New Generation of Microschool Founders Shows Greater Diversity and Fewer Educators

The landscape of microschooling is evolving, including changes in the diversity of its founders and how these nontraditional learning centers fund their operations.

An analysis conducted across 34 states examined 100 existing microschools and an additional 100 that were planning to open this year.

The National Microschooling Center explains that microschools can cater to homeschoolers, private accredited and unaccredited schools, and other formats. The flexibility to meet the needs of individual learners is what makes microschools transformative.

The pandemic has prompted families to move their children away from district public schools, resulting in an estimated 1.1 to 2.2 million children attending microschools full-time in 2022.

The analysis revealed the following key findings about the current state and future direction of microschools:

1. Prospective microschool leaders are more racially diverse and less likely to be teachers.

Among the 100 surveyed current microschool leaders, 64% were white, 13% were Black, and 5% were Latino/Hispanic. For the prospective founders, 55% were white, 27% were Black, and 5% were Latino/Hispanic. The remaining leaders did not disclose their ethnicity.

This shift towards greater racial diversity is seen as positive, as it better reflects the diversity of students. A study by AASA found that 89% of public school district chiefs identified as white, compared to only 45% of students.

The analysis also revealed that prospective leaders have more varied professional backgrounds compared to current microschool leaders. While 70% of present founders are licensed educators, only 52% of prospective founders have an education background.

2. Prospective microschool leaders are relying less on tuition and seeking other sources of funding.

Tuition remains the primary source of funding for microschools, but its dominance is decreasing. Around 88% of current founders stated that their schools relied on tuition, compared to 62% of prospective schools.

Prospective microschool leaders are exploring alternative funding options, such as institutional sources (employers or places of worship) and ongoing fundraising. Around 24% of prospective leaders plan to access funding from these sources, a significant increase from the 12% currently receiving funds this way.

The use of state-funded school choice options for microschools has only slightly increased, from 17.8% to 19.8%, between current and prospective leaders.

3. The main motivation for creating a microschool is to support underserved students.

53% of prospective microschool leaders aim to provide opportunities for marginalized students and communities. The second most common motivation is to help struggling children thrive in a different learning environment.

Microschools, with their small class sizes (generally 15 students or fewer), offer flexibility for families by allowing them to choose their location, schedule, and curriculum.

4. Microschools employ different learning styles compared to traditional public schools.

About half of current microschool leaders adopt specialized learning philosophies as their curriculum framework. These philosophies include Montessori, Waldorf, or child-centered learning.

Montessori learning is student-led and paced, while Waldorf learning focuses on intellectual and artistic skills.

Nearly 47% of current microschool leaders administer standardized norm-referenced assessments, which compare a student’s progress to their peers.

5. State regulations present a challenge for both current and prospective microschool founders.

Understanding statutory and regulatory requirements is a significant challenge for microschool leaders. Approximately 33% of current leaders and 88% of prospective leaders expressed a need for help in this area.

Regulations can vary greatly among states, with some requiring licensing or registration as a child care facility.

6. The most important student outcomes for future microschool leaders are academic growth, proficiency, and happiness.

In the survey, over two-thirds of prospective microschool owners identified academic growth as the most important outcome for students. Approximately 61% highlighted academic proficiency, and nearly 48% emphasized the importance of students’ happiness and well-being.

This indicates that microschooling is gaining acceptance and becoming normalized. Microschools have the freedom to measure outcomes beyond standardized tests, allowing them to assess their impact in ways that align with their mission and values.

Overall, microschooling is undergoing significant changes, with a more diverse group of founders and evolving funding sources. These nontraditional learning institutions are driven by a desire to provide educational opportunities to underserved students and offer unique learning experiences.

Don Soifer (Don Soifer)

Source: The 74.

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