Editor’s note: This commentary from Kerry McDonald, an education policy fellow at State Policy Network and senior education fellow at the Foundation for Economic Education, appeared Tuesday on forbes.com.
Nestled in a warm and colorful classroom space in a sprawling Salvation Army building in Ft. Lauderdale is Permission To Succeed Education Center, one of more than two dozen private microschools and similarly small, multi-age, co-learning communities in South Florida.
Felicia Rattray decided to launch Permission To Succeed in the summer of 2020 after schools shut down due to the pandemic and the shift to remote schooling gave her an up-close look at her nephew’s classroom.
Her sister had died in a car accident when Rattray’s nephew was just 8 days old and he then lived for several years with his grandmother until she grew too frail. Rattray and her husband, Amnon, assumed care of the boy, who was a third grader in a nearby public school.
A certified teacher, Rattray had been working as a social studies teacher and school counselor in public and charter schools in Florida since 2007. She knew her nephew was behind in school, and she had worked with him one on one during the afternoons and weekends to help him catch up. But Covid changed everything.
“During the pandemic, that’s when I saw just how behind he was,” said Rattray. “The spotlight was on it enough for me to see just how much he was suffering in the classroom.”
Rattray decided to create a microschool that would help students like her nephew, whom she discovered was working at a kindergarten grade level, to have a more personalized, mastery-based learning environment.
“The public schools can’t slow down the curriculum enough for the kids to catch up,” she said. “I’ve always had the desire to marry school counseling and education my way, my non-traditional way. In our microschool, each one of our students has a different curriculum that’s customized. I purchase different math curriculum, different reading curriculum depending on what is right for each child.”
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