We first implemented blended learning to promote a whole-child centered approach informed by our holistic understanding of a child's strengths and interests, both online and offline. First, we were able to free up teacher planning and assessment time from Core Skills, where there are strong online learning programs that provide targeted and developmentally appropriate instruction. Our teachers are then empowered to engage with students on 1:1 goal setting, project coaching, and group advisory, building a wide breadth of 21st century skills. Second, the data from our Online Learning programs are imported, interpreted, and blended with teacher-generated competency based assessment scores in our central reporting tool. This holistic stream of data is helping our teachers identify next steps across core skills instruction, PBL interdisciplinary learning, and SEL learning.
Our two initial challenges were 1) ensuring that teachers still felt empowered during core ELA and Math instruction blocks and 2) helping our teachers see past these programs as "just another thing". With programs that work out of the box, teachers can sometimes feel displaced or out of place as the classroom all of a sudden starts running without them. Meanwhile, with extra pieces of curriculum and limited additional PD and instructional time, teachers found themselves juggling additional pieces of the puzzle during the beginning of the year when there were so many things vying for their attention. As we engaged with our community of the teachers and vendor training teams, we found so many ways for teachers to be incrementally involved in high-leverage way in a blended classroom. Our curriculum team developed a staged implementation approach where teachers go through a progression that looks something like 1) figure out login/navigation flows and routines for students 2) set some modest usage targets 3) use online learning data to inform cross-grade grouping and targeted offline instruction and 4) use holistic understanding of student informed by online and offline work to personalize usage targets in the context of whole-child instructional goals . Our educators are in various stages of this implementation but we're seeing early signals that they feel empowered and supported.
We'd advise other programs to sketch out an ambitious long term vision, then backward plan into a staged approach, and then be patient in the opening stages. Our long term vision is for our teachers to be empowered by a multi-faceted understanding of our students online and offline, cognitive and noncognitive, quantitatively and qualitatively, among other dimensions. Our implementation is still a work in progress as many of our teachers are still working through operational challenges but our entire community sees a path forward to a goal that we all believe in.
Multi-faceted data-driven instruction- We've built automated imports of student mastery data from online learning programs. This data is being transformed and represented in our system so that they can be interpreted by our teachers alongside all of our other sources in a holistic stream. We believe this is an important progression in evidence-based progression and can share the lessons that we've gleaned here.
Whole-child learning- We're focused on the success of the whole child, beyond the subjects where blended learning curriculum programs have shown the most strength. We have lessons in the redefinition of a teacher's role, school-wide staffing, and student-driven goal setting that we can share to inform implementation.
We are a powerful combination of educators, entrepreneurs, and engineers driven to deliver personalized, whole-child learning so that every child can reach their full potential. Together, through our proprietary learning platform and network of schools, we are making the best education the most accessible.
We empower teachers with a technology platform that helps them truly understand each child—both deep and wide—so they can develop and deliver a comprehensive, personalized curriculum that helps each child thrive. We started by opening our own lab schools and now, partner schools that share our ambition to better prepare students for their future can adopt our platform in their own schools.
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. Our 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 donor-advised fund at the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, and many other key investors.
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 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.
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.
San Francisco, California