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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

What will Arizona parents choose?


Prenda microschools, usually based in a family home, got their start in Arizona.

The 21st-century one-room schoolhouse could be the big winner in Arizona, which has "expanded the frontier of school choice," writes Max Eden, an American Enterprise Institute research fellow.


The state's new Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) program would give parents $6,500 to fund alternatives to the local public school. (Students with disabilities will get much more.) While some will use the money to help buy private school tuition, Eden predicts a surge in “pods” or “microschools.”

If a teacher were to advertise and attract a dozen students, she stands to draw nearly $80,000 in public funding to her microschool. After curriculum and supplies, she’ll still be making far more than the median teacher salary of approximately $50,000. More importantly, her students will get far more specialized attention, likely suffer through far fewer distractions, and are less likely to fall behind or slip through the cracks.

Kelly Smith opened a seven-student pod in his Arizona home in 2018, writes Eden. "By partnering with an online charter school," Smith's Prenda created tuition-free microschools that combine to "self-paced Chromebook lessons and group problem-based learning." It became a big hit during the pandemic.

However, many parents want "less time on laptops, more time with pen and paper, a knowledge-rich curriculum, and a focus on reading great books," writes Eden.

Arizona’s flexible and robust charter school system engendered the birth of the nation’s preeminent classical charter school network, Great Hearts Academies. Today, Great Hearts serves 22,000 students at 33 schools in Arizona and Texas and has a waiting list of over 14,000.
During the pandemic, Great Hearts developed an online school and then launched a new initiative, Great Hearts Nova, which franchises classical microschools by partnering with families to provide courses, curriculum, and teacher support. If Great Hearts cracks the code on these partnerships, it could put a high-quality, highly personalized, classical education within reach of every Arizona student. And if they don’t, someone else surely will.

Arizona began offering ESAs to high-need students in 2011, writes J.D. Tuccille on Reason. The new law expands that to nearly everyone. "The money can follow students to where they learn best." That includes homeschooling.


Arizona has been expanding the number of schools and school choice, wrote Matthew Ladner of reimaginED, in Education Next. From 2008 to 2018, Arizona students made greater learning gains than anywhere else, according to the Stanford Educational Opportunity Project. Arizona "led the nation in academic growth for both low-income and middle-to-high income students," writes Ladner. It was the only state with "a higher rate of growth for low-income students than for high-income students."

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12 Comments


Guest
Jul 14, 2022

I went to a school like this when I was 16 (in mid-70s), long before it was a 'thing'. One guy (ivy-educated, former football star) taught all the subjects. It was around 4 hours per day, including a break. He had one notebook with all the subjects in it. No tech. The students had a very high rate of acceptace to prestigious schools. Btw, this was in Manhattan, and it wasn't expensive. He used a med-sized room on the ground floor of the building where he lived and there were about 15 kids at any given time.

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Guest
Jul 14, 2022

This sounds awesome! Many teachers would be happy to do it even if it meant less take home pay because they could really teach the kids well versus being strapped by administrative burdens and limited in what they could teach. The schools would be self selecting so certain teachers with certain teaching styles would attract appropriate students and families. As for the costs, most of this would be easily taken care of with the sum of money, and we wouldn't be losing funds to bureacratic inefficiencies.


So, quick breakdown:

A teacher takes a room in her home and turns it into a classroom to start with. She is able to attract 12 students, so she is bringing in $78,000 pe…


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Guest
Jul 15, 2022
Replying to

Schools are already depending on shadow work - students are assigned 'go home and read to your parents for 20 minutes' and parents have to sign off on it. Projects require parental help. There are long, specific supply lists and frequent fundraisers. I volunteer at an afterschool program and am amazed at what I've needed to sign off on having done with a student - the student reading passages multiple times while I count the mistakes, for instance. Parents sit in car pool lines and organize activities. If you are an involved parent, it's just a matter of picking what you'd rather do. Buy your kid's books, or contribute to helping to buy classroom sets of a novel? Tak…

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Guest
Jul 13, 2022

A multiplier of 1.6 is low compared to most companies for their overhead. When doing consulting my multiplier was 2.5. How does a teacher make both halves of social security, workmans comp, health insurance, liability insurance, and other assorted costs out of $30k?

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Guest
Jul 14, 2022
Replying to

I graduated in 1980 and went on exactly one field trip. I would have survived skipping that ok. Kids can brown bag their lunch. If a collage grad can't handle the bookkeeping with only 12 customers she's got no business teaching their kids. Professional development...pshaw.

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