what is u.school?

When the opportunity came along for us to create our own school from scratch we wanted to put research and our experience as teachers at the forefront. The first priority of the school would be to organize around the way teenagers actually learn. The second priority would be to define what we are trying to accomplish in simple terms that applied to everyone from nerds to jocks to artists to anarchists.

We started with some simple principles that would help frame things and keep us on the right path.

1. small

Our enrollment is capped at 40 students. Research shows that students are more motivated academically when they have a positive relationship with their teacher and feel that they are part of a supportive community. Staying small allows us to work with students as individuals and allows students to accept each other for who they are with the typical stress and struggles of a larger school. We are purposefully small and are an active part of a growing community of micro schools across the country.

2. democratic

As a part of a democratic school students have an active voice in everything the school does. Our weekly democratic meeting, called Communitas is where we decide rules, budget expenditures, and activities. Students chair committees, are legal members of our non-profit, and direct their own learning choices.  As Alfie Kohn says, “The way a child learns how to make decisions is by making decisions, not by following directions.”

3. connected

Springfield is the third largest city in Missouri but it is still a fairly small town. The downtown has seen a rebirth in the last decade and is home to many organizations, small businesses, and young professionals. Our experience teaching taught us that students work differently when there is an authentic audience. We connect to our downtown community through internships, service learning, student-directed research projects, First Friday Artwalk, u.talks, and our new downtown magazine, u.zine. 

We want to break down school walls and make the city our classroom


our mission

We had an intuitive sense that Small, Democratic, and Connected would help us reach students better but what was the outcome we were shooting for?

Learning to what end? Learning for the sake of learning? Learning to prepare for college or career? Learning to be a better citizen? Learning to be a better human? All of those were true and none of them were right.

We kept struggling with the idea that we were preparing them for a future that is very hard to predict. One thing that is true is that the future will be different than the present. Not only was change happening faster but the rate of change itself seems to be increasing. The smart phone is less than a decade old, Youtube, Instagram, and Snapchat such an integral part of our students daily lives, didn’t exist when many of our students were born.

Whatever students learned today, they had to be prepared to learn something new tomorrow. 

We don’t need to prepare them for the future, we need to prepare them to be prepared for a future that we can’t even predict. In order to succeed following the rules and being a ‘good’ student wasn’t going to be enough. Our students would need to be comfortable being in charge of their lives. They would need to understand themselves and their strengths. They would not only need to continually learn new skills, they would need to understand why. In fact, they would need to master the who, what, when, where, why, and how of learning.

  • Who can you learn it from? Who do you work well with?
  • What do you need to learn? What ways can I prove I have learned it?
  • When should I learn this?
  • Where is this learning available?
  • Why is this important to me?
  • How should I learn this?

Our students needed to be Self-Directed

But we can’t make someone be Self-Directed. We can’t force you to be Self-Directed. We can’t really even teach you to be Self-Directed.

But we can set up an environment that encourages you to Grow into a Self-Directed Learner.

That’s our mission: Growing Self-Directed Learners

A plant needs soil, water, and light to grow.

We’ve got small, democratic, and connected to grow our self-directed learners.

frequently asked questions

will my child be able to get into college?

Yes. In the past two decades colleges have become friendly to students from new and innovative charter, magnet and private schools; homeschoolers and unschoolers; and other non-traditional students. Graduates from u.school have a Portfolio of Work, a transcript that summarizes the Portfolio of Work, experience with internships, service learning, independent projects, creating, producing, and managing projects with real world audiences like Artwalk, u.talk, and u.zine. Our students take college classes at nearby universities while they are still at u.school. Our first graduating class had college acceptances from Kansas City Art Institute, Drury University, Belmont University, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, Hartwick College, and Columbia College of Chicago (Honors Program). 

what is authentic assessment?

Authentic assessment is the idea that the best way to measure student progress is through worthwhile, significant, and meaningful activities. We also believe that the best way to communicate progress with students and families is through narrative feedback, self-assessment, and conferences. Test scores and grades are very crude instruments that don't communicate the complexity of learning. Tests and grades force learning into a box that is measured by tests and grades. It is a vicious cycle. By seeking more authentic and complex ways of assessing and communicating student progress we are also opening up the way students can learn. 

are you accredited?

As a brand new school, who opened to students on August 2016, we are in the process of being accredited. The accreditation process involves applying for membership, conducting a self-study of your school, hosting a visiting team to review your school, and developing a plan for continual review and improvement. This process can take anywhere from one to three years. We have taken the first steps towards accreditation and plan on moving as quickly as is reasonable. In the meantime, students who graduate from u.school will still receive our diploma and build their own portfolio. In most cases, there are paths available to college for students with an unaccredited diploma. Homeschoolers and unschoolers are regularly accepted to all levels of colleges and universities without an accredited diploma. In some colleges the entry requirements will change slightly with SAT/ACT, college coursework, and a portfolio playing a larger role in admissions. 

what is a micro school?

Micro schools can blend the best elements of unschooling, summer camps, passion projects, graduate seminars, project-based learning, independent study, homeschooling and direct instruction in a purposefully small school setting. One of the biggest factors in keeping students engaged in learning is their feeling of being known, appreciated, valued, and accepted as an individual. Each student is unique, staying small allows them to safely find their own voice and gain experience in using it. Too often larger schools ‘deliver’ education to students. We want our students to ‘create’ their own education. At u.school we limit our enrollment to a maximum of 40 students in grades 6-12. 

do you have art, pe, and music?

We do our best to learn in an integrated, holistic way. The opportunity for expression through art and music will always be available for those who desire it. We will also tap into the greater Springfield community for mini units in art, music, and PE. For example, we might schedule a six week ice skating unit and head over to Mediacom Ice Park a couple of times a week for skating. We could also bring in an artist for a few workshops to teach some specific techniques. 




non discrimination policy

The u.school admits students of any gender, gender expression, sexual orientation, race, color, religion, creed, national and ethnic origin to all the rights, privileges, programs, and activities generally accorded or made available to students at the school. The u.school does not discriminate on the basis of gender, gender expression, sexual orientation, race, color, national and ethnic origin, religion, or creed in administration of its educational policies, admission policies, scholarship, and loan programs and athletic and other school administered programs.

send us a message

contact information

425 W McDaniel Suite 160
Springfield, MO 65806