SAN FRANCISCO--(BUSINESS WIRE)--AltSchool today announced the company has entered the next phase of its mission: to enable all children to reach their full potential. For the past three years, AltSchool’s team of educators, engineers and researchers has been working behind closed doors to build an education technology platform within its own network of lab schools, which will help educators everywhere provide a whole child, personalized education that fosters agency in each child. Now the company will start to open up its platform to other schools.
Beginning with its first cohort of 2017 pilot schools, AltSchool will begin growing a network of partner schools nationwide. Over the next few years, it will consistently expand that frontier to include diverse schools of all types, sizes and approaches, before ultimately bringing the technology to the nation’s 50 million students in the largest school districts. Today the company opened a call to educators and schools who are interested in becoming part of its 2018 cohort to sign up at http://open.alt.school.
As a public benefit corporation and a Certified B Corporation, AltSchool is one of a new class of for-profit companies that provide a positive impact on society and must meet high standards of social and environmental good. AltSchool is backed by Founders Fund, Andreessen Horowitz, Mark Zuckerberg & Priscilla Chan’s Silicon Valley Community Foundation and other key investors, who have all joined its decade-plus mission to raise the quality of education for millions of children.
An Expanding Network of Partner Schools
Since its inception in 2013, AltSchool has opened new lab schools each year, growing to a network of eight schools in the Bay Area and New York. Two additional locations will open in New York and Chicago in 2017.
Earlier this year, founder Max Ventilla invited schools and educators nationwide to become the first schools outside of its own network to use and test the platform, through its AltSchool Open program. Over the past six months, AltSchool met with and rigorously evaluated more than 200 inquiries to select organizations that would become the first cohort of partner schools. The 2017 cohort is made up of three schools: Berthold Academy in Reston, Virginia; The Greene School in West Palm Beach, Florida; and Temple Beth Sholom Day School in Miami Beach, Florida.
The first cohort who will begin using the platform in fall 2017 includes leaders in Montessori, Reggio Emilia, and constructivist approaches. Together with AltSchool’s team of education and technology experts, partner schools will help to inform and improve the technology as they use it.
“For this first year, we’re focused on testing the platform’s ability to work in school environments outside our own,” said Coddy Johnson, COO of AltSchool. “This is step one of a multi-year roadmap that was intentionally designed to address the historical challenges of introducing technology into educational environments. We will ‘road test’ the platform, explore how best to collaborate and co-design with our partners, and create the foundation for much broader growth.”
Each year following, AltSchool will systematically widen the network in scale and types of schools using the technology, adding new variables as it continues a cycle of “learn, build, expand.” Within five years, through increased expansion and diversity, the company plans to demonstrate the outcomes, metrics, and technology to facilitate adoption by the broader education landscape and the nation’s established public, charter and private school systems.
Who are the first partners?
The 2017 cohort are thought leaders and innovators in their respective markets. Each is guided by strong leadership who share a proven track record and clear vision for what the future of education might look like. They are not only passionate about providing a deeply personalized and child-centered environment within their own schools, they are also excited to be part of a network where they can share best practices and approaches, and to help transform the larger education landscape.
Berthold Academy is a new school in Reston, Virginia, founded in 2015 by Rodney Berthold and Garrett Wilhelm. Each brings two decades of running and teaching at large-scale Montessori schools. Berthold is passionate about modernizing Montessori. It's the first Montessori in the region offering grades 1-8, with four teachers serving 50 students this year; expanding up to 100 students next year.
The Greene School was founded by philanthropist Jeff Greene in West Palm Beach, Florida, out of a desire to enable his children and many others to have a high quality education. It’s a pre-K-8 progressive school dedicated to empowering high-performing students to be adaptive, confident and productive stewards of an evolving world. To enable students of diverse backgrounds within the community to take part, Greene provides tuition assistance to nearly 75 percent of those students.
Temple Beth Sholom has been a pillar of the Jewish community in Miami Beach, Florida for 75 years, serving over 1100 families. For the 2017 school year, its Foundation School campus will expand to include a new Jewish Day school, which will initially serve students from infant to 1st grades and add a new grade each subsequent year. The Day School is based on a Reggio Emilia and constructivist approach that strives to present an optimal learning environment where reflection, meaning making, critical thinking, theorizing, expressing, and constructing are key components.
Introducing the AltSchool platform
The AltSchool platform has been designed in partnership with a team of 50 educators and supported by three years of building and testing in a growing network of lab schools. It is informed by feedback from more than 200 schools and ongoing insights from researchers, school and ed tech leaders, who shared their priorities and pain points.
“We started in 2013 by exploring a wide swath of the school experience, to determine where we could offer the most value,” said Max Ventilla, CEO and founder of AltSchool. “Through the past three years of testing and iteration, we have determined what we think is the most transformative combination of tools and services: a technology platform that helps educators offer a whole child, personalized education that fosters student agency. That platform is supported by a network, which gets better and better as more people join it.”
The AltSchool platform is a combination of tools and services anchored by two product lines -- Portrait and Playlist -- that allow educators in diverse environments to personalize instruction for each child, in a way that reflects both real world and digital learning, group and individual instruction, and academic and non-academic growth.
Portrait is a set of tools that provides educators a rich picture of who each child is. It includes a comprehensive record of each student’s progress across both academic and non-academic standards for learning, such as how often a child has practiced a skill or worked on content. Portrait tracks their trajectory towards competency by incorporating scores from third party assessments, teacher narratives, samples of each child's work, and internal educator notes. Through this deep understanding of a child’s interests, learning style, and traits, educators can more effectively plan a student's personalized experience.
Playlist is a set of tools that enables educators to manage what each child does to meet their personalized learning goals, and functions as a customized workspace for students to cultivate agency by managing their own work. Educators create, sequence, and remix curriculum units to curate a Playlist for each student where they can view assignments, communicate with their teacher, and submit work generated both on- and off-line. Education teams review student work to provide feedback and assessments that in turn update the Portrait in real time to keep each student’s progress current. Utilizing the Playlist allows educators to help each student accelerate in any areas where they are already advanced, and work on those areas that require more attention and development.
Pilot schools who are “powered by AltSchool” will use the platform as a resource to support classroom instruction, working in partnership with its team to test and improve tools. The effect is continuing improvements that happen in hours and days, not years. That means the best practices advanced in one classroom can impact classrooms everywhere. By using the platform to streamline and "superpower" certain tasks, schools and classrooms can run more efficiently, teachers can spend more quality time with students, and students can become advocates for their education and future.
As a public benefit corporation and a Certified B Corporation, AltSchool’s mission is to help schools everywhere better prepare children for their future. Its world-class educators work in partnership with engineers and designers to build and test an education technology platform within AltSchool’s growing network of schools. Their goal is to enable every teacher to more easily offer each child a personalized, whole child education that fosters student agency. Headquartered in San Francisco, AltSchool currently operates eight schools in California and New York. It’s backed by Founders Fund, Andreessen Horowitz, Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan’s Silicon Valley Community Foundation, and many other key investors. More information at www.altschool.com.