Micro schools—private schools with sometimes as few as a half dozen students—are popping up in places from Silicon Valley to Washington, D.C.
And along the way, they've been generating excitement inside school choice circles and tech and business publications like Wired and Fast Company.
Some experts predict micro schools have the potential to not only revive the one-room school house idea of yore, but also shake up the private school sector by offering parents a highly personalized education for their children at lower cost than traditional private schools.
After trying to answer that question for a recent article I wrote for Education Week, I can tell you there is no hard and fast definition for this relatively new phenomenon. But, at least among the people I spoke with, there seems to be a consensus forming around a few core traits:
But if you're looking for a quick and conversational way to explain what micro schools are, I've been going with "a mix between a lab school and a home school co-op with an emphasis on blended learning." There's also nothing written that micro schools have to be private school, they just mostly seem to be.
If you live in the Bay Area and want to check out a micro school, you're in luck—there's a concentration of the schools there. For the rest of the rest of the country, micro schools appear to be few and far between, however, they are spreading. Below is a list of the micro schools I put together while working on my story. Similar to charters, some are networks of schools, like Acton and AltSchool, while others are standalones. This is by no means a definitive list, so if there are any I've missed, please add them in the comments section.
Not much has been written about micro schools yet, but if you want to learn more, here are a few articles to get you started.
For a detailed dive into how micro schools might affect the larger K-12 education sector, check out my Education Week story here.
Tom Vander Ark, former education director at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and current CEO of Getting Smart, has also written about micro schools on his Education Week blog, Tom Vander Ark On Innovation. Michael Horn, an expert on disruptive innovation in education and a board member for the National Association of Independent Schools, has written about micro schools for EducationNext, as has Matthew Candler, founder of the education incubator 4.0 Schools, on Medium.
Finally, you can explore how one micro-school network, AltSchool, is pushing the boundaries of technology in the classroom in this story by my colleague, Benjamin Herold.
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Photos: Students reading and playing outdoors at Acton Academy in Austin, Texas— Julia Robinson/Education Week