Since the pandemic caused shutdowns of schools and classrooms, the educational system has faced serious strains with issues like teacher shortages across the nation including Arizona.
Teachers across Arizona left the field in droves which has impacted children learning experience as the state has desperately been trying to fill vacancies.
“For the sixth consecutive year, Arizona School Personnel Administrators Association survey results confirm the continued teacher shortage in Arizona. The data indicates about 25.9% of teacher vacancies across the state this year remain unfilled while 55.4% of the vacancies are filled by teachers who do not meet the state’s standard certification requirements,” from a 2021 report by the Arizona School Personnel Administrators Association.
Yet within the last year, new forms of schooling have emerged such as microschools by Prenda.
In 2015 Prenda was created to provide kids with a tuition-free learning experience that empowers them to become co-creators of their education. Meeting in homes and other flexible locations, small groups of K-8 students engage in project-based learning, utilizing online tools, and progress at their own pace.
With the pandemic causing a shift to online courses for millions of students, some teachers and parents thrived with the flexibility of online and small in person classrooms.
Katherine Moore a Buckeye resident and Prenda microschools “guide” had been a preschool and elementary school teacher for over a decade. When the pandemic hit, and shifted her kids into an online setting for school, she recognized that it was benefiting them more then traditional schooling.
“Being an active community member as a softball and baseball coach, my communication with other families made me aware of the need for something different. Microschools offer such a unique approach to education. I knew my own children would benefit as well as others looking for a new approach to education,” Moore said.
As a teacher she noticed kids benefit from a small group setting where they can develop as autonomous learners. She said the curriculum Prenda uses allows for students to be met where they are at academically, and make gains on their own pace. The emphasis on collaboration with peers and creation opens doors for students.
She said that having students in smaller groups with a capacity limit of 10, this benefits students as they will develop a deep connection with their guide and small group of peers.
Moore’s’ microschool runs Tuesday through Friday from 9a.m. to 2:30p.m. with her spending time outside of class prepping and ensuring students are meeting their learning goals.
“Prenda helps parents and teachers operate world-class microschools. Prenda partners with regulated, state-credentialed educational institutions to engage small groups of five to ten students, in mastery-focused, project-based learning, often in a neighborhood home or community center.
The students’ days are divided into four main parts- Connect, Conquer, Collaborate and Create,” Moore said.
Although Prenda looks and acts like a school it’s not a school but a provider of microschools. They use an education model, curriculum and tools and training to facilitate the microschools.
According to the Prenda website, it’s not a private school, a charter school or a public school, but blends all three.
The Prenda website states that to date, 3,000 students in the kindergarten through eighth grade range in six states in the U.S. have already been learning by way enrolling in one of 300 microschools powered by its platform and run by hundreds of its so-called guides.
Since the height of the pandemic the enrollment rates for microschools has increased exponentially and has been seen by state officials as an alternative answer for ongoing teacher shortages.
Recently Gov. Doug Ducey on Aug. 16, celebrated Arizona’s successful effort to ensure every Arizona K-12 students can attend any school of their choosing.
“Arizona is now the gold standard for educational freedom in America. Our kids will no longer be stuck in under-performing schools. We’re unlocking their educational potential and advancing a bold new era of learning opportunities.” Gov. Ducey said.
This ensured Arizona families who participate in Empowerment Scholarship Account program could receive up to $6,500 per year per child for private school, homeschooling, microschools, tutoring and any other programs outside the traditional public school system.