08/05/2015 11:26 am ET Updated Aug 05, 2016

Open a Micro-School: Here's How

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. Former foundation exec Marina Walne launched Houston-based EduStart to support entrepreneurs. Her prototype Schoolinakit includes academic resources on Agilix Buzz platform. It will be piloted in small private school in Galveston. Walne will be adding resources aligned with social-emotional learning standards promoted by CASEL. The next full version of Schoolinakit ready by spring 2016 including nuts and bolts of getting a new micro blended learning school up and running. Gareth Genner's Parish.Academy is micro kit for Catholic schools. The Atlanta-based startup empowers the creation and operation of 40-160 student schools with an annual cost of $3,750 per student. Micro-schools are a great strategy to transform big public schools using a school-within-a-school strategy. Kettle Moraine, a Milwaukee-area district launched four small schools that rewarded teacher leadership and are expanding student and teacher options. These personalized flex academies can open fast, model personalized learning, and allow early adopters to move quickly. For an innovative new option or the beginning of a big school transformation, micro-schools are a fast low risk option. For more see:

Disclosure: Tom Vander Ark is CEO of Getting Smart and a partner at Learn Capital, a venture capital firm that invests in educational technology.