Started in Los Angeles in 2011, the Micro Learning Center is a school based around a small-group learning environment designed to foster high academic engagement and performance among African American males, beginning initially in elementary school and ultimately expanding to middle school and high school.
“We have created a hybrid learning environment that combines the best practices and advantages of the individualized learning program found in some of the best home school curricula, where students excel at their own pace, with a small-group environment where they can benefit from the intensive hands-on instruction afforded by a ‘micro’ classroom,” said Lisa Jones Johnson, who founded the school after seeing her own son struggle in a traditional public school. She is investing her own resources to change the educational crisis African American boys are facing.
The school is a private with low or no tuition, based on the individual financial circumstances of the parents. “We are based on the philosophy that children learn best when in a small group environment. Boys in particular respond well to the hands-on learning, which is facilitated in this type of classroom,” said Johnson.
The program is designed according to the California Virtual Academy (“CAVA”) curriculum, using the materials, lesson plans and other materials provided by CAVA. The school operates with five to seven students of the same grade level in each classroom. A master teacher, who has the primary responsibility for designing the school day, putting in place effective classroom management policies, directing and guiding the graduate students and teaching the core subjects of math and reading, is assigned to two classrooms each.
Graduate students are involved as part of an ongoing research program with UCLA’s Graduate School of Education and the Black Male Institute and with other graduate students whose goal is to be classroom teachers working in the classroom as teaching assistants to the master teacher. One to two grades will be added each year through the fifth grade.
In addition to providing a solid foundation in reading, social studies and language arts, the school puts a focus on math, science and green technology in recognition of the importance of those skills for the 21st century.
“The school is based around an approach to learning where each student is able to excel to the maximum of their potential and is not constrained based on other students’ progress or lack thereof, in a subject,” said Johnson. “But rather, each student is able to advance quickly in those areas where they excel and to obtain extra help as needed in those areas where they are more challenged.”
The foundation recently received a grant from Phillips Charitable Organization (PCO) to further the school’s progress.
“The PCO grant came when the Micro Learning Foundation faced a serious funding challenge.
The generosity of PCO has allowed the foundation to continue its vision of making a difference in the lives of African American young men,” said Johnson. “PCO’s focus on urgent need and their ability to decide quickly was critical for this program,” she continued.
The Micro Learning Center will have an open house for prospective parents on Saturday, July 28 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Boys & Girls Club of Hollywood located at 850 North Cahuenga Boulevard. The event is for parents of boys going into 2nd or 3rd grade in September.
For more information on the Micro Learning Foundation, go to www.microlearningfoundation.org.