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Educational Approach

It’s a whole new world out there.
The sheer amount of information available today calls for us to go far beyond the conventional “one size fits all” approach to education. At AltSchool, we’ve reimagined the entire educational experience from the ground up. We’re preparing our children for the future by offering them:

Personalized Learning Plans

Children are naturally curious and capable learners. Our Personalized Learning Plans help them drive their own education through their real-world motivations and interests. AltSchool teachers curate our rigorous curriculum in partnership with students and parents, allowing children to learn at their own pace and in the ways they learn best. Read about how we personalize education from our founder, Max Ventilla.

Real-World Application

The world itself is captivating and interconnected. At AltSchool, we encourage interdisciplinary learning and avoid artificial separation between subjects. Encouraging students to learn by doing, we promote a deeper level of understanding. Teaching may originate in the classroom, but will continue on trips throughout the community, at home, or even on family vacations (which are welcomed throughout the year).

Community Connection

AltSchool is building a network of micro-schools because we understand that children thrive under the nurturing warmth of a community. Our “village” is made up of inspiring teachers who co-learn with their students, asking questions, discovering connections and exploring relationships. Our schoolhouses are supported by deep parent involvement, and active use of the best people and places that local areas have to offer.

Whole Child Development

We agree with the research: social and emotional learning (SEL) is critical to student success in school and in life. AltSchool balances academic rigor with an emphasis on growing good citizens. We help our students to become self-aware and to develop the skills for good decision-making. Throughout, we encourage the grit, resilience, confidence and social engagement necessary for happiness and success in the 21st century.

While our students’ capacity for growth is huge, our time with them is precious. We set high expectations for that time, providing teachers with the tools, flexibility and support they need to best focus on their students. We benchmark ourselves to high standards and global best practices to drive continuous improvement.


To thrive in today’s world, students need both breadth and depth in their educational experience. AltSchool fosters interdisciplinary learning across all core education subjects. We also give students ample opportunity to explore their interests and cultivate uniquely differentiated strengths.

The AltSchool Learning Cycle

The Learner Portrait: When a child joins AltSchool, we create a Learner Portrait that is continually updated throughout his or her time with us. It catalogs interests, passions, strengths, weaknesses, and learning strategies that work best. It also reflects the AltSchool Learner Objectives that have been met to date by each student.

Personalized Learning Plan (PLP): Based on the Learner Portrait, our educators (in collaboration with family and students) prioritize a set of goals from the AltSchool Learner Objectives. The PLP is reviewed regularly and informs the Playlist activities a student sees each week.

The Playlist: The Playlist is a set of weekly learning experiences and exercises that help students meet their specific PLP goals. The Playlist includes individual and group activities, as well as short-term and long-term projects. Once a PLP goal is successfully completed, this achievement is recorded as a milestone on a student’s Learner Profile.

AltSchool Learner Objectives

AltSchool’s curriculum includes objectives in four major areas.

Ways of Thinking: This area includes cognitive procedures, reasoning, and creativity.

Ways of Being: This area includes self-awareness, self-confidence, growth mindset, gratitude, curiosity, self-regulation, and grit.

Ways of Interacting: This area includes empathy, perspective taking, communication, collaboration, and building relationships.

Knowledge and Experiences: This area includes language arts, history, culture, media, citizenship, mathematics, science and the environment, entrepreneurship, and health. We also want each child to have the experience of going deep in an area of interest.

These learning objectives draw from a variety of standards and metrics as a framework for instructional design. Our Lower School and Middle School instruction is informed by the Common Core, National Council of the Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM), Next Generation Science Standards, International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), Partnership for 21st Century Skills, and the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), among others.

Curriculum Resources

AltSchool teachers curate learning activities for each child based on many outstanding curricular resources available, as well as resources they design themselves. In math, for example, we use programs such as Everyday Mathematics, Singapore Math, and First in Math. In language arts, we use Reading and Writing Project, 6+1 Traits, Handwriting Without Tears, Sitton Spelling, and Word Skills.


Each Playlist activity is assessed by a teacher and reflected upon by the student. Assessments may be rubric-based, narrative-based, or involve a quiz or problem. Based on these weekly assessments, each student’s Playlist is updated for the following week to reflect achievements in PLP goals. Parents receive regular progress reports on Playlist activities.

In addition, we use Measures of Academic Progress (MAP), a nationally-normed standardized test, three times each year to assess student progress in math, reading, and language arts. MAP is an adaptive computer-based test that adjusts to a child’s level and takes less time away from instruction than a traditional standardized test. We use MAP results to tailor instruction and track progress against grade-level benchmarks.


AltSchool offers a wide range of co-curricular experiences, including art, music, fitness, and technology. We personalize co-curricular offerings at each location based on student and parent preferences, as well as community availability. We regularly adjust co-curricular offerings based on feedback. Where possible, co-curriculars are woven into students’ work in an interdisciplinary way.

The Classroom

AltSchool has brought together educators, parents, and design experts to develop a new vision for our school environment.

By incorporating the latest methods and research in creative collaboration, we’ve created warm spaces that work as multi-disciplinary learning centers. Students can study across subjects and learning styles, individually and in groups.

The AltSchool classroom is flexible, adapting to both teacher and student needs throughout the course of a day. An open floor plan and modular furniture allow us to accommodate a wide range of experiences, and to make children feel comfortable.

We also invite students to help customize a learning environment that works for them.

Real World Application

We believe a quality education should include the incredible resources that live outside the traditional school campus.

Our micro-school approach is based on the principle that students learn most effectively when their education is applicable to the real-world. Our goal is to enable students to make meaningful connections and foster curiosity and wonder about the world we live in. We visit local businesses, neighborhood centers, community gardens, science institutions, and maker shops (to name a few). We also bring new energy and knowledge into AltSchool through community experts. Artists, professors, musicians, and innovators from diverse fields visit our classroom to offer learning experiences that broaden and enrich the AltSchool education.

This past school year, our students ventured all over the Bay Area to learn about science, history, ecology, and the arts. Read our teacher recommendations on the best places to take kids in San Francisco for playful learning.

Digital Tools to Support Learning

Technology has the power to transform education far beyond the use of screens. Most of the technology we build for AltSchool is invisible when you walk into a classroom. Overall, we use technology in three ways:

  1. Help teachers do what they do best - teach. We build digital tools to help teachers develop Personalized Learning Plans and to capture student progress toward them. We also create platforms for efficient classroom administration so teachers have more quality face-to-face time with their students.
  2. Incorporate parent input and feedback. Parents are important teachers in our students’ lives. To ensure we are always learning from what happens outside the classroom, we build digital tools to support collaboration between teachers, parents and students.
  3. Make personalized education a reality. Our project-based education approach truly comes alive when supported by carefully curated learning tools. We mentor each student in the use of technology for learning and help them skillfully navigate today's information terrain.

Continuous Innovation

We believe that education can and should get better over time. To this end, we engage in many types of research at AltSchool, including:

Human-Centered Design: AltSchool is committed to a human-centered design approach that continually improves the educational experience. AltSchool's engineers and designers regularly collect feedback from families, educators, and students to see what's working and what needs to be improved. We use cognitive walkthroughs and usability studies to test new processes and technology before we introduce them to the classroom and continue to collect feedback on an ongoing basis for future iterations.

Read about an example of human-centered design research with parents and one way students employ this type of research in the classroom.

Best Practices in Education: AltSchool has a resident team of Ph.D. researchers and a network of research assistants from top-level graduate programs to stay abreast of, and build upon, best practices in the field. We are constantly reviewing literature and updating our database of relevant studies to inform our own practices and identify areas for innovation.

Check out a recommended reading list of exceptional books that inform our educational philosophy and approach.

Learning Lab Research: AltSchool trains and empowers our teachers to conduct classroom research to improve learning outcomes. Our teachers observe, reflect, and raise questions about their teaching and their students’ learning. Teachers also work with our internal research team to design classroom studies and analyze data that will improve student achievement within our micro-school network.