By 2025, 1 out of 4 children in classrooms across the nation will be English language learner (ELL) students. In fact, this is the fastest-growing group of students in grades K-12. As numbers increase, the responsibility to ensure they have all the tools they need is more important than ever.
In Nevada, we have seen a lot of success with Zoom Schools. The Zoom School programs are symbols of what is going right in Nevada’s public schools. Zoom schools have provided English Language Learners interventions such as extended school years, reading skills centers, family engagement, half-day pre-schools and professional development for teachers. This comprehensive package of programs and services has resulted in increases in English language proficiency as well as improved academic achievement.
An external evaluation of the programs by ACS Ventures and the UNLV Center for Research, Evaluation, and Assessment show positive results demonstrating improvement in student performance. The study recommends continued funding for Zoom school programs along with enhanced professional development for educators at Zoom schools. NSEA is supportive of these recommendations.
NSEA will continue to ensure that this program is funded. This is one issue NSEA has with the new pupil-centered funding plan. SB543 will eliminate current “categorical” expenditures, including those funding Nevada’s successful Zoom and Victory School programs. Instead, funding will flow through the State Education Fund and then a portion will go to address the additional education needs of English learners and at-risk pupils.
While a menu of services related to current Zoom and Victory programs are to be made available to all English learners and at-risk students, it seems unlikely that existing Zoom and Victory Schools will be able to maintain the current level of services for these students to continue their success.
With reduced funding, the current model will be watered-down and compromised.
SB543 threatens Nevada’s two most important education equity programs that have been proven effective through state evaluations. By shifting funds away from our schools to a “pupil-centered” approach, Zoom and Victory schools lose significant momentum on school climate and culture, jeopardizing the gains they have made in our most impacted schools.
Meanwhile, language in SB543 limiting the application of student weights to an either/or approach runs counter to educational best practice that recognizes our most impacted students fall into multiple categories of weights and require much greater investment than provided by any single weight in SB543. This need is greater for students in communities that are beset with serious, intractable social and economic issues.