Open a Micro-School: Here’s How

Blog Series, Learning, Online & Blended, PreK-12, Smart Schools

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 use Khan 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 executive Marina Walde 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. Walde 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:

Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is author of Smart Parents, Smart Cities and Getting Smart. He is co-founder of Getting Smart and Learn Capital and serves on the boards of 4.0 Schools, eduInnovation, Digital Learning Institute, Imagination Foundation, Charter Board Partners and Bloomboard. Follow Tom on Twitter, @tvanderark.


Manisha Snoyer /

Thanks Tom, for encouraging people to embark on the wonderfully fulfilling and hugely generous act of starting a learning experiences. Micro-schools, coops, cottage schools, pop up schools, alternative schools, family daycares, learning centers, homeschool coops, mom schools, nanny shares are all other names for this unique type of learning experience which can do so much to enrich the lives of children, families, teachers and communities, whether they last for half a year or a lifetime.

Here are a few more support systems for microschools if anyone read this article and is inspired to get going!
CottageClass is hosting a school starters group in Brooklyn on August 10 (it is free to participate). As CEO of CottageClass, I will be facilitating the workshop in my own apartment (A Cottage school within a cottage school!), bringing my love for teacher-entrepreneurs and experience starting my own foreign language school for adults and bringing it from 0-2,000 student sin three years and 15 years working with thousands of children and parents from around the world across a wide variety of learning platforms.

The incredibly knowledgeable Jerry Mintz from the Alternative Education Resource Organization (AERO) who has been helping start microschools for 30 years (long before it fell into fashion:) ) will be offering an online class starting this September. I can not speak highly enough of Jerry and the practical knowledge he brings to this process. He is one of the most generous and perceptive people I have had the pleasure to work with.

Please feel free to get in touch with me about either experience.

And thanks, Tom for the awesome piece!

Tom Vander Ark /

Thanks Manisha. Cottage Class sounds like it will be a great resource.

John Westra (@John_Westra) /

We must resist the notion that #Education Reform should be treated as a Partisan 3rd-Rail and/or Wedge Issue.

#Accreditation used by the Ruling Education & Political Class, to perpetuate educational #Racketeering is:

> Bankrupting our Students / Families
> Stifling #Innovation
> Depriving Students of the Knowledge & Skills necessary to compete
> Perpetuating a society of Haves & Have Nots

#Certification of Teachers at all levels, combined with
#Certification of Students in Knowledge & Skills

in a #FreeMarket – driven Learning / Work Partnership w/ Employers is 21st Century Education Reform that is LONG Overdue!