Showing posts with label learning. Show all posts
Showing posts with label learning. Show all posts

What are microschools? 5 questions answered

Since COVID-19, some parents in search of educational alternatives for their children have turned to microschools. Here, Barnett Berry, a research professor in education at the University of South Carolina, explains what makes microschools distinct from other schools.

Photo by  Monstera from Pexels

By Barnett Berry - September 16, 2021

This article was originally published in  The Conversation

1. What are microschools?

As their name suggests, microschools, which serve K-12 students, are very small schools that typically serve 10 to 15 students, but sometimes as many as 150. They can have very different purposes but tend to share common characteristics, such as more personalized and project-based learning. They also tend to have closer adult-child relationships in which teachers serve as facilitators of student-led learning, not just deliverers of content.

Michael Horn, a fellow and co-founder at Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation, aptly noted: “Think one-room schoolhouse meets blended learning and home schooling meets private schooling.”

Microschools can be found inside public schools, such as in North Phillips School of Innovation in Edgecombe County, North Carolina. But they can also be found in the private sector as well, such as the MYSA Micro School in Washington. They can operate almost anywhere – from living rooms and storefronts to churches, libraries and offices.

It is difficult to know just how many microschools there are throughout the U.S. State rules and regulations differ considerably, and there is no one national accreditation agency for microschools.

Horn reported that QuantumCamp, founded in 2009, was a microschool established “out of a dare that one couldn’t teach quantum physics in a simple way.” Acton Academy operates more than 180 microschools in the United States and abroad.

Microschools are often associated with ed-tech and efforts to privatize public education. For example, SchoolHouse – a New York-based ed tech startup – reportedly raised $8.1 million as of 2021 to take its model nationwide.

It is difficult to know just how many microschools there are throughout the U.S. State rules and regulations differ considerably, and there is no one national accreditation agency for microschools.

2. How are they funded?

The cost of attending a privately operated microschool varies widely. It can range from $4,000 to $25,000 per academic year.

These private microschools tend to serve families who can afford them – a 2019 survey found that the majority of microschools serve few low-income students.

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 to finance their microschool education.

Microschools can have much lower overhead than public schools, which can in turn reduce the typical per-pupil expenditure. But they also cannot provide the depth of extracurricular opportunities, such as sports, drama, band and more that parents seek in a more holistic education experience for their children.

3. Are they more effective than regular schools?

There is very little, if any, substantive evidence on the effectiveness of microschools compared to regular public schools. However, most research shows little difference in student outcomes between charter, private and public schools. This suggests there might be wide variation in the quality of microschools as well.

Students and parents wanted more personalized learning that connected to their life in the community.

4. Has the pandemic played a role in their popularity?

In the wake of the pandemic, some parents – frustrated with their child’s schools’ response to online learning – have turned microschools and learning pods. For example, The New York Times reported in 2020 that the Pandemic Pods Facebook page had more than 41,000 members, suggesting interest in the concept, although the number had shrunk to 38,000 as of September 2021. Yet it is worth noting that, historically, private schools have served only about 10% of the nation’s students.

The pandemic appears to have played a role in the uptick of interest in microschools, but a 2020 poll showed that 2 in 3 parents have given their local public school an A or B grade in response to the pandemic.

5. Do microschools and public schools work together?

Microschools do work inside the public school system and can be viewed as an extension of the small schools movement.

In 2017, the North Phillips School of Innovation, mentioned earlier in this article, was established to address poor academic performance, high student absenteeism and frequent discipline problems. Students and parents wanted more personalized learning that connected to their life in the community. During the pandemic, the district used their experience with microschooling to create learning pods and has been able to more effectively personalize learning for students and their families.

In addition, during pandemic-induced school closures, the New Hampshire Department of Education developed their version of learning pods to create small multi-age groupings of students – anywhere from five to 10 students – to help up to 500 students who had been struggling with academic and social and emotional setbacks.

Finally, the microschool concept aligns with Teacher Powered Schools — intentionally small schools inside of the public education system – where teachers have more autonomy to lead as well as teach.

Perhaps the pandemic can spur new public-private partnerships that lead to more equitable and personalized learning in which microschools play an important role.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license.
Read the original article.
The Conversation is a nonprofit organization working for the public good through fact and research based journalism.
The Conversation

States Attempt to Prohibit Harmful 'Critical Race Theory' in Our Schools. Will Their Efforts Backfire?

No matter how noble our intentions are, government participation in education is destined to spark political squabbles and determine who wins and who loses.

BY Kerry McDonald - August 29, 2021

This article was originally published by the  Foundation for Economic Education

A mom in a Boston-area online parenting group posted earlier this week that her child’s public school chemistry class was replaced one day by some older students who gave an 80-minute presentation to the class on “white power” and “white aggression.” The parent was surprised that this occurred during her child’s science period and concerned about the racialized language and content of the presentation.

This is critical race theory, or the practice of viewing all social and cultural issues through the lens of race and racial identity and casting all human relations in terms of power structures related to that identity. It is pervading both private and public school classrooms across the country, and is embraced by the Biden administration, whose recent proposed federal rule would use taxpayer funds to award millions of dollars in American history and civics education grants that prioritize critical race theory.

I have argued that critical race theory, as it is currently implemented in schools across the country, is a harmful and divisive ideology influenced by Marxism that moves us further away from Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s vision of a nation that focuses on individual character, not color. It is important to speak out against this ideology that places group identity above individualism and creates a binary conflict between “oppressor” and “oppressed” in relation to race.

There is an understandable urge to use public policy to prevent this toxic ideology from seeping into US classrooms, but it is also important to recognize the limitations of government regulation in addressing critical race theory.

The key is to limit the power of the federal government and devolve that power to the states.

State-Level Education Policy

One of the great virtues of our country is our framework of federalism that seeks to minimize the powers of the federal government to those narrowly defined by the Constitution, while giving states wide freedom to enact policy on a variety of issues. When the federal government meddles in education, it impacts all of us. We might cheer when our preferred politician or party is in power and initiates programs we embrace, but when the pendulum inevitably swings, the cheering inevitably stops.

This is why it is just as important to oppose the Biden administration’s support for teaching critical race theory in America’s schools as it was to oppose the Trump administration’s support for teaching “patriotic education” through the proposed “1776 Commission.” The key is to limit the power of the federal government and devolve that power to the states.

One state recently took on the issue of critical race theory.

The full Idaho legislature just passed a bill preventing critical race theory from being taught in the state’s public schools and universities. The bill uses neutral language that recommits to nondiscrimination and calls for public education to “respect the dignity of others, acknowledge the right of others to express differing opinions, and foster and defend intellectual honesty, freedom of inquiry and instruction, and freedom of speech and association.” This week, I joined the Idaho Freedom Foundation to talk more about this new bill, which the governor signed into law on Wednesday.

The bill may seem benign and affirming, but in its implementation it could prevent honest and important discussions about the history of American slavery and government-sponsored racism through Jim Crow laws and redlining.

It could effectively mandate that educators ignore or gloss over real examples of past and present American racism, or avoid books and resources that bring these examples to light. Indeed, one Idaho lawmaker, Rep. Heather Scott, stated in support of the Idaho bill that teaching Harper Lee’s classic book, To Kill A Mockingbird, in schools is an example of how critical race theory has been “creeping through our schools forever.”

To Kill A Mockingbird is a fictional story of actual racism in the Jim Crow-era South where a black man is falsely accused of raping a white woman. Statewide attempts to crush critical race theory in schools could go too far in responding to overly racialized classrooms by dismissing racism altogether.

State lawmakers can and should consider these issues when debating education policy, and be held accountable by their constituents. On Thursday, the Oklahoma House of Representatives also approved a ban on critical race theory in the state’s schools, and similar legislation is being discussed in several other states.

But in the absence of that ideal, statewide school choice policies allow more parents to withdraw from a mandatory school assignment for whatever reason, including their possible disagreement over curriculum and classroom ideology.

Focus on School Choice Legislation

In Idaho, some people peacefully protested the newly enacted bill, and there are likely many parents who disagree with it. If Idaho parents don’t like the state’s policy response to critical race theory in schools, they should have the opportunity to leave their assigned district school. Similarly, if my state of Massachusetts passed a bill mandating critical race theory in public schools, then parents here who disagree with that curriculum approach should also have the freedom of exit. School choice policies such as education savings accounts (ESAs), vouchers, and tax-credit scholarship programs can help more families to do this.

The trouble with government involvement in education, even at the state and local levels, is that it creates political struggles and chooses winners and losers. This is why I ultimately favor a fully privatized education system, and why I advocate for the elimination of compulsory schooling laws.

But in the absence of that ideal, statewide school choice policies allow more parents to withdraw from a mandatory school assignment for whatever reason, including their possible disagreement over curriculum and classroom ideology. These policies allow per-pupil taxpayer funding to follow the child rather than the school in the same way that food stamps follow the grocery shopper rather than the store.

Government policy, even when implemented more locally and even when we might agree with the policy, is rooted in coercion. We can minimize that coercion by reining in government and limiting the power of politicians over our lives, as well as by creating off-ramps to allow those citizens who disagree with a coercive policy to more easily opt-out.

This article was adapted from my LiberatED email newsletter. Sign up here to receive fresh, weekly content on parenting and education issues.

Kerry McDonald

Kerry McDonald is a Senior Education Fellow at FEE and author of Unschooled: Raising Curious, Well-Educated Children Outside the Conventional Classroom (Chicago Review Press, 2019). She is also an adjunct scholar at The Cato Institute and a regular Forbes contributor. Kerry has a B.A. in economics from Bowdoin College and an M.Ed. in education policy from Harvard University. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts with her husband and four children. You can sign up for her weekly newsletter on parenting and education here.


This article was originally published by the  Foundation for Economic Education and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Thinking of Switching to Homeschooling Permanently After Lockdown? Here Are 5 Things to Consider


This article was originally published by  The Conversation

Homeschooling registrations for children in Victoria in 2020 grew by almost four times the rate of the previous year, recent reports show.

Some families who had children learning from home during lockdown discovered they enjoyed spending more time together and some children found they learnt better at home. Parents may have recognised academic or social challenges for their child at school and decided to continue with homeschooling.

But even before COVID-19, homeschooling was on the rise. If you’re considering homeschooling because your child seems to do better at home, but are unsure if it’s the right thing to do, here are five things to take into account.

1. Homeschooling is different to remote learning

Homeschooling is different from remote learning. Remote learning is the experience of teachers delivering the school curriculum to children at home, as was done during the recent school closures. This is more like distance education, which some families do if they live remotely, for instance.

In homeschooling, parents have elected to meet their child’s educational needs themselves, rather than using government or other school options.

Homeschooling is legal in all states and territories in Australia but there are differing registration and monitoring requirements.

2. It takes a lot of time and effort

Some parents put together a school structure at home with lesson plans and routine break times. They may employ a tutor to help with their child’s education or do this themselves.

Others choose to use an unstructured or “unschooling” learning method. This is an informal way of learning that advocates student-chosen activities rather than teacher-directed lessons.

Even if parents decide to teach children in an informal way, they will need to put in significant time and effort.

The process of developing a homeschooling routine takes time, effort and patience. Parents may be required to submit a plan to their state education department, which, in most cases, should show an alignment between their child’s learning and the national curriculum.

Parents may have to develop or implement a full school curriculum at home without the resources available in schools.

Even if parents decide to teach children in an informal way, they will need to put in significant time and effort. For example, a parent may use a trip to the shops to cover geography (the child navigating), mathematics (the child calculating the cost of items), or economics (supply and demand factors), but this may add hours to a routine shop.

So, parents will need to consider their ability and desire to take on this leading role in their child’s education. For some parents it can also take an emotional toll and feel isolating if there isn’t a plan or enough support.

3. Consider social and other difficulties at school

Some families homeschool on religious or ideological grounds; others are motivated by practical limitations to school access — such as if the school is too far from home or their child has a disability.

Many individual children can face difficulties going to school, such as the separation of leaving their carer or parent. Other children may be bullied at school.

Some young people who have died by suicide were found to have done so after persistent bullying.

There is very little research into the effects on children who are experiencing difficulties at traditional schools and change to homeschooling.

But parents should know schools have a legal obligation to provide a safe environment for children. They must address bullying behaviour and provide support for both the victim and the perpetrator. When there are difficult interactions parents, teachers, the school and children (where appropriate) should collaborate to improve the situation.

Children often need support from teachers and parents to navigate exposure to bullying. But if the behaviour is allowed to continue with options exhausted, students will be more likely to experience negative psychological health from ongoing bullying.

Data from 2016 show around 70% of children aged 12–13 experienced at least one bullying-like behaviour within a year. All forms of bullying have the potential to create long-term and disastrous psychological as well as physical effects. Some young people who have died by suicide were found to have done so after persistent bullying.

Evidence suggests bullying constitutes a traumatic experience for students who are bullied. How teachers and schools respond to bullying and the frequency of bullying can also result in mental distress for students.

Not all schools can and do adequately manage bullying and other unsafe situations children may be in. In these instances, parents may decide to remove their child from school and homeschool their child.

Parents can consider whether their child is showing ongoing signs of psychological distress such as changes in behaviour, withdrawal from others, irritability or problems concentrating.

Specialist support from a psychologist may help parents and students to understand the benefits and limitations of changing schools and homeschooling. If there are underlying social or separation anxieties involved, these issues should be addressed as they are likely to linger at home too.

4. Children can thrive academically

Children’s academic outcomes need to be considered in the context of the parents’ motivation for choosing homeschooling. For example, if a parent’s primary concern is religious education their focus may not be on their child gaining the highest year 12 results possible.

Research shows academic results of children who are home educated are mixed. This is partly because there are diverse parental motivations which may or may not prioritise academic pursuits.

In Australia, some studies have focused on NAPLAN results. These suggest home-educated students score higher than state averages across every measure. The effect continues even if the child returns to school.

Children who are homeschooled may be doing well because they receive one-on-one attention. Or it could be because the child’s learning is personalised and the child has agency over their learning.

5. Children can be socialised in both environments

Socialisation is again influenced by parental motivations and the education methods employed.

Homeschooled young people can have a diverse range of social interactions with people of different ages, including adults.

An Australian survey of homeschooling families showed nearly 50% of children participated in at least one club activity. This included 24 different sports — from AFL to aerial silks and yoga — and clubs including lego and chess. Around 40% attended at least one regular learning group. Classes included new languages, gardening, Shakespeare and archaeology.

The majority of research participants regularly had “play dates” with homeschooling and/or non-homeschooling families. Children actively participated in their community through the arts, including community theatre, bands, choirs, dance and visual arts classes.

Parents should consider the reasons behind their choice to homeschool and seek advice to ensure the best outcomes for their child socially, emotionally and academically.

This article was originally published by
  The Conversation
The Conversation is a nonprofit organization working for the public good through fact- and research-based journalism.The Conversation

MIT, One of the World’s Top Universities, Is Offering All of their Courses Online, To Anyone, For Free

By Jay Syrmopoulos - July 2, 2015
Original story first published at The Free Thought Project

For learners who don’t want to invest in a full residential college ride, or who want to avoid the massive amounts of debt associated with university studies, a program called MITx could be a viable alternative.
With the advent of the internet came a revolution of information becoming available to the average person. MIT University took it one step further when they began a program called OpenCourseWare, which allowed anyone to download full course materials for virtually all classes for free.
But the new MITx interactive online learning platform will go further, giving students access to online laboratories, self-assessments and student-to-student discussions.
The freeing of information, by enabling people to study any subject available at MIT, was a great advancement for the ability of people to grow their knowledge base without having to go to college. The drawback is that there was no credentialing for learners that chose to utilize the program, thus providing minimal professional benefit.
In light of that fact, MIT began a program called MITx, which offers an “MIT –sanctioned certificate” for the completion of courses.

“This is not MIT light. This is not an easier version of MIT,” said Provost L. Rafael Reif. “An MITx learner, anywhere they are, for them to earn a credential they have to demonstrate mastery of the subject just like an MIT student does.”
IT’s not a full-fledged diploma bearing the name MIT, as there is concern over potentially diluting the value of a degree earned by the university’s traditional program. However, the program provides for participants to be credentialed with an MITx certificate, as to provide for potential professional growth by being able to show mastery of a subject.
Most individuals “want to have piece of paper saying they learned something and maybe that will help them get a job,” Reif said.
Everything would be free, but program participants that want to receive a credential will be required to pay a small fee. The program is available to learners across the globe, all that is needed is internet access.
With the cost of university education growing exponentially and forcing many to forgo a higher education, this program looks to be a great equalizer for individuals throughout the world.

Jay Syrmopoulos is an investigative journalist, free thinker, researcher, and ardent opponent of authoritarianism. He is currently a graduate student at University of Denver pursuing a masters in Global Affairs. Jay’s work has previously been published on and You can follow him on Twitter @sirmetropolis, on Facebook at Sir Metropolis and now on tsu.

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