The rise of micro-schools: combinations of private, blended, and at-home schooling meet needs of individual students
FROM SAN FRANCISCO TO AUSTIN, TEXAS, TO NEW YORK, new forms of schooling termed micro-schools are popping up.
As of yet, there is no common definition that covers all these schools, which vary not only by size and cost but also in their education philosophies and operating models. Think one-room schoolhouse meets blended learning and home schooling meets private schooling.
As Matt Candler, founder of 4.0 Schools, writes, "What makes a modern micro-school different from a 19th century, one-room school-house is that old school schools only had a few ways to teach--certainly no software, no tutors, and probably less structure around student to student learning. In a modern micro-school, there are ways to get good data from each of these venues. And the great micro-school of the future will lean on well-designed software to help adults evaluate where each kid is learning."
Several factors are driving their emergence. Micro-schools are gaining traction among families who are dissatisfied with the quality of public schooling options and cannot afford or do not want to pay for a traditional private-school education. These families want an option other than home schooling that will personalize instruction for their child's needs. A school in which students attend a couple days a week or a small school with like-minded parents can fit the bill.
Some trace the micro-school's origins to the United Kingdom, where over the past decade people began applying the term micro-schools to small independent and privately funded schools that met at most two days a week. As in the United States, the impetus for their formation was dissatisfaction with local schooling options. Although home-schooling families have for some time created cooperatives to gain some flexibility for the adults and socialization for the children, the micro-schooling phenomenon is more formal.
One of the early U.S. micro-schools, QuantumCamp was founded in the winter of 2009 in Berkeley, California, out of a dare that one couldn't teach quantum physics in a simple way. The result was the development of a course that would be accessible to children as young as 12. The school now offers a complete hands-on math and science curriculum for students in 1st through 8th grade, and serves about 150 home schoolers during the school year; double that number attend the summer program. Tuition ranges from...