2023 Hybrid Schools Conference Agenda and Session Summaries
All Conference sessions/events will be held at the Atlanta Renaissance Waverly
Friday, April 28
Evening Reception (6:00-8:00)
Saturday, April 29
Breakfast and Exhibits (7:30-8:45)
Opening Plenary Session (9:00-10:00): Hybrid Schools and Education Entrepreneurship
|Hybrid and microschools have a variety of origins. Some start as groups of full-time
homeschoolers, some start as ministries of churches, and some are more like new independent
schools. Though they may not always think of themselves this way, hybrid school founders
and leaders are running startup organizations, and use (or need) many of the entrepreneurial
skills as other startup founders. In the opening whole-group session, hybrid school
founders and leaders will discuss how their schools began, and how hybrid schools
are excellent examples of entrepreneurship in education.
Session 1 Options (10:15-11:15)
Instructional Issues in Hybrid Schools
Panelists in this session will address instructional issues specific to hybrid schools: For example, how hybrid school teachers might think about their pacing, the amount
of work they give on home days, or how they deal with varying skill levels differently
in a hybrid school compared to how they might in a five-day school or a fulltime homeschool
Startup Support Organizations
Although many hybrid and microschools are independent startup operations, meant to
serve a very local clientele, there are several organizations which work to start,
grow, and support this schooling sector. This panel includes representatives from several national and local groups that work
to help the startup hybrid schools and microschools and to support them, to discuss
topics including who they are, what they do, and how schools or potential schools
might interact with them.
Zoning Issues and Other Threats
Historically, hybrid schools and microschools have often been left alone by state and local regulators. They have historically been too rare to garner much notice. As this sector grows, this is less and less the case. In 2022, a number of these schools came under threat from a new direction: local zoning ordinances. Panelists in this session will discuss a recent situation several Georgia hybrid schools
faced in this way, how they responded, and how we might consider this issue in the
Open for Business: The Economics of Unconventional Education
VELA supports the largest community of everyday entrepreneurs in unconventional education in the United States, with over 2,000 investments made and $24 million disbursed since 2019. A recent survey of VELA’s grant recipients revealed the many unique ways that these entrepreneurs are growing and sustaining their community-responsive programs. Hear from the entrepreneurs and ecosystem builders who are catalyzing innovation in K-12 education and explore one-of-a-kind insights into the rapidly growing unconventional education market.
Policy and Accountability
The policy landscape around hybrid and microschools is evolving very quickly. Policymakers are increasingly aware of these schools and interested in them, for a variety of reasons. Other schools are increasingly seeing them as competition. Panelists in this session will discuss the policy landscape of hybrid and microschools from a variety of perspectives, and will especially focus on the question of what “accountability” means for these schools…or if it is relevant at all.
Exhibitor Session and Break (11:00-11:30)
Session 2 Options (11:30-12:30)
Teachers as Entrepreneurs
Although hybrid and microschools have existed for several decades, the past few years have generated enormous creative and entrepreneurial energy in this sector. Individual teachers have many more opportunities for launching new and creative school models. Panelists in this session will discuss their experiences as teachers founding brand-new
schools, and how teachers themselves can think about starting their entrepreneurial
Classical Hybrid Schools
The classical renewal in K12 education has followed a similar course to the development and growth of hybrid schools, moving from relative obscurity to a much higher profile over the past 15-20 years. A high percentage of hybrid schools, and especially newer hybrid schools, follow a classical approach. This has implications for curriculum, pedagogy, teacher and student recruitment, and many other areas. Panelists in this session will discuss why, and in what ways, classical schooling
and hybrid schooling seem to be a match.
Elected and appointed officials at the state and local levels have had increasing interest in addressing the growth of hybrid and microschools. Often these officials are sympathetic and are willing to help support and encourage these schools, but are unsure how to proceed. This panel consists of a state board member, a state legislator, and a local school
board member from various states, to talk about their experiences with hybrid and
West Virginia’s Hope Scholarship
In 2022, the State of West Virginia enacted a large-scale education savings account (ESA)-style program, known as the Hope Scholarship. This program will enable significantly more West Virginia students to attend hybrid
schools. Panelists in this session will discuss the landscape of ESAs across the country,
the specific history of the West Virginia bill, and its practical effects for families
and hybrid schools.
Knocking Down Siloes: Brainstorming Researcher-Practitioner Partnerships
A lot of educational research is useless. For a host of complicated (and not so complicated)
reasons, education researchers are incentivized to conduct research that is good for
publishing in respected journals, but not necessarily for answering the questions
of the people doing the educating. Researchers need three things. Questions to ask,
data to analyze, and techniques to analyze it. They are prepared very well for the
third but often struggle with the first and the second. Practitioners have questions
that they want to be answered, and data to be analyzed, but often lack the time or
technical training to do so. The purpose of this session is a kind of matchmaking
exercise between researchers and practitioners. We will ask both groups to come up
with questions that they are interested in answering and ways in which they are willing
to work with others to establish research partnerships. Ideally, this will generate
both a research agenda for the field and the beginnings of collaborations that will
Lunch/Main Event (12:45-2:00)
|For the conference lunch session, James Tooley of the University of Buckingham will
discuss his work with low-cost schools run by education entrepreneurs all over the
world, and lessons for American hybrid schools and microschools. (Room 400)
Session 3 Options (2:15-3:15)
Home/School Relationships in Hybrid Schools
Hybrid schools have unique relationships with their families that are somewhat different
from five-day schools and are also not quite like fulltime homeschooling. Panelists in this session will address questions such as: What exactly do/can you expect from parents? How might a school address discipline issues? How might a school deal with sports, college admissions, extracurriculars, etc.?
Innovation through Microschools
Many exciting new ways of teaching and learning exist and are being developed in hybrid
schools and microschools. All of this can be drastically different compared to what can be done in conventional schools in areas such as the importance and role of community, parents’ roles, and others. The panelists in this session represent a variety of microschools and will discuss
these issues and others such as: what measuring impact might look like in a microschool,
what barriers might be removed to make them more successful, and more.
Academic Research on Hybrid Schools
Most academic research on hybrid and microschools is relatively new, but quality research on these schools is being done. In this panel, researchers will discuss the latest research on hybrid schools, microschools,
and related topics.
KaiPod Catalyst Teachers
KaiPod Catalyst is an accelerator for entrepreneurial educators to launch their microschools
in their communities. Once a year, KaiPod recruits the highest-caliber educators and provides them with
the support, expertise, and resources they need to create and sustain innovative microschools.
Over 18 weeks, Founders in the KaiPod Catalyst program will take their microschool vision from “Idea” to “Launch.” The KaiPod team supports them in all aspects of launching their microschool, including marketing, raising capital, selecting a site, operations, hiring, and academic programming. Each cohort culminates in a National Pitch Week, where Founders pitch families in their communities about their learning model. This session includes a panel discussion with members of the first KaiPod Catalyst
Closing Plenary Session (3:30-4:30)
|Hybrid schools and some forms of microschools have been in existence for decades.
Their numbers were growing pre-COVID, but since COVID appeared, the growth of these
schools and interest in them has skyrocketed. New startups are interesting and important, and there is a lot of energy around hybrid school and microschool startups lately. But is this energy sustainable? Are we resetting schooling, or are we likely to churn through many new founders and then revert to something like what we had before? Where do all of these schools fit as a new kind of institution in the school choice landscape? What might we expect as this sector grows and matures? What should we want from it? Panelists in the conference’s closing session will discuss these questions and others.