’21st century’s version of a one-room school house’ planned for Brighton

A new private school has plans to open in Brighton.

Acton Academy – described as a “one room school house for the 21st Century” – has a major twist on education: teachers give students control over their learning.

“It’s really starting with the belief that kids are far more capable than they can imagine,” said Scott Taylor, wholaunched an academy in Ann Arbor and is behind the Brighton effort. “Rather than having a teacher telling them how to do problems and what to do, they’re presented with a challenge and the adult steps back and the children figure out how to work their way through it.”

The company’s private schools started in 2009 in Austin, Texas and has expanded to have schools around the U.S. and world; six exist in Michigan, according to the Acton Academy website.

Taylor said the academy is planned to open in September and have a school year ending in mid-June at a location to be determined in Brighton.

The planned academy in Brighton would have 12 children up to 8 years old, meaning students in kindergarten through third grade. After the first year, it will begin to include students in grades beyond third grade, Taylor said. Some Acton Academy locations have upward of 100 students.

At Acton Academy, teachers are known as guides and use instruction time to present students with a challenge to accomplish and then letting the students figure out how to accomplish it,Taylor said. He opened an Acton Academy in Ann Arbor in 2016.

Students progress on topics – such as math or reading – as they master them, he said. They are tested at the beginning of the school on their comfort level with a topic.

“They (the students) set goals of what they want to accomplish,’ Taylor said.

Additionally, students engage in group projects, or “quests,” and also have philosophical discussions on different topics.

The person who establishes an academy hires a state-certified teacher, Taylor said.

The curriculum used by the teacher is open-source, meaning it is constantly being modified and updated by other Acton Academy guides.

Tuition at Acton Academy in Brighton would be $7,600 per student for a full school day for kindergarten students through third grade students, according to the company’s website. Tuition would be $4,600 per student for kindergarten students to have a half-day. The payments are made in 10 installments throughout the year.

Taylor said he has not yet set up a limited liability corporation for the school with the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs.

Micro school history

Only in the last decade or so have micro schools really started to grow in popularity, said Michael Horn, an author and speaker on education topics who is based in Massachusetts.

Micro schools came about for several reasons, including technological innovation, a lack of time and money for parents to home-school their children, and costliness of traditional private schools, he said.

“Home schooling wasn’t an option,” Horn said. “Micro schools came along as an answer for them.”

However, Horn said there is not much research available yet about the success rate of students who start their education at a micro school then transition into traditional public schools and colleges.

“In terms of long-term outcomes, there’s not a lot of kids in college from these schools,” Horn said.

“There is research that if you give total carte blanche for students to make the rules for everything, it’s harder to adapt to traditional societal norms later in life,” Horn said. “Strong adult guidance is important.”

Topics micro schools such as Acton Academy do well include creating personal learning plans for students, for example.

“I think they’ve been incredibly good about engaging students,” Horn said. “They know it’s a place they want to be.”