Give students a choice

6 May 2023

The clicking of keyboards echoes in my otherwise silent Spanish class. Lights dimmed, a sea of Chromebooks illuminate the room in an orderly grid, their operators wordlessly typing away. My leg begins to bounce, thinking about all the missed opportunities of the clear, sunny day outside the closed window shades. As classmates listlessly put their heads on the desk or stare pleadingly at the clock, I realize that they feel the same way: drained.

Since returning from distance learning in 2020, education has become almost completely digitized. Most tests and assignments now reside online and most deadlines are 11:59 p.m.; now students no longer have the excuse of being absent when not completing an assignment. Canvas, the main system used in the state of Nevada, makes sure that students have the ability to do school work at all hours of the day, ensuring that students are students even when they are at home. With all of this autonomy, is in-person school necessary at all? And if students can complete their schooling at home, what is the purpose of still coming to school?

Although some may still find value in attending in-person school, as students age they should be given the opportunity to choose. Provisions in AB54 allow for 12th graders in the 2023-24 school year to opt for autonomous learning through their district despite their living location. As stated in Section 6, “A pupil who is enrolled in grade 12 in a program of distance education and who moves out of this state is eligible to maintain enrollment in the program of distance education until the pupil graduates from high school.” This gives Nevada students the freedom to live anywhere and still receive their education. 

As a competitive athlete in rock climbing, there have been many times when I wanted to be home-schooled. All the best competitors in my sport either are or have been a pupil of remote learning, which gives them the opportunity to put competitions first and tailor education to their schedule. As I frequently was sitting in class jet lagged, writing essays in the car or having meltdowns over assignments that would be waiting for me when I returned to class, the feeling of never being caught up made me want to quit going into school. With the constant relocation of living, the only thing preventing me from becoming home-schooled was the pre-existing rule that I would have to leave Clark County School District (CCSD).

Not only would AB54 allow for flexibility in students’ lives, it would give seniors the opportunity to receive in-state college tuition for an out-of-state college. This could be life changing for students because out-of-state college tuition can be two to three times the cost of in-state. Generally, if students live in a state for a minimum of 12 months, they are able to gain residency. Why bind Nevada students to one spot when they could be exploring educational opportunities anywhere in the country or the world?

Despite the obvious social benefits of physically going to school, it is important for students to have the choice to take a different route as they reach more mature ages. I have no regrets with choosing to physically attend classes, however, I couldn’t help but think about how many more opportunities I would have as an athlete if CCSD did not require a permanent address.

Solutions to creating a more flexible education system could and can include:

Support bill AB54: AB54 gives seniors the option to complete their education online (if they decide it is personally a better fit). This allows for students to stay with CCSD instead of having to complete their education through a separate organization. Go to the NELIS website, create an account and submit a written testimony under “public opinions” in support of AB54.

Introduce a hybrid of in-class and online teaching in CCSD: Providing the best of both worlds, students would have the ability to come into school if they live in their district, but their classes would be half asynchronous and half online. This method is offered by Sage Oaks Charter School in Redlands, California, its main goal being individualized education and career readiness. Hybrid learning gives students the ability to truly make education their own and explore learning opportunities outside of school grounds.

Make class more engaging: Almost everyone can relate to staring at the clock during a lecture. This method of strict lectured-learning is outdated and wastes valuable exploration time. If class time was structured in a way that was more engaging and hands-on, while leaving the individual work to do at home, students would benefit more by physically attending school. According to a Purdue University study, students who performed hands-on activities versus attending a lecture saw much higher test scores and improvement rates. 

A globally connected world presents a new mindset, new skills and new needs, all which need to be met by Nevada’s education system. Schooling has the potential to be individualized for success instead of a one-size-fits-all institution. To best suit the needs of a changing society, it is vital that Nevada students have the option to choose their best form of education and there is no better way than to support AB54.

Lily Gurdison is a senior attending Southwest Career and Technical Academy in Las Vegas in the automotive program. She is a competitive rock climber and multimedia editor of the Southwest Shadow Newspaper at the academy.

The post Give students a choice appeared first on The Nevada Independent.

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