Ten Innovative Educational Programs Awarded Grants to Transform Learning

A Big Push For Small Schools

Microschools, rooted in a tradition of cooperative and small-scale learning, are envisioned to become diverse, sustainable, and impactful alternatives within the educational landscape. To better amplify, evaluate and develop these learning models, Getting Smart Collective ran the Big Push for Small Schools grant opportunity earlier this year and we’re thrilled to announce that ten dynamic microschools have been selected as the recipients of our grant. These programs were carefully chosen based on their commitment to innovation, scalability, proof of concept, quality and their ability to serve a broad range of demographics. The funding for this opportunity was provided by the Walton Family Foundation.

One strength of small schools is the ability to personalize and diversify learning to cater to community and learner needs. This diverse portfolio of grantees represents a variety of school types, each with a unique approach to addressing the challenges and opportunities in the educational landscape. 

Each grantee has demonstrated a clear and committed vision for transforming education in their respective communities. The selected models range from microschools focused on underserved populations to innovative school-business partnerships, showcasing the rich diversity of approaches in contemporary education.

Our team and trusted partners will be providing ongoing technical assistance and coaching to each of the grant recipients. With our evaluation partners, DKDK Project, we’ll support effective and innovative ways of measuring student success. This collaboration is designed to ensure that each program can maximize its impact and effectively navigate the challenges of scaling and implementation. Our support will continue through June 2024, underscoring our commitment to teaming with grantees to support their educational innovation and success.  We will then transition to working with our second cohort from July 2024 through June 2025, providing this same level of collaboration and assistance.

“We are excited to see these microschool programs flourish and make a significant impact in the field of teaching and learning,” said Caroline Vander Ark, CEO of Getting Smart Collective. “This initiative is a testament to our commitment to fostering innovative educational solutions that can adapt to the changing needs of learners across the country.”

The progress and impact of these programs will be closely monitored and shared, with the hope that their success can inspire and inform future educational endeavors.

The 10 grant recipients are listed below. We invite you to continue learning about their journey on our microschools page, through our social networks and our blog and podcast.

Meet Our Innovative Microschool Grant Recipients

The following ten models comprise the first cohort of Big Push for Small Schools grantees.

ASU Prep Academy

(Multiple Locations in AZ)

A public charter co-locating within the corporate facility of an industry partner. This model merges a flexible and innovative high school education with real-world industry experience, enabling students to learn in an authentic professional environment.

Da Vinci RISE High

(Los Angeles, CA)

A non-profit designed around the needs of youth experiencing the foster care system, housing instability and/or the juvenile justice system. Through collocating with non-profit organizations and an innovative academic and wraparound services model, RISE provides equity to students most commonly left out of the larger educational narrative.

Ellemercito Academy

(Los Angeles, CA)

A non-profit using first generation teachers to serve high needs K-12 learners. They offer real-world, highly personalized, and transformative education with an experiential, trauma-informed, and holistic learning approach.

Gem Prep Online

(Multiple Locations in ID)

Offers Learning Societies in rural communities providing flexible, high-quality, public charter education options. These in-person, small-group learning hubs are designed to each serve 30-40 students in grades K-12 with online learning activities including academic support, group projects, and social time with friends.

Issaquah School District

(Issaquah, WA)

Opening multiple microschools within their public high schools to provide hybrid learning opportunities for students, especially those showing signs of school disengagement and early at-risk indicators of failing. With hands-on and real world experience, students will learn through 6-8 week interdisciplinary Design Labs.

Learner-Centered Collaborative

(Vista, CA)

Partnering with three Southern California school districts, with each hosting either an elementary, middle or high school microschool. Shifting away from traditional grade levels and departments to create more learner-centered, flexible, and inclusive learning environments, they will focus on promoting learner agency, social and emotional wellness, and personalized learning experiences.

The PPHS Lab High School

(Indianapolis and South Bend, IN)

Uses state funding and operates in partnership with industry and community members. Their growth plans include scaling to serve 40 students in 2024-2025, with the intention of replicating upon demonstrating model efficacy and viability.

Rooted School Foundation

(New Orleans, LA) 

Using state funds for their microschools and following their Rooted School charter school model, with students on a radically accelerated track to increase their upward mobility upon graduation. The microschools will be focused on industry pathways especially global IT and cybersecurity for the first microschool.

Science Prep Academy

(Phoenix, AZ)

A program of The Neurodiversity Education Research Center (NERC) that offers an ESA-funded microschool interdisciplinary STEM education for neurodivergent youth from grades 6 to 13. This inclusive model teams with Banner Medical Center for an ESA-funded grade 13 internship experience combined with employability and independent-living skills training to help young neurodivergent students transition into productive adult life.

The Early IT Microschool Powered by PAST

(Columbus, OH)

A microschool  powered by the PAST Foundation and will serve 100 economically disadvantaged, traditionally underserved and first-generation college-going students. Serving grades 9-12, it will prepare them for STEM employment,  with the opportunity to explore their interests in information technology and related careers.

This ongoing campaign will amplify the conversation that is happening around nimble and personalized schooling models. We welcome guest submissions about your own experience and stories with microschools.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy

Maureen O’Shaughnessy is the founder of Leadership Preparatory Academy, a progressive microschool in Washington State.

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