It’s quiet at Long-View with the kids out for summer break, but it is actually a time of intense activity for our teaching team. This is the busiest part of the year for our other business venture, the number lab, which is concentrated on supporting educators and schools working to raise the level of their math instruction. Our work:
focuses on the task of building math instruction so as to privilege advanced conceptual mathematical understanding in order to facilitate reasoning;
focuses on attempts to design innovative classroom practices that bring the practice of knowing mathematics in school closer to what it means to know mathematics within the discipline.
Herein lies the synergistic relationship between Long-View and the number lab. First and foremost, Long-View allows us to serve kids directly, which is our passion. It also gives us the opportunity to constantly refine our work in the area of mathematics education, as well as the chance to engage in direct research endeavors. We co-teach, collect data, videotape, and improve our practice. We write. We collect artifacts of student thinking. And we teach -- not just students, but also educators, administrators, math coaches, and mathematicians.
During the summer, we are focused on delivering professional development workshops to educators from around the country and around the world. These participants are eager to understand how to design transformational mathematics experiences at their own institutions. We run intense 4-day workshops at The AT&T Center at The University of Texas wherein workshop participants work to understand mathematical ideas with greater depth, become experienced with instructional practices that promote reasoning, and learn to create a classroom community that parallels its interactions with those of professional mathematicians. Much of what we teach in these workshops is based our own unique work and research.
At our summer workshop for teachers, called Educators' Collaboratory, Long-View kids make appearances in small groups. Our kids come out of “summer mode” to attend a lab lesson in front of the teachers. They work through a math lesson while the teacher participants observe; later the children answer questions from the teachers. Once the children leave, we have the opportunity to debrief on the lesson with teachers, which provides for rich conversations and the opportunity to study pedagogy. This is a very atypical professional learning model for teachers, but highly effective and the favorite part of the Educators' Collaboratory workshop participants.
Additionally, on a handful of school days across the year, we hold “Field Days” during our math blocks at Long-View so that a group of visitors, typically around eight, can sit on the periphery studying the children at work. They take notes about their thinking and collect ideas for their own schools and classrooms. These are some of our favorite days of the year, as it is when we see the culture of learning at our micro school envelop not just Long-View kids and teachers, but educators from around the country. What a message for the children of Long-View...teachers are here to learn from you, to study your thinking, and to become inspired so that they can elevate their own students’ mathematical reasoning!
There is one other interesting overlap between Long-View Micro School and the number lab: the two work in tandem to create a healthy business model. To explain this clearly, it is important that one understands how independent school finances typically work. Generally, independent schools (i.e. schools that receive no funding from sources like a church or diocese) get about 90% of their revenue from tuition and fees (often times there are a number of small fees that really add up) and then they raise the remaining amount needed to run the school each year through galas, fall fundraisers, annual campaigns, etc. The operating budget year-to-year is dependent on asking parents to give above the tuition price (in our area $25,000 is pretty typical). This fundraising-dependent school model does create well-resourced schools (add in to the mix that buildings and capital improvements are raised through additional fundraising campaigns and fancier galas), but is not the business model we wanted for Long-View Micro School. There are a number of reasons for this, which range from a desire to create a particular school culture, to an interest in protecting the intellectual property we generate, to a desire to initiate a more entrepreneurial enterprise, to wanting to stay out of the "tuition arms race" that many independent schools partake in.
More than anything, we just wanted to challenge ourselves to do it differently, more sustainably, even after we were told that the "typical" model is "just how it has to be done." With Long-VIew, we instead eschewed the "typical" school business model dependent on fundraising and instead created a healthy alternative revenue stream through the number lab that supplements the school’s tuition revenue and keeps it more accessible. We are proud of the innovative Long-View + the number lab business model as it positively impacts our culture, our business practices, the way we view our work, and our level of independence. We are also equally proud that we generate intellectual property that supports the profession and allows educators at schools near (as close as within half a mile) and far (as far as Hong Kong) to lift the level of instruction on behalf of their own students. We are a micro school, but in many ways we are educating hundreds more students than reside in the learning community we call Long-View.