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Sunday, May 26, 2024

Could microschools fix academic outcomes in Indianapolis for Black students?

DAVID McGUIRE
DAVID McGUIRE
Dr. David McGuire is an educator and education reporter. He attended school in Indianapolis, K-12, and is a graduate of Central State University and holds advanced degrees from Indiana Wesleyan University and Marian University. In addition to his work as an educator, he also navigates the education system as a parent.

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I am sick and tired of playing defense regarding our children. I want to be on offense. It is time to be aggressive. As I think about when we were aggressive when educating our children, I think back to the pandemic. The one thing I can take from the pandemic is that it allowed us to be bold. The pandemic gave us the green light to be creative and innovative with how we went about educating children. As we move another year away from the pandemic, we complain about how much learning students have lost, yet we are still doing some of the same things that caused that loss of learning.

One solution that I have grown interested in is the idea of microschools.

Microschools, sometimes referred to as learning pods, are the modern-day version of the one-room schoolhouse. Microschools were a popular attraction when schools shut down during the pandemic. Many affluent families partnered to create these learning pods to ensure their children did not lose anything. Meanwhile, many Black students were subjected to virtual learning from their schools which were without experience teaching in a virtual format. There are benefits to the idea of microschools, which include flexibility in teaching and tailoring learning to the needs of the students in the class. Microschools can be more receptive to the needs of students. Microschools are not held to the same rules and expectations, such as standardized testing and mandatory curriculum, as traditional schools.

We need to have conversations about how microschools could improve academic outcomes in Indianapolis, specifically for Black children.

I want you all to follow me for a second as I make a case for creating microschools in communities where Black children are underperforming academically in schools.

I spent six years as a school leader on the Far Eastside of Indianapolis. As I think about my time, the students in our schools and the school’s surroundings, I recognize that we all did our best to educate those children. Realistically, it wasn’t easy, and we could not make the improvements needed to get those students back on track as quickly as we wanted to. If you have never been in a school with students reading three to four years behind their grade level, then you cannot truly understand how hard that is. What if those students could be pulled out and placed in a smaller setting to get the specific support they need, and there was no red tape?

Microschools in those communities could be the answer. Some will say that this model will lead to schools removing all underperforming students to improve the schools’ outcomes. Yes, those schools will improve, but who else will improve? The students who will benefit from personalized learning that fits their needs will also improve. We must stop subjecting students who need the most support to the same structures that have failed them.

I envision a collection of microschools in areas where students who are multiple grade levels behind can attend to get caught up. These microschools can focus on teaching the fourth-grade student who cannot read how to read, so they can then rejoin their home school, access grade-level material and be successful like the other students in the room. Microschools, while independent, will have a connection with public schools to ensure they know exactly what the students need and that once that student is caught up, they can return to their home school.

The microschools are not a permanent placement for the student but a temporary placement to get the student back on track. It is a revolving door, taking students as needed while remaining small.

Again, this is a bold approach that we should consider; as the achievement gap continues to grow and more Black students fall further behind, why not try something innovative and even a little controversial?

Contact Indy Kids Winning reporter David McGuire at davidm@indyrecorder.com. Follow him on Twitter @DavidMMcGuire Facebook at David McGuire and Instagram @dr.davidmcguire 

David’s work is supported through a partnership between Indy Kids Winning and the Indianapolis Recorder. Visit indykidswinning.com to learn more. 

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