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Public Benefit Corporation Report

Posted by The AltSchool Team

Nov 29, 2016 1:40:15 PM

We recently completed our Public Benefit Corporation Stockholder Report and are proud to share the results.

2016 Public Benefit Corporation Report.pngBecoming a Public Benefit Corporation

A public benefit corporation is a fairly new corporate form. Traditional corporations in the United States typically are required to maximize shareholder value above all else. While corporations may engage in socially responsible or mission-driven activities, these activities must always be secondary to, or somehow improve, the bottom line. Public benefit corporations, by contrast, may have an expanded public benefit purpose that doesn’t need to take a backseat to the maximization of shareholder value.      

In 2013, the State of Delaware (where AltSchool is incorporated) passed legislation permitting the formation of public benefit corporations in the state. In 2014, AltSchool converted from a Delaware corporation to a Delaware public benefit corporation.

Being a Public Benefit Corporation is Aligned with Our Mission

AltSchool’s public benefit purpose, as provided in our mission, is to improve access to a quality education so that all children can reach their full potential. We are building a technology-enabled network to deliver the world’s best, most personalized education. The platform is designed to connect families, students and teachers through that network. Our technology empowers educators to measure and foster student agency as well as strong academic and non-academic standards-based progress.

Scaling our Public Benefit Purpose

We are entering our next phase as a benefit corporation. We have operated our own lab schools in California and New York for the last several years. Beginning fall 2017, we will begin growing a network of partner schools nationwide by adding our first cohort of pilot partner schools. Over the next few years, we will expand that frontier to include diverse schools of all types, sizes, and approaches.

We invite you to read more in the full report.

Join Us

Parents are welcome to visit one of our lab schools before applying. We also invite interested educators and schools to learn more about becoming part of our 2018 partner school cohort.

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Topics: Public Benefit Corporation

Introducing Alex Ragone: Head of School, AltSchool Union Square

Posted by The AltSchool Team

Nov 17, 2016 12:12:32 PM

We have an exciting announcement: Alex Ragone will serve as Head of School for AltSchool Union Square, our new middle school campus opening in New York in fall 2017. Alex brings two decades of experience leading and teaching in independent schools in New York City. He is currently the Head of School for AltSchool East Village, and is looking forward to growing AltSchool’s New York community.

Get to know Alex and his vision for AltSchool Union Square.

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Meet Alex Ragone
Over the past two decades, I’ve had the great privilege of creating change in education, which has only deepened my passion to continue down this path. I hold a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from George Washington University and a master's degree in Instructional Design and Media from Teachers College at Columbia University. I started my career as Technology Director at the progressive Calhoun School and then moved to Collegiate School, a more traditional all-boys school. At both schools, I worked to model and integrate student-centered teaching techniques powered by technology.

Prior to joining AltSchool, I worked as Director of Middle and Upper School at City and Country School in Manhattan, where I helped redesign the electives program. Students began by writing proposals about what they wanted to learn. We then assigned them to advisors who worked with them to achieve their goals. This process enabled students to develop agency, which I believe is deeply important to cultivate in learners.

In my current role, I lead the first AltSchool Manhattan campus in the East Village. I’m proud that our students play an integral role in shaping and defining the culture of the school. What’s especially exciting is the hard-working culture they’ve developed around their research practices and project-based learning. Together, we’ve successfully opened a new school and built a strong, caring community of students, parents, and educators. I’ll bring these learnings with me to AltSchool Union Square, where I look forward to examining the problems we face locally, nationally, and globally with middle school students -- and investigating solutions together.   

Embracing Change in Middle School
As an educator, my goal is to create a supportive and adaptive learning environment for all students to take risks, grow, and develop as individuals, regardless of age or grade. However, middle school is a time of great change in a child’s life; it’s essential to focus on the whole child and to help students develop a strong sense of agency, so they can take more responsibility for their learning. Between fifth and eighth grade, students transition from childhood to young adulthood. With that transition comes many questions, opportunities for self-reflection, and great potential for growth and positive change. As Head of School, I work with classroom educators to create an environment that fosters a growth mindset, and enables students to discover their passions, pursue their interests, and ultimately learn to become independent thinkers.

Middle school also provides a unique opportunity from an academic perspective. Students shift from concrete to abstract thinking, and they understand how the past affects the present. Students enter middle school with very clear writing skills, they are confident mathematicians, and they ask great questions. Middle school is the time to solidify those core skills and help students apply them to the real world.

Vision for AltSchool Union Square
AltSchool Union Square will be a welcoming and diverse campus. Like our other campuses,  we offer a whole-child, personalized approach to learning that fosters student agency. The Union Square educator team looks forward to working with families to help their children succeed as individuals and build strong relationships both at home and school. My goal for all students by the time they graduate from AltSchool is for them to be able to understand what they’ve learned, articulate how they will continue to grow as learners and individuals, and know how they want to make an impact on the world going forward.

I’m most excited about creating an environment in which students will be able to understand and appreciate a variety of perspectives. For example, as a group we might examine various historical movements -- such as studying the printing press and how it influenced China and Europe, or looking at democracy in the United States and how it was powered by both technology and great thinkers coming together at the right time. Challenges like this help students understand different viewpoints, seek creative solutions to problems at hand, and become the solution makers of the future.

Creating the Optimal School Environment
Collaborating with AltSchool educators, architects, and designers in developing this campus has been exciting because we are designing a space that reflects our priority on personalizing education. The goal is to make the space as functional as possible to support many different types of learning experiences -- such as specific areas for independent activities, small group work, and large group instruction. The communal spaces will showcase student work and provide areas for socializing as students arrive before morning meeting. There will be spaces designed for project-based learning, art, and maker and design-thinking activities. There will also be a theater space with tiered seating so we can gather as a whole school and foster a strong sense of community.

Union Square is a vibrant neighborhood. From the farmers market, local parks, small businesses, and neighboring schools, there is so much to explore. As a transit hub, Union Square also allows for quick travel to museums and other New York City landmarks. I’m so excited to learn more about the neighborhood and the city alongside our first cohort of students and families.

Middle School As A Time To Get To Know Yourself
I grew up in New Jersey, just a few miles away from New York City. I ran a newspaper route during my middle school years and considered myself a small business owner. That was also a time in my life when I started to learn more about who I was and the type of person I wanted to be. I learned how to make small but impactful changes every day -- whether that meant improving my delivery processes, being kind to a person in need on my route by shoveling their snow, or simply taking the time to ask about someone’s day. These types of learning experiences are so important at this age because they offer an opportunity to learn from mistakes and gain independence. I’m thrilled to design a middle school program that gives adolescents the opportunity to create similarly meaningful, personal memories with guidance and support from our expert AltSchool educators.

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In Practice: Whole-Child, Personalized Learning

Posted by The AltSchool Team

Nov 17, 2016 11:01:36 AM

At AltSchool, everything we do is geared toward a whole-child, personalized approach to education that fosters student agency. To facilitate this, our educators work to develop all parts of a childnot just their academic abilitiesand to create experiences that are tailored to the specific learning abilities, needs, preferences, and interests of individual students. Our ultimate goal is to empower students as creative, resilient, inquiry-driven citizens who are able to self-advocate, develop strong relationships, navigate complex information, and drive their own learning in diverse environments beyond the classroom.

Jaqi Garcia, an educator at AltSchool East Village, shares what her class of fourth through sixth graders is working on now.

Taking a Cue from our Community
Our class started a project in October on immigration histories of Manhattan, with a focus on non-dominant perspectives. We’re situated in the Lower East Side, which has a rich history of immigrant communities, so it’s relevant for students to understand the space they inhabit. Understanding the historical context of the area and how it affects where we live today is an important concept for students to grasp. And as we began the new school year, it also provided a great opportunity to orient students to our surrounding community.

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A Whole-Child Approach to Immigration Curriculum
As an educator, I’m always looking for ways to focus on the whole child by integrating non-academic and academic skills into projects. Global citizenship, cultural competency, and perspective taking are three non-academic skills that were key to this project, because learning about different cultures helps students develop a number of essential life skills. On the academic side, students learned about history, ecology and English language arts by investigating lesser-known histories of people who shaped the land, studied early ecology and resources of the landscape, and wrote essays comparing and contrasting topics ranging from immigration through Ellis Island to the underground railroad.

Another goal was to personalize the learning experience for students. The essential question we posed in relationship to this project was, “How does distribution of power effect the lives of immigrants?” We learned that 40% of New York City’s population is foreign born. I sought to help students develop their own uniquely personal perspectives as they examined their familial geographical histories in order to understand how their own lives and the lives of others have been effected over time.

Two students in the class are foreign-born, half the class has parents who are foreign-born, and the entire class has at least one grandparent who was foreign-born, so this project presented a valuable opportunity to make learning personally meaningful to each and every student as an individual. One student was particularly excited to explore his family history by writing about Cuban immigration to Manhattan!

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What Happens When Learning Feels Relevant
Throughout this project, we will cover history, ecology, science, writing, perspective taking, critical thinking, compassion, ethics, and more. We’re currently working on map-making, where learning is personalized based on students’ interests. For example, some students are interested in mapping what Manhattan looked like in the 1600s, while others are creating graphic representations of their neighborhoods, comparing the past to present day. We’ve also explored the local community through field trips to theSchomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Ellis Island, and the Tenement Museum. Students understand that immigration is a big part of what built New York City and our country, and they are able to relate conversations about current issues to what happened in the past.

I’m really impressed with the depth of knowledge that students are developing, how engaged they are, and how they’re able to understand the relevancy of historical events in today’s world. Students feel empowered by learning historical information or reading an article from the newspaper and being able to form an opinion on it. It’s also been interesting to see the roles students have taken on: One student asked to write an argument-based research essay and has taken on the role of a historian.

“I think it’s important to study the history because we are the next generation of people who can right the wrongs of our past, but we can’t do that if we don’t learn about them.” ---August, Grade 6, when asked why it was important to study the history of the African Burial Ground in New York

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Establishing a School/Home Connection
Students really enjoyed their trip to the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, and have continued exploration with their families. A number of students have been moved to watch documentaries on the various topics we’ve discussed on their own time. Students have also asked their parents to take them to the library to check out more books on these subjects. As an educator, it’s incredibly rewarding to see students develop deep curiosity, seek out information independently, and drive their own learning outside of school.

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Topics: School, Learning in the Community, Classroom Stories, Project-Based Learning

Post-Election Resources for Parents and Teachers

Posted by The AltSchool Team

Nov 9, 2016 4:17:53 PM

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Like many schools around the nation, our students have been learning about voting and the political process over the past few months. Our teaching community has been focused on creating open and supportive environments for students to bring their questions and wonderings to light, as they explored the often divisive 2016 presidential election. Going into November, we knew that half of the country was going to be unhappy with the outcome. That’s why we believe students should have the appropriate framing and closure to the election cycle to support their understanding and continued role in shaping our country’s future.

Today, our educator team strived to arm students with age-appropriate knowledge and, when needed, coping strategies. As educators, and as parents, we wanted to share some of those tools and resources we’ve found to be helpful in our classrooms.

  • Teaching Tolerance, a project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, provides a wealth of resources to support the Election 2016 conversation and beyond.
  • Huffington Post’s What Do We Tell the Children? highlights three concrete ways to support our students: tell them we will protect them, we will honor the outcome, and we will guide and support them in becoming responsible members of our democratic society.
  • The Zinn Education Project offers middle and high school centered lessons on illuminating the complexity within our country’s history.
  • Teaching for Change provides teachers and parents with the tools to create schools where students learn to read, write and change the world. The site includes recommendations for early childhood anti-bias education, including articles as well as book lists for children and adults.

We are hopeful that these resources help bring children and adults closer together both as a community and a country.

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Topics: Learning in the Community, Parents, Community

When Core Skills Meet Project-Based Learning

Posted by The AltSchool Team

Oct 26, 2016 10:18:33 AM

What can a wading pool teach middle schoolers about colonization in the New World?

AltSchool educators are always looking for creative ways to bring core academics to life to engage learners, while also making learning personally meaningful to students. We’d like to share a recent project-based learning example from one of our middle school classrooms, where students were asked to travel back to the Colonial Era to pitch the king and queen -- roles played by their educators -- for an investment to leave England and travel to the New World. The four-week project arc incorporated core skills work in English, history, math, and science.

Here’s a look at how our educators created an engaging experience for these middle school students.

Creating wonder
Our educators began by asking students to form small groups and posed the following question: “You have the opportunity to move to the New World, but you must write to the king and queen for an investment to leave the colonies. How will you go about this?”

Framing a group learning project with a provocation piqued students’ curiosity right away and set the stage for lively discussion and an engaged learning experience.

Engaging students
Educators further engaged the students by discussing the challenges faced by travelers of the time, as well as the promises of such a voyage. Introducing key science concepts behind density, volume, and mass helped students begin to understand the resources it would take to cross the Atlantic Ocean. In addition, students learned how to effectively write a persuasive pitch so they could embark on their journey to the New World.

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Investigating and creating
Educators brought in a small swimming pool to represent the Atlantic Ocean. This sparked further curiosity in the students as they began to prototype and test boats on the fan-powered, windy seas. By experimenting with different types of materials, students learned how to manipulate them, and began to truly understand why things float.

“Learning about Archimedes' principle was one of the highlights of this project, as it helped me understand the relationship between buoyancy, density, and mass.” --- Mia, Middle School Student

As a few teams successfully crossed the "Atlantic Ocean," they began learning about the realities of settling a colony in the New World. Students investigated options for industry, determined their group specializations, and created a plan for the financial resources they needed to start their business.

Over the course of the project, budgeting concepts and writing skills were continuously woven into each student’s work, helping students apply thinking strategies for tackling challenging problems, build their knowledge across multiple subject areas, and develop key learning habits.

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Sharing and reflecting
Throughout this project, students were encouraged to share and reflect on their work as a part of their learning process. This meant presenting what they’d learned about the industries they’d explored, or reflecting on why their boat didn’t cross the Atlantic on the first, second, or even third attempt.

Demonstrating to an audience helps create personal accountability as well as the necessary motivation to complete challenges. Students then reflect on the learning process by examining whether they answered the essential question of the unit and how they arrived at that answer. Providing opportunities for sharing and reflecting at the end of a project not only enables students to engage more deeply in the learning process, but reinforces the learning that has taken place.

“It's been amazing to see how immersed students are in our whimsical colonial world. The just-in-time and personalized approach creates an organic learning environment where students are engaged in learning and using content because it helps them solve problems that they're currently facing.” Tommy, Middle School Educator

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Entering the Next Phase of the AltSchool Mission

Posted by The AltSchool Team

Oct 18, 2016 9:51:53 AM

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Today AltSchool shared some exciting news: We recently formed partnerships with the first schools who will join our network of lab schools, beginning fall 2017.

We’re thrilled to welcome three pilot partner schools to the AltSchool network: Berthold Academy in Reston, Virginia; The Greene School in West Palm Beach, Florida; and Temple Beth Sholom Day School in Miami Beach, Florida. These three schools are leaders in Montessori, Reggio Emilia, and constructivist approaches. They share our belief that a whole-child, personalized learning experience that fosters student agency will best prepare children for their future.

Why is AltSchool partnering with other schools?

When our founder and CEO Max Ventilla started AltSchool in 2013, his vision was to enable all children to reach their full potential. We began by opening lab schools in San Francisco and quickly expanded to Palo Alto and New York. Starting on a small scale has allowed us to build a robust technology platform that supports educators in providing a personalized, whole-child education that fosters student agency — and to quickly iterate and improve in response to what we learned in our own classrooms.

However, the goal was never just to create a network of small private schools that only a few could experience. To one day help all children achieve their potential, those benefits must extend beyond the walls of our own classrooms. Starting this year, AltSchool will begin the next phase of our journey, by growing a network of partner schools nationwide using and shaping our platform.

Over the next few years, we 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.

What does this mean for AltSchool students and the future of AltSchool?

As more partner schools join the AltSchool network, all networked schools—including our own lab schools—will continue to inform and improve the technology educators use in the classroom. That means, all students within our network will enjoy the benefits of these continued improvements.

We are still many years away from achieving our mission, but we look forward to the exciting developments that will come as a result of these partnerships and to continuing to improve AltSchool’s offerings for all students, educators, and parents. Read more about our announcement in this release.

Interested in becoming a partner school? Learn more about how to join our network through AltSchool Open.

We are accepting applications for the 2017-2018 school year in Chicago, New York, Palo Alto, and San Francisco. Attend an event to learn more. 

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San Francisco Homeless Project and Two Inspiring AltSchool Students

Posted by The AltSchool Team

Jun 29, 2016 11:02:50 AM

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This week we’re witnessing an unprecedented collaboration of over 70 local news organizations coming together to highlight homelessness in the Bay Area. Starting today, you’ll see the topic take center stage, with everyone from KQED to the San Francisco Chronicle tackling the problem and discussing options.

AltSchool is proud to share some incredible work around homelessness by two Fort Mason middle school students. Inspired by the people and places they encounter within their own communities every day, Ethan and Gio began a many-months journey -- one that took them from the classroom, to a field-trip at Marc Roth’s The Learning Shelter program, and ultimately to a TEDx stage where they shared their vision for a “tiny home” prototype.

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Ethan and Gio were so personally affected by the plight of homeless individuals around them, they chose the problem of homelessness in the city of San Francisco as the focus for their culminating “changemaker” project.

One day after school I was driving with my mother,” Ethan shared. “We went past a parking lot near 16th Street and the 101 and I noticed that there were a large number of tents under the bridge… about 30 tents in all.”

Something clicked, as he realized that unlike his family, those people wouldn’t have warm beds to sleep in that night. Gio had had similar experiences living in San Francisco and shared a passion to impact homelessness in a meaningful way. As they considered the idea, they came across a powerful interview with Ronald Davis, a Chicago man who reportedly died homeless in 2014.

“You lose all your humanity shaking a cup begging,” Davis said. “At the end of the day when people go home, and everybody get on the metro train and then I just feel so bad that I can’t be going home too.” His story hit home for Ethan and Gio. Ronald Davis’ story fueled their belief that society has a responsibility to provide basic needs, safety and job opportunities to every one of its people. It shaped the kind of changemaker they wanted to become, not just as students, but as human beings.

So, they teamed up and soon discovered work by Gregory Kloehn, an artist who builds mini homeless houses in Oakland. With the guidance of their teachers, they spent many months learning, interviewing, debating, and finally developing a unique split-level tiny home on wheels that can provide security and private living space. They unveiled their 3D-printed prototypes and shared more about their project on the TEDx Youth stage last month, which we invite you to view in full here.

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We applaud Ethan and Gio. They embody what we are trying to teach at AltSchool: to practice empathy, identify passions, develop their voice, have accountability, and positively impact the lives of people in their community.

Read about the SF Homeless Project campaign, featuring more AltSchool middle school students, in today’s San Francisco Chronicle piece: "We can learn from kids and the empathy they have for San Francisco's homeless."

Changemakers: At AltSchool Fort Mason, the middle school class embarked on a year-long study of systems and were beginning a unit on “changemakers”; someone who can influence the evolution of today’s systems for a better future. Students were challenged to identify a system in need of change, research the problem, interview experts, and propose solutions by way of “Shark Tank” pitches, then create prototypes and work toward changing that system in a tangible way. The lesson combines interdisciplinary project-based learning, incorporating core subjects like math, social studies and writing, along with social-emotional skills like public speaking, teamwork, empathy, and more.

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Topics: School, Learning in the Community, Middle School, Community

First Look at AltSchool East Village

Posted by The AltSchool Team

Jun 17, 2016 9:32:30 AM

We recently put the finishing touches on AltSchool East Village, our newest school in New York City. We’ve created a responsive learning environment that will support each student’s process of self-discovery, giving them the tools and confidence to pursue their interests while building strong academic skills.

Our new Head of School, Alex Ragone, and the entire teaching team are excited to welcome new families this fall. Alex brings 18 years of experience teaching in and leading independent schools in New York City. He will join experienced AltSchool educators from our San Francisco and Brooklyn Heights schools -- Jaqi Garcia, Sophia Espinoza, and Jamie Stewart -- to start the inaugural year at AltSchool East Village.

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Who we are - When designing the space, we always want to incorporate our learning cycle, milestones, values, and the people who make the school come alive. You will find pictures of our educators and students spread throughout the space, as well as visual representations of our learning cycle.

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Flexibility - We understand that each child learns differently and that the learning environment plays an important role. There is consideration for different activities -- core skills, small group work and entire class projects. In our classrooms you will find moveable desks and walls, a place for morning meetings, and space for independent work. Over the course of each school year we make changes based on observation of our students as they grow and as discover themselves as learners.

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Community - Experiencing and learning from the local community is an essential part of AltSchool’s educational approach. We reach out to local businesses and resources, and create lessons involving the unique elements of our locations. Students visit local parks or community gardens every day.

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Documentation - Documentation of project work makes a school’s walls come to life. We’ve borrowed amazing projects from our Brooklyn Heights school to incorporate into the space. As the school year starts, we will begin to add new student work to the walls of each classroom.

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Provocations - Adding provocations sparks delight, wonder and engagement in students. In AltSchool East Village there are prisms in the windows and hidden stickers for the students to find.

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A message from our new Head of School, Alex Ragone: “I'm passionate about the idea of bringing student-centered, project based learning to a wider audience through AltSchool's microschool model. AltSchool East Village will be a school where students are empowered to become lifelong learners, critical questioners and solution finders. We will create deeply meaningful learning experiences for children and adolescents while building strong academic skills. We're going to start by getting to know each other, building a school community and exploring the local neighborhood. I can't wait to explore the East Village and the Lower East Side with the children!”

We are currently accepting applications for limited spots at AltSchool East Village for fall 2016.

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Topics: School, Meet the Team, Locations

Teacher Appreciation Week at AltSchool

Posted by The AltSchool Team

May 4, 2016 12:09:51 PM

AltSchool is lucky to work with some of the best teachers in the world. They inspire our entire organization to give our students the best education possible and to create the future of education.

We asked members of different to teams to share their feelings about AltSchool’s teachers and here is what they had to say:

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Want to write a message to your favorite AltSchool teachers? Download the template, write a message or draw a picture, and upload it to social media. Don’t forget to tag @AltSchool and #TeacherAppreciationWeek!

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Topics: School, Meet the Team

The AltSchool Student Perspective

Posted by The AltSchool Team

Apr 7, 2016 10:22:37 AM

Why is personalization important? Why do we focus on project-based learning? And most importantly, how do we prepare our students for their future?

In this video, students talk about their experiences at AltSchool, the differences between AltSchool and other schools, how personalization works for them, and their relationship with their teachers. Watch below!

 Interested in learning more? Attend an Open House.

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Topics: Videos, Community