Seismic shifts are shaking the landscape of K–12 education. Public school districts across the US have lost over a million students since 2020. Meanwhile, novel educational models—such as microschools and hybrid homeschooling—have more than doubled their enrollments.

This paper explores what’s driving families to seek these new learning environments by utilizing a theory and methodology called Jobs to Be Done. According to the theory underpinning Jobs to Be Done, people adopt new solutions—such as microschools—when struggling moments in their lives cause them to seek new ways to make progress in the face of those struggles. Through interviews with parents who recently moved their children to microschools, this research uncovered three Jobs to Be Done driving families’ decisions:

  • Job 1: When I disagree with decisions at my child’s school and I’m feeling unheard, help me find an alternative that will honor my
    perspective and values.
  • Job 2: When my child is unhappy, unsafe, or struggling at school, help me find an environment where they can regain their love for
  •  Job 3: When my child’s school is too focused on academic milestones and neglects other forms of learning, help me find a balanced educational experience for my child.

The growing popularity of microschools hinges on their ability to understand and address the Jobs to Be Done of the families they serve.
This paper provides a strategic playbook for microschool founders to help them understand and then align their programs with families’ “Jobs.” In it you will find:

  • Strategies to more clearly align your program’s vision, mission, and philosophy
  • Ideas to improve your program’s learning experiences, marketing, and family engagement practices
  • Suggestions for navigating the challenges that arise when families’ Jobs change

As the educational landscape continues to evolve, the insights in this paper have the potential to empower new educational models with the understanding and tools to successfully navigate these changes. Ultimately, the more programs strive to address the struggles that define families’ Jobs to Be Done, the more the overall educational landscape will support the desired progress of students and their families.


  • Thomas Arnett
    Thomas Arnett

    Thomas Arnett is a senior research fellow for the Clayton Christensen Institute. His work focuses on using the Theory of Disruptive Innovation to study innovative instructional models and their potential to scale student-centered learning in K–12 education. He also studies demand for innovative resources and practices across the K–12 education system using the Jobs to Be Done Theory.