It's getting easier to open a really cool school. A new wave of tiny schools are creating options for students, parents, and educators. Micro-schools vary in size, approach, and governance. Private micro-schools like Acton Academy and AltSchool help students shape a personalized path. Austin-based Acton is being replicated by a number of edupreneurs including networks like Talent Unbound. NOLA Micro Schools is another Acton Academy partner committed to student-driven education. The learn-by-doing school will open next month with grades 2-6. Their FAQ has some useful resources. Two dozen Acton Academies will be open worldwide next month. (Learn more about replication here.) A+Unlimited Potential is an innovative Houston middle school flex program with six museum partnerships. Piloted as a private tuition-free school, A+ UP was approved as a public charter school network. Three small campuses will serve 180 students starting August 2016. In May, AltSchool raised $100 million round of funding to accelerate their growth (Learn Capital, where I'm a partner, is an investor).
Other Bay Area folks are joining the micro-school movement. Sal Khan started a small private school for his kids and few others (bet they useKhan Academy).Flex blend pioneer Mark Kushner launched Future Academy and will open a K-8 school next month in the Palace of Fine Arts, San Francisco.
Micro-school tools. Five categories of tools make it easier to create new schools or themed academies.
- Platforms: learning platforms continue to improve the ability to personalize learning ( see reviews of leading platforms).
- Open resources: there is a long list of great open education resources (OER) that make it easy to learn a school and at home.
- Maker: cool new maker resources including LittleBits, Modular Robotics, blink blink, Other Machine, Hummingbird Robotics kits, MaKey MaKey, and MakeDo. There also tons of coding resources.
- Projects: there are lots of cool project resources including Buck Institute,Literacy Design Collaborative, and Big History Project.
- Competency: achievement recognition systems (like the badge system IMS is working on) and mastery tracking are boosting student agency and guiding personalized learning.
Disclosure: Tom Vander Ark is CEO of Getting Smart and a partner at Learn Capital, a venture capital firm that invests in educational technology.