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Communities in the driver’s seat: Black Mothers Forum microschools raise sustainability questions

Second and fourth graders work together on a STEM project at the Black Mothers Forum.

The Black Mothers Forum (BMF), established in 2016 to combat institutional racism in Phoenix-area schools, responded to the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic by creating a network of microschools. With Black leadership and a focus on racial justice, BMF fills a unique niche in a region where Black families are often underrepresented. In 2022, CRPE documented their efforts to launch these microschools.  

Our newest case study revisits Black Mothers Forum, with an eye toward the pedagogical tensions and questions of sustainability. From a single location, the BMF’s network has grown to five microschools across two locations, with plans to start more microschools in the 2023-24 school year. Arizona’s public school funding laws provide support for these microschools to operate, but are they sustainable? 

  • Black Mothers Forum has creatively adjusted its microschool model to meet the needs of Black (and increasingly Latine) families whose children often encounter challenges in conventional public schools. This has generated interest among families and community leaders, both within and outside of Arizona, to grow and replicate the BMF model.
  • As small learning environments created by families and community groups with varying experience and credentials, publicly funded microschools inherently break conventional assumptions about how schools are governed and funded, how their performance is measured and reported, and how educators are trained, recruited, and supported.
  • The long-term success of the microschool movement may hinge on devising effective ways to fund, govern, and support these models—an effort likely to be complicated by complex political dynamics in a state with broad partisan divides.
CRPE wishes to thank Carnegie and Stand Together for their support of this project.

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