Stop Thinking and Start Taking Action with Don Soifer and Ashley Campbell
April 5, 2022
Stop Thinking and Start Taking Action

“Think Tanks” became popular in the 1960s, and even more so in the 1980s as a way for experts to research and develop ideas for policy and change. But if we spend all our time thinking instead of taking action, what good are we doing?

This week on the podcast, Don Soifer and Ashley Campbell of Nevada Action for School Options are sharing how their Action Tank is actually doing the work.

What if we focused on meeting each individual students’ needs, instead of trying to fit kids into a prescribed system? Building partnerships is the way to do this affordably and Nevada Action has figured out how to do just that.

Everyone is working so hard to support families and kids, and it shouldn’t have to cost families financially to give their kids what they need. Listen in to hear how one organization is doing it right and finding ways to impact even more families.

About Don Soifer:

Don Soifer is President of Nevada Action for School Options, a nonpartisan “action tank” he founded in 2017 to support the growth of diverse choices of rich, high-quality and personalized educational opportunities for all students.

Prior to moving to Nevada, he served as Executive Vice President of the Lexington Institute, a nonpartisan think tank in Arlington, VA that he cofounded in 1998. Soifer directed the institute’s education and other domestic-policy research programs. He also created and ran the Lexington Education Leadership Award Fellowship, the nation’s first national fellowship for school district leaders supporting personalized learning with technical partners Education Elements.

Soifer has built a record as one of the nation’s most accomplished charter school authorizers. He served an unprecedented three mayor-appointed, Council-confirmed terms on the District of Columbia Public Charter School Board beginning in 2008. He was widely regarded as a driving force transforming one of the nation’s most successful charter authorizers as it instituted systems for prioritizing quality for the 120+ schools overseen, via a new national model accountability framework, equity, transparency and responsible authorizing. He subsequently served as a board member on the Nevada State Public Charter School Authority, appointed by the State Board of Education, from 2019-2021, during which time he played an instrumental role driving the agency’s focus on quality schools and equitable opportunity.

He has been a fellow with the Aspen-Pahara Institute Education Fellowship since 2018.
Soifer has also served as a strategy consultant for companies, including Fortune 100 companies, across multiple economic sectors.
Soifer’s research has been published and discussed in many of the nation’s most influential news publications and policy journals, and cited by policy decision makers at all levels of government, including the U.S. Supreme Court.
He has testified before the U.S. Congress on several occasions, in official hearings of various federal and state agencies and legislatures, and has appeared regularly on television and radio programs around the country.

About Ashley Campbell:

Ashley Campbell is Chief of Staff at Nevada Action for School Options. Before coming to Nevada Action for School Options, Ashley was the Assistant Director for The Pinecrest Foundation and the Community Coordinator for Pinecrest Academy, Horizon Campus. Ashley oversaw many initiatives, including teacher initiatives geared towards teacher retention and addressing the teacher shortage. In addition, Ashley worked in project development, raising funds for underserved students and student scholarships. As Community Coordinator, Ashley was responsible for implementing many programs at Pinecrest Horizon, such as annual block parties and family nights. She was instrumental in increasing enrollment by 7% in 2019.

Before joining Pinecrest, Ashley worked in the independent film market as both an actress and producer. Producing films gave Ashley experience in leading multiple teams, as well as overseeing projects with a variety of budgets. Working as an actress provided Ashley the opportunity to learn from industry professionals, such as Matt Damon and Elijah Wood.

Ashley is committed to improving education in Nevada, and firmly believes that the best way to do that is to ensure that educational opportunities not only exist, but thrive.

Jump in the Conversation:

[1:36] – Being an action tank
[3:08] – Making partnership micro-schooling work
[6:26] – How it compares to public schools – how it looked different
[9:16] – Goal of building strong ecosystems of independent micro-schools
[11:10] – How funding works
[12:48] – The role of Nevada Action
[14:38] – Relationships between technical partner and host partner are important
[15:30] – Be creative about getting dollars into education
[17:57] – Employers can improve system – employer-sponsored partnership
[18:31] – Teachers crave family buy-in and involvement
[20:01] – Kids have given up on school – able to deal with sit?
[20:57] – Fundamental shift families were working so hard and struggling that they started rethinking relationships with institution
[22:36] – There are people who want to help you
[23:35] – Fundamental relationships really matter
[25:15] – Turbo Time
[28:29] – Biggest thing people need to know about student-driven learning
[32:58] – Ashley’s Magic Wand
[33:37] – Don’s Magic Wand
[33:14] – Maureen’s Takeaways

Links & Resources



Maureen O’Shaughnessy 0:03
Hello fellow parents and educators. Thank you for joining me at education evolution, where we are disrupting the status quo in today’s learning models. We talk about present day education, what’s broken, who’s fixing it, and how. I’m Dr. Maureen O’Shaughnessy, your host and founder of education evolution, micro school coalition, and co founder of active, I consult and train with schools and leaders who are fiercely committed to changing the narrative, reimagining the education landscape, and creating learning that serves all children and prepares them to thrive. If you are new, welcome to the podcast. Please subscribe on our website to get it delivered to your inbox weekly. If you’ve been around a while, have you left a review?

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 1:08
Hi, Don, and Ashley, it is so good to have you here today. Thank you, viewers, and listeners. today I’m chatting with Don Soifer and Ashley Campbell, President and Chief of Staff respectively, at Nevada action for school options. Don and Ashley, you note that you are not a think tank, but rather you are an action take. Please explain.

Don Soifer 1:36
Oh, thanks, Maureen. Thanks for having us. I spent the greater part of my career inside the Washington DC beltway in the think tank world and as an education researcher and just decided we know at this point, when education research has to tell us we know what our challenges are. Let’s go out there and do it. So when I I walked away from from from from the beltway out into the West for the first time to this terrific state with amazing Nevadans and wanted to really dedicate this work to to action to getting done what we need to do to meet our meet our challenges. And sir, Nevada action. The divide is Nevada’s action tank for education options.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 2:15
Love it. Ashley, what would you add?

Ashley Campbell 2:19
This has been an exciting venture for me to work with Don, I started working with Nevada action for school options. Actually, two years ago, we’re coming up on the two year mark. And it’s just been really exciting to take so many great ideas and put them into action. Right? That’s what what we’re about is putting all of those wonderful ideas that we’re working on and that others come to us with and taking those and putting them into action and creating new educational opportunities in Nevada and elsewhere.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 2:48
I love it. So I get to help some people. I have a little book on creating micro schools, and I do a little consulting on that. And a little coalition. And many of the hopeful school founders that consult with me begin by asking, Where will I get the funding who hands out the money and partnership, micro schooling is a brilliant solution. Could you please explain how you make this work?

Ashley Campbell 3:14
Yeah, absolutely. So partnership, micro schooling is a really unique way to come up with funding outside of traditional school funding. We work with a variety of different partners, one of our biggest to date projects was the Southern Nevada urban micro Academy. And hopefully in just a little bit, we’ll let don go into detail about the funding for that because he explains that very well. But working forward and other partners, we’re talking to a lot of employers both in Nevada and around the country, who tell us that some of the biggest problems that they’re coming up against right now is recruiting and retaining their talented individuals. And an option that makes it appealing addition to their benefits package is to provide schooling for the families of their employees. So if an employer wants to create a partnership, micro school, they would fund that outside of traditional school funding methods. And a lot of times these are done for a fraction of the cost of traditional per pupil spending. So for example, if an employer has access to maybe a couple empty offices or an empty conference room, that’s a great space that they already have access to, to use for their partnership, micro school, which really helps to cut down on those costs. And Don, I don’t know if you want to jump in with some details on Suma and the funding for that because that was a unique experience.

Unknown Speaker 4:30
So at the start of the pandemic, we were in talking with the leadership of the city of North Las Vegas, Nevada is poorest, fastest growing hardest working city, and it’s in the municipality. It’s municipality within the Clark County School District, the fifth largest school district in the country that has under resourced and underserved North Las Vegas residents for decades. And we just realized that what they needed was something more drastic than locating a charter school in one of their buildings, which was something that we’d been talking about. So We worked in tonight, we knew exactly what we would do in terms of a microscope for their particular needs. Because we believe as a core, one of our core beliefs and micro schooling is that unlike the charter school sector where it’s fine to take something off the shelf that’s working in Houston or, or, or Silicon Valley, that the microscope can be designed and built around the needs of the individual learners serve. So with that in mind, with learning loss, and the three quarters of our kids more than two grade levels behind when we assess them, which frankly, didn’t have much to do with pandemic, what we wanted to do, and we worked through the night and walked into the city manager’s office the next morning and dropped two briefing books on his desk and the city paid for it originally with some federal dollars and then ultimately was putting city appropriations to serve all of their any any North Las Vegas resident for free in a program that was an all day in school experience with free breakfast and free lunch for residents. That was paid for by the city council and the mayor appropriating dollars completely outside of education, funding streams and all of the strings and requirements that was attached. It was a pretty, it was the first ever Public Private Partnership for micro schooling, and we see it as a bellwether of things to come.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 6:16
So if I were to step into that micro school, would it look like other small public schools, private schools? How did it compare to what else you’ve experienced?

Unknown Speaker 6:29
We both still on three campuses, two rec centers and a library that are all city owned, and the libraries were first exposed during the pandemic. We insisted on small learning environments of up to 15 kids in a classroom. It was an all day experience we had Jim, by the end of the program, we had a full time music teacher. And it really fused the best of personalized learning experiences and high quality personalized learning schools around the country, which Nevada does have any and the best of the in person experience in some real some ways that were really thoughtfully designed to work best with the student population that we had. And to that extent, those families never want to go back, they never want to go back to it to a cookie cutter factory based system that wasn’t built that way.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 7:14
And I hear you go ahead, Ashley,

Unknown Speaker 7:16
I think one way to that it really looked different. It’s just, I mean, they just felt different when you walked in. And it was so exciting. Don loves to talk about the different novel study discussions that he would sit in on and listen to. And I was particularly excited to walk into the different groups when math was being talked about and hearing the kiddos talk to each other about oh, I use this strategy to solve this problem. And you used a different strategy to solve the same problem. I’ve never walked into a classroom where I’ve heard kids excited to talk about how they solve the math problem and compare different strategies that they use. So that was very exciting. And I think our staff was really different from what you’d see in a traditional public school or even, you know, public charter or independent private school. We had a variety of backgrounds coming together to educate these children. And we love to talk about our middle school math instructor who was the head of pyrotechnics at the Knights of the Round Table, which is a show out here on the Las Vegas Strip. And so it was very exciting for our middle schoolers to hear how he used math everyday to blow things up for a living. So of course, they were fascinated and just bringing together different people, some was, you know, had been longtime educator, some were not, and bringing those different backgrounds together and providing providing professional development, made a really stellar team that were just working everyday with these kids in remarkable ways.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 8:34
Wow, that just sounds amazing. And I’d like that you said Learning Guides versus instructors and scholars and those that dispense wisdom to younger beings. You know, it really guiding kids is so much more personalized and gives kids so much more agency, and even your math example of kids talking strategies, that tells me that the kids feel safe, they feel like it’s a community. So they’re really ready to open up and converse about things that in some bigger schools is like I just put my head down. I just play the school game. Please don’t call on me. So they have a really different experience. So good for you guys. Thank you. So I also love your goal of building a strong ecosystem of independent micro schools. Heck yes. I think we need kazillion more options until every kid has equitable access to learning model that works for them. So yes, how do you foresee making this happen?

Unknown Speaker 9:33
Southern Nevada Clark County Las Vegas is not a place right now. That’s that’s known in many circles for high quality educational options for families and to the microscope sector. And I love these families. I love these educators because unlike other school choice ish constituencies and schools of choice we’ve had before every family in Southern Nevada needs a high quality either quality education option for their family. All learners do right so we serve it kids who need As most like we did in North Las Vegas, and we serve families who were in the social circles of the lawmakers and the decision makers, and everybody in everybody in between. So we’ve got a network of 17, or 18, to say, and again, it grows every week. Really awesome high quality micro schools and micro schooling environments that go from 100 Plus kids to much smaller numbers that are in all sorts of different settings. And it’s such a fantastic dynamic constellation of learning environments, that these families are never going back, this is never going away. And the market, I would really, I would not be surprised if before before all is said and done. Micro schooling gained a 10% market share in the place that’s been previously that families are just reconsidering their historic relationships with the institutions that they’ve always relied on to meet their educational needs. It’s a fantastic thing to watch as they really take ownership of their own learning trajectories for their families, and this is never going back in the toothpaste tube.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 11:02
Yay. I love that. I want to loop back around you have 17 or 18 Micro schools right now in your ecosystem funding. Are they all partnership paid? Because that seems to be the biggest sticking point for people that have a lot of energy? It’s like, who’s gonna pay for this? Is it tuition? How do you make it happen?

Ashley Campbell 11:19
It’s a little bit of both. So our partnership micro schools, often the the funding comes from the host partner and and a lot of that deals with the resources that they already have. So if they’ve got access to technology, if they have access to maybe staff that can help with drop off and pick up. Again, we mentioned buildings, things like that really helps to keep those costs down. So really you’re left with and what we do here, with our micro schooling in the initiative through Nevada action for school options, we really work to with different learning tools and trying to keep those costs down as well for the micro schooling leaders. So really, your biggest ticket item is your staff that you’re working with. And and there’s different creative ways to come up for funding that. And as far as the independent ones that Don was mentioning, and the the constellation that we have here. It’s everything from charging tuition to some really creative ways that that our micro schooling leaders come up with funding and just some different unique fundraising things and, and opportunities that they find in the valley. Like, for example, one of our independent microscopes out here did a show called Monday’s dark, it’s a local benefit concert here in Las Vegas. And they, they work with a different nonprofit each week, and they they give that nonprofit $10,000. So they did a benefit concert in their honor. It was really fun. And and they they received $10,000 that they were able to put towards scholarships at the end of the night. So just really being creative with thinking of of alternative ways to find funding is helpful.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 12:44
Love it. So tell me your role as Nevada action. Are you do people come to you and say help me get this going? Do you? I mean, how do you support the 1718 schools and the growing number of micro schools?

Unknown Speaker 12:59
Yeah, absolutely. So I think there’s kind of two different tracks that we really work in, right, we work in the partnership, micro schooling, which there’s one way to get that going. And we work in the independent micro schooling, which is another way and if if I could focus on independent micro schooling, and then we loop back around and have done talk a little bit about what we do for partnership, micro schooling, that would be great. But with our independent micro schools, it really is everything from somebody that says hey, I want to do this, but I’m not sure how helping them from start to launch and then supporting them after with everything from talking about what what kind of zoning laws they need to be aware of and, and helping them figure out what their unique mission is we do a variety of trainings on things like operational necessities, goal setting, understanding parent choices, and building parent relationships, measuring effectiveness and alternative ways. So just a variety of trainings that we offer. And then for our microspores, once they’re up and going we do communities of practice, we just get together with a group of just completely amazing individuals that are out here changing the educational landscape in Southern Nevada. So we meet together weekly, they have a chance to talk with us and with each other about things that aren’t working for them things that are working and learning compare notes. And then again, with things like contract management for learning tools, so that we can, you know, maybe take care of that book cost that so many software companies require the bulk license purchase, if we can handle that and then allow our micro schools to use the number of licenses that they need. They don’t need to pay such a large upfront fee. So a variety of support like that for independent micro schools.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 14:31
Love it. Don. What would you add?

Don Soifer 14:34
So partnership micro schools are a relationship between a technical partner like in this case, our nonprofit serves, who’s responsible for the teaching and learning. And the host part host partners can be municipal governments like the city of North Las Vegas, they can be employers, they can be houses of worship, they can be professional associations. We’re doing one now with the with the library system in Nevada’s largest rural county and the Public Library system be creative about funding sources in ways to keep costs down, right, and ideally is as close to free as possible for families looking in Nevada, and increasingly, as we’re getting more attention for this work around the country, at what are the creative public sources of funds, right, there are some states that our phones have been ringing a lot from that have you sort of well known school choice programs for dollars from a kid, whether it be Arizona, or Indiana, or West Virginia, or Florida, and those programs can be incredibly helpful to families. On the other hand, there’s lots of other ways that we can be creative about getting dollars into education, and education general, right. Because there’s, there’s not many places where we have too many dollars in education in this country. And about it like like a public library and a public library that’s run by the county board of supervisors that’s in charge of its fund. There are federal childcare tax credits that employers are tapping into in other ways, what’s the potential for using those for for micro scoring, and other and other other ways and other creative ways that we can find to make sure these dollars are going into a place where their value is greatest to families and where just that the early adoption phase of this work. And I’m excited to see the directions that goes because once we have that base of happy families that are served by micro schooling, and this isn’t going away, lawmakers got a ton of positive press and decision makers in May and the mayor’s deputy worked with the mayor in the municipal government in North Las Vegas got a ton of positive press in the Nevada press. And nationally, it appeals to elected officials and it appeals to employers, as Ashley mentioned earlier. And as we go, we’re going to find more and more creative ways to fund these things that are going to be other ways, then families making sacrifices out of their own budgets to make this happen, which is largely what’s happening now in the early adoption stage.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 16:52
You know, I’m just super inspired and my brain is sparking. And a piece that I feel challenged by nationally is that at least in Washington State, baby here and other states, the Business Roundtable influences the state legislature. And so like we have all this state testing does, we want accountability. But the state testing isn’t really preparing kids to be work ready or college ready. So the Business Roundtable isn’t really satisfied, but they’re not gonna let go of testing until they know something else is there. So it feels like this in a catch 22. But what you’re saying is people that are perhaps on the Business Roundtable are also in your partnerships. So I’m just speculating that this could really start to influence policy at the state and perhaps national level in my off base.

Unknown Speaker 17:41
You got to totally right. I mean, not all Chambers of Commerce are useless to their community, some are actually quite effective, as they’re learning that now as they’re learning what they can do and influence things, whether it’s from the US Chamber of Commerce to the Vegas chamber, which has been terrific, what are the ways that employers can really improve the system and fix the system in ways that really matter to families and a player partnership microscope seems to be seems to be as we have more and more conversations with employers here in Las Vegas and around the country, something that appeals to them. And let’s face it, these are also employers that are competing with each other for hiring and retaining employers in an economy. These are these are players who are fighting with each other to hire and retain their workers and in a growth economy. So I think it works both ways. And I really think that from the from an education practitioners point of view when you talk to the teachers, your children have had through a generation. And educators are craving a connection of family buy in and family involvement in this work. And if you can bring not only in micro schooling with our kids, or mostly homeschool kids, but if you can tie that into the employer employee relationship to get skin in the game, that’s pretty hard to beat. And our teachers love this even more than our families.

Unknown Speaker 18:57
And to add to that, as we hear from employers that they’re not satisfied with the, with the candidates that they have for their positions, because they don’t feel like they’re being properly prepared in schools. If you have an employer that’s hosting a micro school on their site, that gives them a chance to really influence the kiddos that are there at their program as well. And they’re able to just start to instill some of those soft skills and values that they’d like their future employees to have and they really get to help be a partner in preparing a whole new generation of workforce and and really talented individuals for their for their field if they if the kiddos graduate.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 19:34
Absolutely. I love that. P TECH is another program out there that businesses and high schools partner and boy they get they’ve do paid high school internships and then those kids are like, I love it here. Of course I want to work for you. So yeah, it doesn’t have to be that we just hope some graduate will come and work for us. We can be fostering that and training them up. That is super cool. I’m gonna pivot. I’m really well. worried about a lot of kids right now that have just given up on school and their school refusal school anxiety? And I don’t even know where all those kids are, but they’re not in school? Do you guys have a finger on the pulse of this at all? And are you able to be in some way dealing with a situation

Unknown Speaker 20:19
where we were concerned about the Clark County School District was so documented in its failures to serve families during the pandemic? Well, and we ran a probe, we ran a facility where kids in the Clark County schools were what could come in and work on their building lead, you know, Clark County pushed all the education decisions during pandemic down to the building level. And some of them were better than others. But most of them really, really struggle Clark County School District struggled with, with equity issues, and device distribution and community and the private sector really stepped in and really proved helpful. But at the end of the day, this is a fundamental shift that started during the pandemic, where families just were working so hard and struggling so hard as we’re educators, that they really came to fundamentally rethink their relationships with the institutions that historically they had relied on to meet their educational needs. And that’s not going away. And for a lot of those families, and a lot of those kids that are still missing, and for whatever reason, you can count on our superintendent probably going to find as many of those kids as they can, because they’re but their budgets and their funding are tied to their depending on your state system. But this is a weigh in for the most part, these are not your traditional homeschoolers, these are, these are families that are probably not experienced with schools of choice for the most part, they’re coming into a system where they can be in charge of their own educational trajectories, their own goals, their own learning, and, and I think that they’re gonna want to retain that and keep that moving forward. Because families know what their educational needs are better than a factory system does.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 22:05
I love that. And I think to our families are our biggest marketing tool because they talk to other family, you’re putting up with that, that institution, hey, here are your choices. So I feel like if you get parents on board, they are going to totally spread the word because we all as parents have, have felt that angst when our kids not in the right fit. And we want to help other families not experienced that. So good for you for really helping parents see they have choice. So education, evolution, and part of the act of collective we’re about Come on, let’s shake it up. So if you if somebody out there says oh, gosh, I feel bad about education. Gosh, I wonder if there’s something I could do? How do you think others can help get us out of our status quo? institution that’s kind of hasn’t been changed a couple 100 years into a landscape that’s equitable, and has kids engaged and thriving?

Unknown Speaker 22:58
Yeah, I think the best answer there is create what you want. Whatever you see, that’s lacking in education. And whatever you feel like your needs, or your community’s needs are not being met, create what you want to have an educational experience, build a team that can be you know, other families, friends, community members, get together, decide what it is that you all want and build it there are resources and people out there ready and willing to help and build it and your families will be thrilled. So just jump in and get started.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 23:31
Love it. Don, would you add anything?

Unknown Speaker 23:35
I think these are times where we thinking things and fundamental relationships really matter. I work on Capitol Hill during no child left behind when everybody was worried about our parents really going to think through whether or not their state content standards are good enough. And is there going to be a race to the bottom? We’re in a watershed moment today where reasonable people are wondering if their state content standards even matter for the future that their children are going to have? Or were they really designed to have an effect on the future that the lawmakers at the time who wrote those things had and I think the more people are getting involved and their own choices, exercising choices, even if they stay within their own within their own school building. Right. There are some people like Arizona is doing some really great things within schools within schools with microphone. It doesn’t matter how they’re how they’re organized. The charter school world that Ashley and I both come from hasn’t quite figured out like the schooling. There’s some interesting things happening. And certainly kudos to people like wildflower and prenda who are finding some interesting ways to get things done. But for the most part, it’s a sector that’s kind of clunky and kind of resistant to doing anything especially innovative in this particular generation of new charter school builders compared to what it started with. These are things that are within people’s grasp and as as Americans and families and learners themselves just we claim control of their own education trajectory. It’s gonna do some pretty great things.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 25:01
I agree watershed moment indeed. Yes, absolutely. And I’d like to take a minute for us to get to know the folks you too, behind Nevada action. So I have some turtle time questions that I throw out just so we can kind of get to know you too, because it’s fun to understand more about the people, and not just the product or the program. So folks, what is the last book you read?

Unknown Speaker 25:30
The last book that I read was Empower what happens when students own their own learning? That’s by John Spencer and AJ Giuliani.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 25:39
I use their design thinking model. I love the two of them. Okay.

Ashley Campbell 25:43
Absolutely. It’s a great book.

Unknown Speaker 25:46
You’ve all Levine’s a time to build from last year is a really important way of thinking about Americans and their institutions. And just where are we right now in this country? And what’s fundamentally going on with our relationships between ourselves and people and institutions. And I think you’ve Ollie Levine did a great job, laying that out in the time to build.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 26:09
My book list is just growing all the time. Thank you. Those are great. How about two inspirational folks you’d love to meet?

Unknown Speaker 26:21
So my answer might sound a little silly. But I just really am so inspired by all of our micro schooling leaders. And I feel very fortunate with them. So I can’t even even begin to think outside of Africa. Well, I’d like to meet right now. Just like every time I meet with them, I’m so inspired by what they’re doing to create change. And it means the world to me, I have three children, and I love coming back home and telling my kids Oh, we had this great meeting, and they’re doing it for you. They’re doing it for all the kids in Southern Nevada, so they’re just a really inspiring group to me.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 26:48
Love it.

Ashley Campbell 26:49
Thank you.

Don Soifer 26:50
Ah, one of my personal heroes has been Ella Baker, the so the civil rights leader who really, more than anything, was an incredible civil rights leader as a as a, as a woman and non Minister leading an organization spiritually that was run by men who were ministers. What what she taught us most important is the importance of trust in leadership. And if there’s one thing that really needed right now, in this time, in all of our leadership is leadership based in trust. And I think, the more we learn from and study Ella Baker, and I also mentioned her because she didn’t give a lot of interviews, and she didn’t write an awful lot. But I think that’s exactly the sort of leadership that we need. So I keep I keep a big Ella Baker picture, when you first walk into our office watching over all of the work that we do every day. And that’s where I

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 27:41
that is awesome. How about a TED Talk that inspires you?

Unknown Speaker 27:46
I think one that I listened to recently that I really loved was Brene Brown the power of vulnerability.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 27:55
I agree.

Unknown Speaker 27:57
I’m gonna throw this one out to Michele Gelfand, my my, my friend and Colgate classmate, who’s rule makers. Rule Breakers is doing a ton of circuits in the in the in the book talks and radio shows. She’s really a macro psychologist. And it’s about the the ways social norms within societies change and evolve and interact to show the ways we react to things as a as a society. And I think she goes on to say, We shall go fine.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 28:23
Awesome. How about microscopes totally going to student driven learning, because it’s not the lockstep and it’s personalized. So what is the biggest thing you wish folks knew about student driven learning?

Unknown Speaker 28:38
I think the biggest thing I wish that I that I wish that folks knew about student driven learning is that it can look and sometimes even feel a little messy. I know sometimes when you step into a student driven learning center facility for the first time, a lot of times you can be a little overwhelmed, like, whoa, wait, what’s going on here? Is there really learning happening, I’m not sure that when you stop and you have a chance to talk with the children, you have a chance to talk with the learning guide who’s facilitating the learning there. It’s amazing. All of just everything really is purposeful. Everything that the kids are doing has a purpose. And while it might feel a little overwhelming, and might feel a little messy, that kids really are getting so much out of it. And so just take a chance visit one if you haven’t been before step into an environment that truly is student led, and student driven and see, see if you can strike up a conversation with the folks that are in the room and get to know what’s happening because it’s once you get past that first little bit of like, oh, wait, what’s this? It’s a little different. It’s really one of the most exciting things but I think you can see,

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 29:40
love it and I guess on my Seattle campus today, and there were in the middle school room, there were some kids in the middle of the horseshoe, laying on the carpet together doing something and then kids grouped together at different tables with a couple of kids working in isolation, and it’s not silent and you can’t tell exactly what’s happening. It’s not like everybody is on page 12 It can seem messy, but there’s so much going on. So I’m with you on that Ashley? Don.

Don Soifer 30:06
I love messy, totally calm. When you start to implement personalized learning models, whichever model you’re using, failure is a good thing. Whether it’s the teacher, or it’s the learner themselves, it’s okay to fail, it’s a good thing to fail. And it’s crucial that when you fail, you learn from your mistakes, and you inform your work. And that not a lot of people think about it that way. So many people in education are so afraid of messing up or doing some something in front of their supervisor and in front of their kids who are going to get back to their parents. But when you’re personalizing Teaching and Learning failure is a good thing, both for the educator and for the class, as long as you’re learning from it and doing it. That’s not something a lot of people think about above it.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 30:48
And I love when teachers own it. Oh, my gosh, guys, I totally tanked on this. Next time, I need to do that. Hey, how about we do this instead? I think kids really respect teachers for being real. And who cares about perfection we want people we can connect with. Totally agree. So a pet peeve you guys have

Ashley Campbell 31:10
loud showing, I struggle with.

Unknown Speaker 31:16
Like so many people in education, I’ve got an anti authority streak the mile wide. And it just drives me nuts when people over rely on using authority when there’s other ways to get things done. So I mean, I think over relying on authorities always been one of my

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 31:30
Amen. So Ashley, I have to throw this in, in your acting career. You work with Matt Damon. I’m sorry, but I have to know more.

Ashley Campbell 31:42
Yeah, yeah, actually. So before I started working in education, I worked in the film industry. We had a really great thriving film industry a few years back here in Southern Nevada. And I did I worked on the last foreign film with Matt Damon, he’s a super nice guy. It was it was a really fun time for us.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 32:03
And something that most people don’t know about you.

Unknown Speaker 32:07
I was kicked out of ballet lessons as the child for my lack of coordination.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 32:13
Oh, over that trauma.

Unknown Speaker 32:16
Over the trauma, yes, I’ve come to just fully accept that I am not the most graceful person and that’s okay. Oh,

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 32:24
Don, can you top that?

Unknown Speaker 32:27
No, I can’t talk. But I just, I’m a music lover. First and foremost, I need I need music, and I needed to be loud around me to get anything done, that that’s gonna really matter. So I think there’s a lot of us out there and need to speak up more often than other people go outside of the beach to peace and quiet. That’s what I do.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 32:49
So do I my husband likes it loud? I hear Yeah. Yeah. I like to wrap up my interviews with a magic wand moment. So if you each had a magic wand and could impact education in any way imaginable, what would you wish for, for our learners for our schools,

Unknown Speaker 33:11
I would wish that every child had access to a learning environment that they were best suited for, and that they had free access that they were able to attend whatever learning environment works for them, and that they had the flexibility to move between them and to learn and grow with different groups of kiddos and different educators, and that they could attend for free.

Unknown Speaker 33:34
Yes, our overall investment in K 12 education in this country is about four and a half percent of GDP, when to adjust for this crazy economy. I often you know reasonable people can disagree whether that’s too much or too little. But I often say that at present very low level of productivity no matter how you measure it, that four and a half percent of GDP for the K 12. Education is just not sustainable moving forward in any way. And how do we go about improving the overall productivity of our education sector? Whether it’s within a classroom, whether it’s on the expenditure side or the revenue side? How do we make our education sector the kind of productive vibrant sector that we need throughout our economy? And that would take a big magic wand to get done. But I think work like we’ve been talking about this last half hour or waiting a way to do it.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 34:28
Absolutely. Boy, well, Ashley, Don, I really appreciate your time today and the hard work you’re doing with Nevada action and I have a feeling you’re gonna have to change your name because I think that people are gonna be knocking on your door they already are from all over the US. So you might have to be something bigger, or Nevada plus something just saying but thank you so much for your time today. Thank you. No one’s gonna be reaction but I’d be a total pleasure. 83 enjoy talking with you

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 35:12
imagine my excitement when I found a whole organization, finding funding and promoting micro schools for their state. And these micro schools are to serve students who often don’t have access to personalized learning or needed technology. needed change to the archaic and harmful institution of education will happen much more quickly and effectively. With partnerships. schools and parents are already partnering, bringing in municipalities and businesses make wonderful steps. Often there are common resources available, like the rec centers and libraries used by Nevada action. Synergy means we each get to bring our best to the table, and know that our parts create much more than we could have imagined. Nevada action continues their efforts by supporting these micro schools with communities of practice. In Washington State, we have educational school districts or ESDs. They provide a resource bank available to schools of all sizes. That’s exactly what Nevada action is doing. Providing a needed resource bank for micro schools. It’s not enough to open a micro school. It takes communal effort to keep the school open, and to help it continue to evolve in terms of student driven equitable learning.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 36:40
Don and Ashley, give us brilliant advice. create what you want. If you believe the educational system near you is not meeting a given need. What can you create that could and don’t go it alone. Nevada action is beginning to get calls from other states and they could be a resource for you too. I’m sure they would have many ideas to support your efforts. I have to comment on Don’s pet peeve. I also struggle with authority. I’m sure many of us who have stepped outside of the box have had this challenge, and places that prioritize authority over relationships. miss out on being humane, we have to make sure our schools honor the dignity and humanity of each student and educator. Don’s pet peeve is more than a minor annoyance. It is one that reminds us of how we need to show up, especially with youth who often are told to sublimate their ideas and blindly follow authority. Ouch. And the magic ones are equally empowering. Ashley’s dream of every child having free access to a learning environment that is best suited for each learner. And the flexibility to move in between learning environments is revolutionary. Instead of a kid needing to fit a system, the system flexes and the kids needs are met. This is a necessary human right for all learners. And dawn with a policy and finance background reminds us of how we need to put our money where our values are as a country.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 38:25
Do we really think our youth merit 4.5% of the GDP. Imagine investing more in the development of K 12 institutions and each learner. The results have the potential to be us downloading here is to all of us creating what we want and being out of the box thinkers to get equitable student driven learning for each youth. And please join our active collective on April 28, and 29th. For our free Summit, you’ll get to hear from many of the education evolution podcast guests, and ask questions of the panels of experts. Together, we can create the change our students and schools deserve. Thank you for being a part of the education evolution.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 39:23
I know how challenging it is to make changes inside your own school or community. I’ve spent years working with schools around the world on creating learner centered programs. And it always struck me how much schools were able to get done with the right tools and guidance. If you’re ready to make changes like this in your own school, let’s talk and put together an action plan. Visit for a free 15 minute call. And let’s see if we’re a good fit for more work together. Thanks again For listening to support the education evolution, subscribe so it lands in your podcast app and gets out to more decision makers. Then rate and review it. For more information in shownotes go to education education evolution listeners, you are the ones to ensure we create classrooms where each student is seen, heard, valued and thriving. We are in this together and we need you. Let’s go out and reach every student today. Thank you for listening, signing off. I am Maureen O’Shaughnessy, your partner in boldly reimagining education

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