COVID-19 placed restrictions on the education system in the United States, causing some parents looking for an alternative to turn to micro-schools. What is this alternative solution for educational nourishment all about?
What are micro-schools?
Micro-schools, which educate K-12 children, are, as the name implies, very small schools that normally serve 10 to 15 students, but can sometimes serve as many as 150. They can have quite varied objectives, but they all have some things in common, such as more individualized and project-based learning. They also have closer adult-child connections where instructors serve as facilitators of student-led learning rather than merely material deliverers.
Michael Horn of Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation puts it this way: “Think one-room schoolhouse meets blended learning and homeschooling meets private schooling.”
Inside public schools, such as the North Phillips School of Innovation in Edgecombe County, North Carolina, micro-schools can be found. But they are also found in the private sector, such as at the MYSA Micro School in Washington. They may function in a variety of settings, including living rooms, businesses, churches, libraries, and offices.
How are they supported?
The majority of micro-schools serve few low-income students, according to a 2019 survey. The cost of attending a privately operated micro-school can range from $4,000 to $25,000 per academic year. Some models are funded through school voucher programs. In Florida, about 1 in 3 students at the BB International School draw on the state’s private choice programs.
Are they efficient?
There is little, if any, significant research comparing the efficacy of micro-schools to traditional public schools. However, the majority of the data indicates that there is minimal difference in student outcomes across charter, private, and public schools. This shows that the quality of micro-schools may also vary greatly.
Are they still popular after the pandemic?
Following the epidemic, some parents, dissatisfied with their children’s schools’ approach to online learning, established micro-schools and learning pods. The New York Times reported in 2020 that the Pandemic Pods Facebook group had more than 41,000 members, indicating interest in the concept. However, this figure had dropped to 38,000 by September 2021. It is important to mention that, traditionally, private schools have only served around 10 percent of the nation’s children.
The pandemic appears to have contributed to the increase in interest in micro-schools, but a 2020 survey found that two out of every three parents gave their local public school an A or B rating in reaction to the virus.
What is the difference between public and micro-schools?
Micro-schools sometimes do operate inside the public education system. They can be thought of as an offshoot of the small school movement.
The previously stated North Phillips School of Innovation was formed in 2017 to address low academic performance, excessive student absenteeism, and frequent discipline issues. Students and parents desired more individualized learning that was relevant to their daily lives in the community. During the pandemic, the district leveraged its micro-schooling expertise to develop learning pods, allowing them to more effectively customize instruction for kids and their families.
Furthermore, during pandemic-induced school closures, the New Hampshire Department of Education created their own version of learning pods to create small multi-age groupings of students — anywhere from 5 to 10 students — to help up to 500 students who were struggling with academic, social, and emotional setbacks.
Finally, the micro-school concept is compatible with teacher-powered schools, which are purposely tiny schools inside the public school system where teachers have greater latitude to lead as well as educate.
The pandemic may spur new public-private partnerships, resulting in more equitable and customized education, with micro-schools playing a crucial role.