In the Arizona desert, a new school model has Black parents driving across city lines to drop their children off each morning.

Frustrated with what they say is their public schools’ failure to provide quality education and nurturing environments for Black children and fearing the persistent school to prison pipeline, a group of mothers, many public school teachers, have created a network of their own schools.

Launched mid-pandemic just one year ago, the mothers’ goal is to grow the seven micoschools into 50.

“We could be advocating 24/7, and still not make the impact that we wanted to see. So, what do you do, do you go charter? Do you try to keep working in the public school system? Nope, nope, not us. We said, well, we can do it ourselves,” said Debora Colbert, executive director of the Black Mothers Forum, a Phoenix-based parent advocacy group.

In mixed-grade classes, students learn at their own pace and are guided by two teachers. Restorative discipline techniques, not punitive strategies, are the norm.

The Forum’s approach to learning has caught the attention of Arizona Governor Doug Ducey in a state where high school graduation rates hover about 8 percent below national averages and less than half of the graduating class went on to college in 2020.

With little to keep them there, students who do go onto higher education often leave the state and don’t look back, Colbert said.

In Phoenix-area churches, nonprofits and shared school buildings, 42 students comprise the first microschools launched last January with preliminary guidance from national microschool giant Prenda. The Forum’s sites have since made the transition to public charter schools within local network EdKey Sequoia Choice. (Arizona’s attorney general reportedly opened an investigation last year into Prenda’s operations with a separate, online EdKey school. Prenda lawyers say the investigation has since closed. The Attorney General’s office did not respond to repeated requests for comment.)

Read the full article about Black-led microschools by Marianna McMurdock at The 74.