Start as a tiny school?

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Matt Candler, CEO of the educational innovation program 4.0 Schools, is building a machine that builds schools. He calls it "The Tiny Schools Project", and oh, oh, oh is it exciting.

Candler suggests we think about restaurants.

Once upon a time, he writes, if you wanted to open a restaurant, well, you opened a restaurant! You raised gobs of money, hired a staff, picked a location, and jumped into it!

What a great way to fail. There are so many balls to juggle in starting a restaurant, many of which have nothing to do with food or ambiance — in fact, you can perfect the essentials, and still fail!

And so it goes with schools. Founding a regular-sized school involves juggling at least as many balls as a restaurant does. Candler cites a study which found that 86% of charter schools that fail do so because of reasons unrelated to academics.

Enter food trucks. 

Nowadays, if you want to start a restaurant, there's a straighter path: get a food truck.

The food truck revolution has created a middle space for starting a restaurant: something more complex than your kitchen, but something less complex than a bricks-and-mortar site.

There are even companies that will rent you the truck, and help you develop the nonessentials — and leave the creative cooking up to you.

What 4.0 Schools is doing is making a food truck model for new kinds of schools. This is the Tiny Schools Project. And it seems to be built on the Lean Startup framework (which I've lauded previously on this blog).

Our question, right now, is: what we should take from this? Should we join a cohort? Should we borrow loosely from their model? (In some ways, we've been planning a tiny school all along — starting with 1-2 small classes, and iterating/growing from there.)

Whatever we decide: how exciting! How wonderful to see the wonderful become the new normal.

If you're interested in starting with some brief articles about 4.0 Schools Tiny Schools, you might enjoy What if we tested schools the way chefs test new restaurants?, 4 ways to make Tiny Schools, and The Tiny Schools Project.

Massive thanks to reader Tom Huntington, who pointed me toward the Tiny Schools Project website!

Brandon Hendrickson

Seattle, WA