My colleagues and I started Long-View Micro School because we believed school should be the most interesting part of a child’s life. Long-View serves as the school home for 64 2nd – 8th graders who experience school as a place where they learn to think, a place where they can take initiative, a place where they have extended challenge, a place that opens them up to the fascinating parts of the world.
Micro schools – if you aren’t familiar with that genre of schooling – are gaining attention nationally as a model that unbundles schooling and elevates academic excellence and innovation. Micro schools can be a source of ideas and inspiration.
Micro schools are interesting because they are more nimble organizations that typically sit much further on the spectrum away from the industrial model of schooling: micro schools are changing how students are organized, how time is organized, how teachers work, and how the business of school is run.
Micro schools typically have a smaller footprint, often partner to leverage services already existing in the community, generally have an experiential component, are usually under 150 students and have multi-age groupings, and typically charge considerably less than area tuition-dependent schools.
At Long-View, our model is that we have a focused academic footprint, offering core content areas in a shorter day and week. The shorter day and week allows parents to customize their child’s education after school and on Fridays.
Kids get reading, writing, math, science, and computer science from us, M-Th, 9 to 2:30, and parents customize their child’s education by adding fine arts, music, sports, etc after school through all of the wonderful opportunities within Austin. It’s not that we don’t value those aspects of a child’s education, but we choose to focus on delivering what we are great at – deep and rigorous core academics – and with this we provide a shorter day and week so that families can add those elements on their own.
Academically, we are all about deep learning and thinking and authentic practice within the discipline. We continuously ask ourselves, “What is the hardest, richest version of this idea within this discipline and how can we bring it to the kids?”
At Long-View we have also focused on having a reach far past the 64 students we serve. Long-View also operates as a lab for teacher learning and we regularly host educators, leaders, and researchers interested in studying our pedagogy, instructional content, and culture through what we call “Field Study Days” at our micro school.
Our teaching team also has special expertise in the area of mathematics education and we run a parallel organization called The Number Lab that offers professional development to math teachers. We run large institutes in the summer for elementary and middle school math teachers, and then many of these teachers from The Number Lab institutes re-visit during the school year to continue to hone their new understandings by embedding themselves at Long-View. Thus, Long-View serves as a site for learning for both kids and adults.
When you step into Long-View, it feels creative and casual, and everyone is invested in learning. It’s collaborative. It is not about compliance and routine, but instead about agency and adaptability. The physical environment is flexible; furniture is moveable and the large and small spaces are used for adults and kids alike. The open, airy, and non-traditional physical environment fosters a feeling of community, where kids are known and where we don’t avoid the problems of co-existence. The learning spaces have everything needed to encourage active learning, from furniture that promotes collaboration to room to spread out to work on projects to electronic devices and building tools on hand. We believe that the best learning spaces are those that have been designed with everyone in mind, that establish a relationship between the space and the outside world, and that are flexible and can be reinvented.
On a more macro level, Long-View is also an intriguing model. We are a smaller, leaner organization, and thus more of a nimble operation. We rent a simple facility and do not maintain a playground or lunchroom. We walk every day to the 84 acre park near us and we eat and play there for an hour.
We run the school through a distributed leadership model, use social media for much of our communication, and don’t have any traditional administrative staff. We are all about being “radically simple” so that the least amount of our time and resources goes to running school and the most goes to fostering learning at high levels. Thus, we don’t spend money on admissions departments, marketing staff, cafeterias, and fancy facilities. Everything is oriented toward the children and their learning.
Time and again, what we hear from visitors – parents, educators, researchers – is, “I didn’t know this was possible.” They didn’t know it was possible for kids to think they way they do at Long-View. They didn’t know it was possible for kids to talk the way they do at Long-View. They didn’t know kids could understand mathematics in the way they do at Long-View. They didn’t know a school could be run so differently, or feel so different, culturally.
Long-View is an optimistic example of what can be possible in education, and we need that, not only in Texas but across the US. We know our industrial model of education has a stranglehold on innovation and what many teachers, parents, and administrators need is an opportunity to imagine something different.