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November 14, 2017

Ed + Tech: Lessons Learned So Far

Max Ventilla, Founder & CEO

Group learning

AltSchool’s vision is to enable all children to reach their potential. To do that, we must support a broad movement to make the best education the most available. We took our first big steps four years ago by starting our own network of schools. This year, we are taking the next big steps by supporting private and public school partners.

Our educators and technologists have been co-developing a personalized learning platform since we opened our first one-room schoolhouse in 2013. We believed that, when built right, technology could help improve education for all students. We knew we wanted to create an “operating system” to support high-quality, student-centered education at scale. But we knew it would take years of research and development until we would even be ready to work with other schools.

Over time, our lab schools have become innovation centers where educators help students to know themselves and to drive their own learning. Our students have improved on their academic achievement each year, including 1.18x growth last year (fall-to-spring MAP results). We are especially proud of our students in the lowest quintile who showed the greatest gains, with greater than 1.5x annual growth. As of October, our parent satisfaction was the highest it has ever been, at 92%.

Reaching these results hasn’t been easy and we haven't traveled in a straight line. In our first few years, we quickly opened a network of private micro-schools. Four veteran educators joined our leadership team earlier this year, giving us an opportunity to reflect on our lab schools and our platform. Our new leadership confirmed two hypotheses about AltSchool: (1) Our “full-stack” approach to operating schools and developing technology fast-tracked our learning as an organization, but (2) We should focus on fewer, larger lab schools.

When it came to our platform, we made a surprising discovery this fall: We were further along than we thought. We met with hundreds of educators across the country and listened to their frustrations with existing technology, as well as their priorities and goals for their students. We showed what our platform can do today and were pleasantly surprised that private and public schools wanted to start using our tools right away. But transforming education isn’t just about technology. Schools wanted to pool knowledge and resources as part of a broader community, sharing a common platform, improving education for all children.

We may operate fewer schools than we have in the past, but running lab schools will continue to be at the core of who we are. We will keep developing our personalized learning platform. Through this common platform, we will continue to collaborate with schools that share a vision for student-centered education. Today—what we refer to as Year 0—our first four partner schools are live on the platform. By next school year, we will support thousands of students in a range of school environments. In the coming months, we’ll share more details about these schools and their visions for their students.

Families, partners, and employees have taken a leap of faith to join us on this journey. We are deeply grateful for the shared support, talent, and wisdom as we move to serve many more students. The path to transform education is long and hard, and we will never stop trying to figure out how to better play our part.

Max Ventilla

Founder & CEO

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