SAN FRANCISCO--(BUSINESS WIRE)--AltSchool kicks off Teacher Appreciation Week with $100 million funding to further its vision to reinvent U.S. education from the ground up. Founders Fund and Andreessen Horowitz led the round with Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan's donor-advised fund at Silicon Valley Community Foundation. Additional investment came from Emerson Collective, First Round Capital, Learn Capital, John Doerr, Harrison Metal, Jonathan Sackler, Omidyar Network and Adrian Aoun. This round also includes a new debt facility to fund school expansion.
U.S. schools are struggling. Students currently rank thirty-sixth among industrialized nations in math proficiency, and score at or below average in science and reading.1 Educators are fleeing the profession in record numbers. Roughly half a million teachers leave each year – attrition that costs $2.2 billion annually.2 That’s more than double the rate from just five years ago. Turnover is highest among new teachers, with up to 50 percent quitting within five years. Education reform experts agree: to transform education we must change the culture around how we support teachers.
AltSchool Wants to Fundamentally Reimagine Education
In 2013, founder Max Ventilla and his team of renowned educators and technologists started AltSchool by asking, how would school look if we designed it from scratch today? They evaluated everything – from what role teachers should play to how technology could complement classrooms. They discovered that our children can get a completely different education than most believe is possible.
Today, technology can handle many of the administrative and organizational tasks that consume teachers’ time. School doesn’t have to be one-size-fits-all anymore; we can personalize academics for each student based on their unique learning style, interests and skill level. Schools can adapt and grow in real time to keep pace with accelerating changes in the outside world. Finally, teachers can regain their autonomy in the classroom.
So, AltSchool started building schools, each supported by a proprietary technology platform that made all this possible. In 2013, there were 20 students in one school. This year, there will be up to 500 students in eight schools. And soon, AltSchool will offer its model to schools nationwide, so that each child can access a high-quality education that will help them reach their full potential.
“From SpaceX to Airbnb to Oscar, today’s strongest entrepreneurs are creating technology-enabled models to transform some of the oldest and most established industries in the world. We believe the time has come to reimagine education,” said Brian Singerman, Founders Fund managing partner. “The U.S. education system has remained largely unaltered for decades. AltSchool has the audacious vision and scalable solutions to accelerate truly transformative change in the education space.”
Since raising $33 million in Series A financing last year, AltSchool has expanded to four schools in the Bay Area, with additional locations in San Francisco, Palo Alto and Brooklyn opening this fall. Its staff has nearly quadrupled, from 30 to 115 employees, one-third of whom are educators. The new investment will support AltSchool as it opens more schools in existing and new markets, aggressively hires the best talent towards its mission, develops new tools and functionality for its platform and begins to bring its technology to other schools nationwide.
“We started AltSchool because we wanted to change kids’ lives, but it has become so much bigger,” said Max Ventilla, CEO and founder of AltSchool. “Our students are coming to love learning – they’re achieving milestones in a way that they and their parents didn’t imagine possible in traditional school. We’ve created a culture where teachers feel empowered and valued and where students and parents feel heard. Now, thanks to the philosophical and financial support from our investment partners, many many more educators and families around the country will be able to experience what education can be in the 21st century with AltSchool.”
Creating a Central Operating System for Education
AltSchools are small by design and the team takes a growth-centered approach, continually collecting and iterating on feedback from its community of teachers, students and parents. Improvements happen in hours and days, not years. AltSchool’s platform enables teachers to deliver Personalized Learning Plans, custom-made lesson plans for each child that combine student interests, parental priorities and specific tasks educators feel will best challenge and prepare each child to succeed.
For example, inspired by the current social justice concerns between African Americans and U.S. police forces, an eight-year-old student created a study on truth and the San Francisco Police Department, initiating a series of in-person interviews with the police captain, who has since become a friend. Last month, middle school students cast new interpretation on The Iliad, using data management technology to analyze the 3,000-year-old text. They graphed data visualizations on a key theme (anger) to develop insights and discovered that friends and allies "raged at" each other more than enemies.
The AltSchool platform is not limited to academics. It functions as a central operating system to handle everything from admissions to student assessment, from parent communication to classroom supply procurement. In the coming year, AltSchool will start trial programs with select schools nationwide. By providing its platform in whole or as individual services, AltSchool aims to help non-AltSchool students and teachers experience the benefits of adaptive, personalized learning.
“Our children are going to experience an unbelievable amount of change in their lives, and we need an education system that is preparing them for the careers and the world they'll find in 2030,” said Lars Dalgaard, general partner at Andreessen Horowitz. “We believe AltSchool's full-stack approach is the most promising way to bring education into the 21st century.”
“AltSchool is not only changing the future for students, but for the teaching profession as well,” said AltSchool teacher, Kate Moriarty. “We are trusted with the freedom to figure out how to best support our class and understand each student’s needs. And if something isn’t working and we have an idea of how to change it, we have a team of engineers ready to listen and quickly implement solutions based on our feedback. If that isn’t a dream job for a teacher, I don’t know what is.”
AltSchool is reimagining K-8 education from the ground up with a mission to enable all children to reach their full potential. AltSchool’s world-class team of educators, operators and technologists is building a network of micro-schools that offer personalized, child-centered learning experiences. Founded in 2013 by technology entrepreneur and parent Max Ventilla, and headquartered in San Francisco, AltSchool is backed by Founders Fund, Andreessen Horowitz, Emerson Collective, First Round Capital, Harrison Metal, John Doerr, Jonathan Sackler, Learn Capital, Adrian Aoun, Omidyar Network, Mark Zuckerberg & Priscilla Chan's donor advised fund at Silicon Valley Community Foundation and other leading investors. AltSchool currently operates schools in San Francisco and will be expanding to Brooklyn and Palo Alto in fall 2015. More information at www.altschool.com.
1 2012 results
from The Program for International Student Assessment (PISA)
2 According to a recent report from the Alliance for Excellent Education