Behind the Headline: Tiny Schools, Big Impact

On Top of the News
Tiny Schools, Big Impact
U.S. News Knowledge Bank blog | 10/20/2015

Behind the Headline
The Rise of AltSchool and Other Micro-schools
Education Next | Summer 2015

There’s a lot of buzz about tiny schools like Altschools, but also a lot of skepticism, writes Michael McShane.

The most common criticism I hear, though, when I get excited talking about small entrepreneurial ventures like tiny schools is that they are simply “boutique” options. They cannot scale. “There are 50 million school children, for crying out loud, and you’re talking about teaching 20!”

This line of criticism reminds McShane of what Elon Musk heard when his first Tesla cars were sold for more than $100,000

Musk’s response to his critics is a good lesson for entrepreneurship in education. In a blog post titled “The Secret Tesla Motors Master Plan (just between you and me),” he wrote: “Almost any new technology initially has high unit cost before it can be optimized and this is no less true for electric cars. The strategy of Tesla is to enter at the high end of the market, where customers are prepared to pay a premium, and then drive down market as fast as possible to higher unit volume and lower prices with each successive model.”

McShane concludes

We should not be so quick to dismiss “tiny” efforts to rethink schooling. A “tiny” effort in automobiles just made a car that broke Consumer Reports’ rating system. These schools may end up being bigger than we think.

Michael Horn wrote about “The Rise of AltSchool and Other Micro-schools” in the Summer 2015 issue of Education Next and has an article about the way AltSchool is using technology in a forthcoming issue of Education Next.

— Education Next

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