Monday, July 15

Define a Microschool.

Microschools have become a popular alternative to traditional educational settings for parents and educators who are dissatisfied with distance learning and COVID-19-related school closures. However, supporters assert that the schools—which often enroll 15 pupils or less—are more than simply a passing trend.

Read More: what is a microschool

“Many people are wondering if education on a small scale is the answer to our concerns about the future of education,” says Denver’s Highlands Micro School director Anne Wintemute. “But in actuality, microschools have existed for a very long time.”

Microschools are a distinct institution, typically recognized as an official school and a for-profit enterprise, although being comparable to pandemic learning pods, where families united to let children to study in small groups, occasionally with a private instructor.

“Microschools are a hybrid of homeschooling and private schools,” explains Tasha Ring, director of Meridian Learning, a Cincinnati-based nonprofit that supports and coordinates neighborhood microschools.

Having seen personally the model’s effectiveness, Janelle Wood is the founder of the Black Mothers Forum, a parent advocacy group located in Phoenix. In January 2021, her organization established a network of microschools because they believed this was the most effective approach to break the school-to-prison pipeline.

The community members that run the forum’s microschools, which consist of mixed-grade classrooms with little more than ten pupils, include many parents who have previously taught. Students work on online learning environments such as iReady and Zearn for a portion of the day. They work together on projects and do research on topics they choose for the remainder of the time. Students participate in electives like debate and foreign language studies on certain days.

According to Wood, “these kids get to move at their own pace.” “We provide an environment where students can persevere until they encounter a challenge, which adds an element of enjoyment to learning as they must solve an issue.”

Their accomplishment has caught the attention of others. Recently, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey announced a $3.5 million commitment to create 50 microschools in collaboration with the forum.

Around the nation, brand-new microschools are opening up in church basements, downtown shops, and residential buildings. Every grade level, from kindergarten to high school, has a microschool. Even microcolleges exist.

A Brief Overview of Microschools

Since there isn’t a single national certifying organization, it might be difficult to determine the precise number of microschools in the nation. Although there are many different rules and regulations, several states—Wisconsin and West Virginia, for example—are attempting to define microschools through new law.

Microschools vary in appearance, but they all have a lot in common, such as student-centered, individualized learning and accommodating several age groups in the same classroom. In general, teachers serve as mentors rather than lectures and might be either parents or licensed educators.

Arizona-based Prenda is a microschool network founded and led by Kelly Smith. According to him, Prenda takes the same strategy as many microschools—that is, it employs well-known but little applied methods.

When COVID struck, the traditional classroom was moved into the living room, and most parents had to wonder if their kids were still learning. At first, maybe because of the Socratic approach or project-based learning, “we saw a huge influx of families,” but today, according to Smith, “there’s a transformation in the way people are thinking about education.”

The Nature of an Education at a Microschool

There are several possibilities for parents who are interested in microschools. Certain microschools are autonomous and hyperlocal. Some belong to bigger networks, such as Acton Academy, which charges an average of $10,000 a year for tuition and has more than 250 affiliate schools spread over 25 countries and 31 states.

Then there is Prenda, which started at Smith’s house with seven local kids in 2019. Today, the firm runs a network of hundreds of tuition-free schools throughout six states in collaboration with state-accredited colleges.

As part of its Recovering Bright Futures Program, the New Hampshire Department of Education recently teamed up with Prenda to address the interruptions to learning brought on by COVID-19. The state’s education commissioner, Frank Edelblut, believed that the reduced classroom sizes would help address the numerous aftereffects of the epidemic on children.

“We thought of it as a small environment to meet the individual needs of our students and families,” says Edelblut. “A lot of students had some missed learning to catch up on, but some students were traumatized as a result of the pandemic as well.”

With the help of COVID relief money, districts in New Hampshire are able to start microschools, or “Learning Pods,” for mixed-age groups of five to ten kids who meet in community centers or school facilities. Pupils study using a combination of small-group projects and state-standard-aligned online curriculum, under the guidance of trained Prenda guides and New Hampshire-certified teachers.

Even though the program only has a few hundred pupils registered statewide, Edelblut predicts that families will be able to choose to participate in it for some time to come.

Success for grassroots, smaller microschools is not determined by their size. The ideal enrollment for Highlands Micro School, which Wintemute founded in 2016, was 24 pupils. Even with the increased demand during the epidemic, that is still the maximum number of students that may enroll.

Wintemute explains, “We’re small on purpose because being small makes so many things possible.” We are able to build really strong bonds with each and every kid. We can go camping and take the bus. Because it makes us agile, we can truly adapt what the students are working on to them on a daily and hourly basis.

Microschools’ adaptability enables them to benefit from their local community in ways that larger schools frequently aren’t able to. In addition to running many microschools in Cincinnati, Ring of Meridian Learning is getting ready to open a new “micro farm” for older children, those between the ages of 12 and 18.

“We’re moving throughout the city and utilizing the nearby available land,” she explains. The school is built on the “Erdkinder” Montessori idea, a learning approach that combines classroom instruction with agricultural labor and stresses hands-on learning. It’s basically a school without walls, according to Ring.