Michael Tomas Mitchell (‘11 M.Ed. Early Childhood Education) is the Executive Director of Acelero Learning Clark County. Acelero Learning provides early childhood education and family engagement services to approximately 1500 Head Start children here in Clark County. Head Start is a Federal program that promotes school readiness for children (aged 0-5) from low-income families by enhancing their cognitive, social, and emotional development in areas including language and literacy, for example.
Mr. Mitchell obtained a B.S. in Sociology from Brigham Young University before joining Teach for America, where he was assigned to his first choice city: Las Vegas. While here, he entered the College of Education’s Alternate Route to Licensure program, completing an M.Ed. in Early Childhood Education in 2011. He attributes much of his current success to the professors within the College, recalling how they showed him how to be a teacher and leader, how they provided ongoing learning and support in his current role, and how they approached his ARL cohort as, first and foremost, professionals, a distinction he carries into his own approach to adult learning. He also taught courses within the College of Education, which has led to hiring some of his former students for Acelero, perpetuating the College’s impact on the community in meaningful ways.
In his position as Executive Director, Mr. Mitchell is responsible for providing the twelve schools and nearly 300 employees under his supervision with direction and leadership in pursuit of Head Start’s mission of closing the achievement gap and building a better future for children, families, and communities. Acelero’s program has proven successful for many enrolled—Students tested after two years in Acelero programs reach gains that are nearly double average national growth, and are among the largest-known recorded gains for a Head Start program.
Though much of his focus is on student growth and achievement, Michael’s goals and Acelero Learning’s comprehensive nature goes far beyond a focus on child outcomes alone. As such, Mr. Mitchell’s responsibilities also include is also effectively distributing resources at his disposal to where they are most needed, such as getting food to families across Clark County through partnership with Three Square. Acelero also works with families to provide wraparound support out-of-classroom issues, including strategies that assist with student advocacy, finding employment or financial support, and help obtaining a GED or learning English.
Michael is motivated by his own experiences as a young learner without access to sufficient educational resources, as well as by clear research which indicates that access to high quality education is among the top indicators of upward socioeconomic mobility. He is the proud son of a former Head Start student, herself the child of first generation immigrants. Mr. Mitchell recognizes the impact that Head Start had on his family and on his own success. He notes that in some ways he is similar to a doctor—Once he has seen a patient, he hopes not to see them again, as that means they are healthy and thriving. As more students and more generations are impacted Acelero Learning, Michael hopes the need for such programs will fade into memory, allowing him to turn his attention to the next area in which he can make his mark in education.
We are deeply saddened by last night’s events on the Las Vegas Strip. Our thoughts are with all of the victims, their families, and all those affected by this unthinkable tragedy.
Resiliency comes from coming together and building connection. Know that you are not alone at this time, and there are people and resources available to help you. In addition to University-wide efforts, the College of Education has mobilized experienced and in-training counselors to support those in connection to last night’s incident, including our students, faculty, and Las Vegas community:
Counseling Services & Student Support
The Education Student Services Center (ESSC) will be open for students from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. to provide a safe space for students seeking solace. In-training and practicing counselors will be available to provide support for those in need. Location: Carlson Education Building (CEB), Room 118 Phone: 702-895-1537
The PRACTICE, an on-campus mental health clinic located within the College of Education, is offering drop-in crisis counseling to those in immediate need at no cost. Location: Carlson Education Building (CEB), Room 226 Phone: 702-895-1530
Drop-in counseling is available until 6 p.m. in the Health Education Room at the UNLV Student Wellness Center.
Missing Person Reports For families looking to locate loved ones, call 1-866-535-5654.
To our partner organizations and community: Should your agency need assistance in regards to counselors or counseling/coping resources, please contact the College of Education Dean’s Office at 702-895-3375—we are happy to assist in providing the services and assistance you require.
Online Resources for Coping with Trauma On behalf of the Assistant Director of Clinical Services and Research at The PRACTICE, Noelle Lefforge, we have compiled a list of resources that can be of use:
From the earliest days of our republic, we have believed that education was critical to our democracy. Our founders knew that the health of our country, the wellbeing of the citizenry — and particularly the strength of the democracy — would be built on a well-educated population. Though disagreements have been fierce regarding who is to be educated, how much education they need, and whether to measure its value in economic growth, individual growth, or societal growth, fundamentally, we have always agreed that educating our citizens is important.
With this belief in mind, in 1917 our country began a unique experiment: We required education to be available to all of our citizens for free. Now, after a century of well-intended effort and research by countless experts, 17 presidents and their respective agendas, and 50 congresses armed with the education reform du jour, frankly, we’re still experimenting. We still haven’t figured out how to make our educational system work consistently for all children.
How can this be? The past several decades have been filled with announcements that THE new idea — the unequivocal “fix” — for public education has been discovered. “If only we allow parents more choice in selecting their child’s school,” or “find better ways to hold teachers and schools accountable,” or “develop better tests,” or “standardize curriculum,” or “integrate more technology,” or “expand states’ authority.” The list of efforts is long.
Yet, there is very little evidence that these initiatives, individually or collectively, have done much to improve educational outcomes or equity. Why have these efforts been so fruitless?
Let’s look back for a moment.
Nearly all of these reform approaches are grounded on concepts codified in a single policy document: A Nation at Risk: The Imperative for Education Reform. Often credited as the catalyst for a pivotal shift in public education policy, the genuinely innovative concepts in A Nation at Risk changed the way our country, and much of the western world, thought about and approached educating its citizenry.
This genuinely groundbreaking set of ideas was released in — 1983. The same year Motorola unveiled the first hand-held mobile telephone, aptly named “The Brick” for its weight, shape, and size. In the years since, future-focused innovators have pushed the boundaries of technology and engineering in ways that were only vaguely imagined, if imagined at all, by those who clamored to get their cutting edge “Brick.”
Over that same period, the education and policy communities have intensely focused on refining the original concepts presented in A Nation at Risk. From America 2000 in 1991 to No Child Left Behind in 2001 to our most current iteration, Every Student Succeeds, each plan promised to overhaul education from bottom to top. And, fundamental to these reforms, was the perpetual quest to identify best practices.For 35 years, literally billions of dollars have been invested in massive efforts to find teachers, schools, and states that seemed to be performing better than others, determine what it was they were doing that might explain this, and then implement (or impose) these best practices more broadly.
The problem with best practices is that, by nature, they’re always out of date.
They represent the “best” of what was being done in some place and at some time in the past. At most, they improve achievement of yesterday’s goals; at worst, they actively promote the status quo by continually looking backward rather than forward.
To meet the needs of students in our rapidly evolving world, we must set our sights beyond settling for the best we once knew or even know now. The problems, issues, and needs of yesterday may no longer be relevant, so even the best strategies known to address them may have little consequence to the world of tomorrow. To achieve tomorrow’s outcomes, we must set our sights on developing the next practicesnecessary to serve the future generations and the issues they will face.
The Future Is Here
Since the College of Education’s inception in the very early days of UNLV’s history, one of its major objectives has been to educate and prepare high-quality teachers to serve in Nevada’s schools. But educating our state’s educators is far from the college’s only purpose.
Our faculty have always been engaged in future-focused research to inform policymaking and validate new professional approaches for a new era of students. Notably, research and methods stemming from the Silver State today have intrinsic benefits for far more than just Nevadans.
Many have noted what the a June 22 New York Times piece recently featured: Las Vegas is the future. The population of Southern Nevada today — in terms of race, ethnicity, gender and age — is nearly identical to projections of U.S. demographics in 40 years. In essence, Nevada’s present is America’s future.
For the College of Education, our community provides a “living laboratory” in which to create, research, evaluate, and cultivate the newest strategies — the next practices — that will educate future generations… Made in Nevada, shared from coast to coast and beyond.
Challenging the status quo, our faculty and students have accepted the task to usher in change. Pioneering new research and testing new methods to achieve our nation’s grand promise of equitable education for all citizens is our mission. From studying the benefits of rigorous early childhood education in a fully-inclusive setting, like the Lynn Bennett Early Childhood Development Center, to developing more effective ways to use virtual reality in educator preparation, as in our Interaction and Media Sciences Lab, or improving the use of real-time data to adapt and improve instruction and learning, as in our Metacognition and Motivation in Advanced Learning Technologies Lab, our faculty’s research and findings are shifting the way we, and our peers, approach education and educator preparation.
This focus is bringing UNLV national acclaim as a leader in developing practical solutions to future educational challenges. The American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE) recently featured UNLV as one of four colleges of education leading innovative research partnership programs with their community’s preK-12 schools. The Abriendo Caminos/Opening Pathways program—a UNLV initiative to add more teachers of color to the pipeline—was chosen by the U.S. Department of Education from more than 90 applicants as a focus project for the 2016 Teach to Lead Summit. As a result, we are creating actionable plans for school districts to begin implementing the program in their own, increasingly diverse, schools.
UNLV’s role as education innovators is anchored in being unanchored … We politely refuse to be tied down by what has been established as“the best.” Exactly where this takes us remains to be seen, but knowing there is always more to research, more to study, and new answers to be found, will be what drives us into the future. We will always strive for what’s better than the world’s presumed “best.”