have not ever had an individualized education experience before. So many of them want to continue that, they’ve seen the progress that their child has made and they want to continue that progress throughout the rest of their academic career.

Mike McShane: Now, Don, you had mentioned from your previous experience in personalized learning that there’s this idea that it’s got to be an iterative process, you’ve got to try stuff, you make some assumptions, you try them out, some sink, some swim, you have to keep moving. Now that you’ve had this whole experience, and this is a question to both of you, it was just what Don said prompted it. But I would love to know if you’ve learned some lessons. So, in the process of that iteration stuff you did, it was like, “Oh, that didn’t work.” And then you found stuff that made it work better. So, looking back, and maybe both of you should have the chance to answer this, looking back on this past year and change of this experience, what are some lessons that you’ve learned?

Don Soifer: Yeah. So, it was fascinating and that was very much 1.0, and I can’t wait for 2.0 and 3.0 to apply those lessons. Just to give you a few of the important ones. From day one, we were committed to not having an attendance policy and not having a discipline policy, because this is after our homeschooling support. We were maybe a little bit overly optimistic in the ways that we can make that work. We wanted to have a behavior plan. And at the end of the day, for kids, maybe we tightened up a little bit. We learned as we went that so many of our kids couldn’t put together a cogent sentence or paragraph. So we added writing interventions and really took that seriously, particularly at certain grade levels, we added a lot of learning interventionists, this was during the pandemic. So, we needed to have a policy for our grownups that if they didn’t feel well, they didn’t come in.

So, we were able to fund a pretty robust team of learning interventionists, because we wanted to have every learning interventionists meet with every kid in literacy and math, but there were also our substitutes. So, having a team that can work together well, and we had to do a lot of management by walking around and making changes, making some personnel changes, maybe changing people’s roles. But by the end of the school year, attendance was such that we were able to add full-time music to the program, because suddenly we had the staff that we could put into that. So, there were a lot of constant iterations. We had to supplement some of the digital content that we used early on. We found different ways of leveraging, maybe Ashley can better talk about the goal-setting process for each kid and the tracking, but it was a great learning experience. And by the end of the year, worked pretty well.

Ashley Campbell: Yeah. I think one of the biggest takeaways that I learned from it, we also just really focused on a timely feedback loop and didn’t do the traditional letter grades. That worked really great for all of our kids, except for one particular group we found, with our fifth and sixth grade kiddos, I think had we started out doing letter grades, it might’ve worked a little better with that group in the beginning. By the end of the year, they had completely bought into the feedback loop. They were loving it, they were engaged. And the growth that they had was really exciting.

But at the beginning, there was a lot of, “Oh, I don’t have a grade?” kind of mentality and that took a little while to get over it. So, I think maybe switching that up… Our seventh and eighth graders, they were older and they have also been in the system. So, I thought that maybe they would have that same kind of attitude towards it, but they really picked up on the feedback loop right away and the importance of it and really enjoyed getting that valuable feedback from their learning guide and interventionists and discussing it with them. And our younger grades, they tucked that immediately, but yeah, fifth and sixth was a little trickier to get their buy-in. But once they did, man, they took off and they were great.

Don mentioned our goals. So, we set goals for each child each week and they were individual goals. So it wasn’t like a blanket, “We want everybody to do this many minutes on their digital learning program this week.” We looked, every Sunday night, Don and I would sit down at a kitchen table with all of the kids’ information in front of us and see where each child was at, talk about the kids’ circumstances in their life that week, what was happening at home, where we thought the kid could be by the end of the week. And then we would have those conversations with the children.

We would go in and say, “All right, here’s what we’re looking at. Here’s how many units you need to do between now and the end of the year. Here’s how many weeks are left until the end of the year. What do you think? This has the number we sat? What do you think?” And it was so great. When, so often, they would look at me and say, “Ms. Ashley, I can do more than that.” And they really, watching that shift in their attitude and knowing that the decisions and actions that they were making each day mattered was really exciting.

Mike McShane: So, I look at a map of the United States, there are a lot of other cities there. I would imagine that they have rec centers. I would imagine that they have IT departments. I would imagine that many of them actually have quite a bit of coronavirus funding that came there. So, the big question I want to ask is why aren’t there SNUMAs everywhere? Now, it could be possible that there are similar programs that I just don’t know about, but maybe a first bit of getting into that question is, did folks from other cities reach out to you? Did they hear about this and say, “Hey, we’d like to try it.” Or was this something that folks didn’t necessarily have that interest in?

Don Soifer: Thanks to you, Mike, and to Jason Bedrick and Rick Hess and lots of good national folks. We’re getting a lot of national attention for this. We’re not hearing from other municipalities reaching out, but the reason we stepped away from running day-to-day is to really focus on growing market share and growing a movement for this new kind of partnership microschooling. And we’re having lots of pretty compelling conversations that I really think, whether it’s in the school choice friendly states, some other arrangements here, the thing that really excites me is being able to leverage this with the employer-employee relationship that really provides so much of an educator’s crave in terms of buy-in. So, that’s still in the gestating phases, but we are going to see… It wouldn’t surprise me, at the end of the day, if the market share for microschooling and partnership microschooling ends up with something like a 10% market share before all is said and done, but we’re still in the early comfort building stages of it.

Mike McShane: You’re looking to not just talk to other municipalities. You’re talking about any number of different groups starting schools like this, or are you trying to sort of copy what you’re doing there working with a municipality, their facilities, their funding, et cetera?

Don Soifer: It’s a great recipe for the municipality that’s forward-focused within a large county school district that feels like it’s been underserved for a long time. It’s such a good answer in those cases. It’s a great one for family-friendly employers. It’s a model that can work, we’re talking to a law enforcement association. It’s a tough time to be a family in those arrangements, and some other different professional associations. So I’m not sure where it’s going to take, we’re a market-based group and this is market-based reform. So we’ll see, but we’re having lots of compelling conversations. And I’m quite confident that this time next year, we’re going to be talking about a whole bunch of constellation of different partnership microschools in different settings.

Mike McShane: You started to answer the question I like to end with frequently, which is sort of, as you look into the future, we just heard what you think from one year. But maybe if you were to look out five years or 10 years, both for SNUMA itself, and for this movement that you’re trying to build, what do you see? And then maybe there’s… Now, that we’ve done all this pandemic modeling and so for now you’re seeing what’s the low, what’s the middle, what’s the high, but I would just love to know, yeah, what’s your most optimistic case? But what do you see in five years, 10 years?

Don Soifer: Well, I think there’s so many other ways that, again, we really want to serve lower-income families that can’t just hire a teacher in their home. But I think that, Mike, some of what you’ve written about, I think there’s so much potential for failures in this watershed moment to really rethink the fundamental relationships that they’ve had with the institutions to provide their learning needs. I think that social impact bonds nationally are a very underutilized resource for K-12 education. And there would be a natural for this particularly in some of the states. I think Alaska, Idaho, Maine, Utah have laws on the books that will be natural to fit. And there’s federal dollars behind that as well. I think library systems are in a great position to do this.

There’s enough great forward-thinking municipal leaders right now that I think can get stuff like this done. I don’t know if 10% market share is a permanent one. I don’t know if microschooling families identify with, are permanent microschooling families, the way that Catholic school families or homeschoolers identify. It might be more temporary than that. It might be for a couple of years while you get caught up. Or if you like, we’ve got a kid that’s an active, competitive rodeo kid, or you have a bullying problem, or you don’t like your kid’s fourth grade teacher. Like there’s lots of ways it can be a market share that’s always there for people to come into and out of and move back and forth and hopefully move back in better shape than the kids that they’re going back into their public school class, if that’s where they end up.

Ashley Campbell: I think too, just talking about the growth of microschooling, as parents become more familiar with the concept, it’s something that we’re really hearing from a lot of families right now too, asking, “What’s available for my child? Where can I go to find something like this?” So it’s really just taken off with families as well. And there’s definitely a need and demand for microschools throughout

Mike McShane: Well, Ashley Campbell and Don Soifer, thanks so much for joining today’s episode of Cool Schools.

Don Soifer: Total pleasure, Mike.

Mike McShane: That was great. I really enjoyed that conversation with Don and Ashley, hearing about their experiences, the incredible stuff that was done for students in North Las Vegas, who even before the pandemic were not being served particularly well, in many cases, were not being served well by the traditional schooling system and particularly true during the pandemic. So, I think it’s really wonderful what they decided to put together. And it’s cool that’s going to live on after the pandemic. There’s a big discussion in education world and work world and kind of everything. What do we want to learn from the pandemic? What are the things that were good that we want to take away? What are the bad things that the pandemic brought to life maybe in just starker contrast that we think really needs to go away?

So, the stuff that SNUMA learned is great and I hope that they will have the opportunity to share that with municipalities, with philanthropists, with educational entrepreneurs around the country, because I think more SNUMAs is a good thing.

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Anyway, lots of great content on this podcast channel. So, please, like, and subscribe, share it with your friends and neighbors and check out our new website. We, in the last couple of months, have redone our website, www.edchoice.org, check it out. Super user-friendly, lots of great information, it’s all there, whether you’re interested in research, like I am, whether you’re interested into the politics, parent organizing, anything, all of those resources are available on our website. Thanks for joining us today. And I really look forward to sharing another Cool School with you on another edition of EdChoice Chats.