AltSchool Hub

What makes AltSchool different?

Posted by Dan Rosenthal, Head of Bay Area Admissions

Dec 2, 2015 10:10:34 AM

Choosing a school is an important and often emotional decision. You want what’s best for your family and to make the “right” choice for your children’s futures.

smiling-altschool-studentWith admissions season in full swing, I’ve had the opportunity to meet incredible parents who are in the process of making this difficult choice. My goal is to enable families to confidently answer the question on all of their minds: Will this school be a great fit for my child and my family?

My advice? Focus on what’s unique and make sure that resonates with you.

There are many excellent schools and they tend to use similar sounding concepts to explain their approaches to education. High-quality schools tend to do a lot of the same things well. When you visit a school, ask what makes that school different and listen carefully to the answer. Does the response excite you? Does it speak to something fundamental about the education you envision for your child? Perhaps most importantly, what evidence can you find that the differences are real?

So what makes AltSchool unique? There are many things, but these three set us apart from other schools:

  • Exceptional educators who want to create the next model for education  
  • A deeply personalized experience for children and families, designed from the ground up
  • A relentless focus on improving the entire school experience

1. Exceptional educators who want to create the next model for education

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This is the reason I joined AltSchool — I had never seen a school or school system so effectively attract and retain the highest quality educators. Our 21st century work environment attracts a different caliber of educator— one who is excited to improve their practice and improve the field of education as a whole.

We receive an enormous number of applications for each teaching position: over 3,000 teachers applied for 40 positions last year. Take a look at this infographic to learn more about where our teachers come from and view this video to meet the team. Above all, their passion is tangible. They ignite curiosity and wonder in children by engaging their talents and tuning into their individual needs.

Once we hire the best educators in the country, we empower them. Here’s how we do it:

  • Let teachers run our schools: The only people who work at our school sites are educators. In addition to classroom teachers, there is a Head of School, who is also a teacher. The rest of our organization — teacher support, operations, designers, and engineers — all support educator needs so they can focus on their students.
  • Ask how we can make things better: We care about our educators’ happiness. We survey educators every month to identify ways to improve their experiences and effectiveness, from work/life balance to development of our classroom technology tools.
  • Encourage and enable professional development: Teachers want to be students too. Each educator receives a generous  stipend to attend conferences and training programs around the globe.
  • Create tools to help educators spend more time teaching: Our technology tools superpower our educators so that they can get curate personalized curricula and assess the progress of each child. These tools also reduce a teacher’s administrative work so they can focus on teaching.

 

2. A deeply personalized experience for children and families, designed from the ground up

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Each child is different. And yet, the structural limitation of traditional schools forces them to treat children as if they were all the same.

At AltSchool we like to say that “there’s no such thing as a “3rd grader.” An 8-year old may read at a 2nd grade level, do math at a 4th grade level, and possess the social-emotional skills of a 3rd grader. We believe that a child’s education should reflect their individuality, challenging them at the right level in each academic area, as well as kindling their unique passions. Our mixed-age classrooms also support each child to progress at his or her own pace.

The combination of incredible teachers and technology to personalize learning is powerful. Our skilled educators come to know each individual child’s interests and learning approaches, and use our tools to develop a curriculum unique to them. The result is that children are deeply engaged in their own learning — as they are challenged at just the right level and can explore their passions in meaningful ways.

School should not be a one size fits all for families either. We partner with parents on everything from drop-off and pick-up times to communication with educators to vacation schedules.

3. The relentless focus on improving the entire school experience

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AltSchool is designed to continually improve. We live by feedback — from students, parents, and teachers. And then we take action on that feedback to improve. Many of the technology tools we’ve built for students and families stemmed directly from such feedback.

We apply what we learn in a given classroom (or from an individual parent, student or teacher) to our tools and processes that impact all classrooms. Improvements made in one classroom can benefit our entire network of schools. In this way, we get better as we grow.

AltSchool does not take a static approach to education. Instead, we view ourselves as an ecosystem (parents, students, teachers, employees) focused on improving education everyday. And we are honored that our approach has been recognized as one of the most innovative in the world.

Applying to AltSchool

If our approach resonates with you, I encourage you to apply.

Apply to AltSchool

You can also reach me directly at dan.rosenthal@altschool.com (Bay Area) or our Head of New York Admissions at zubin.canteenwalla@altschool.com.

 

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Topics: Admissions

Get the Benefits of Homeschooling in a Micro-School Environment

Posted by The AltSchool Team

Jul 30, 2014 2:47:00 PM

W32-1Homeschooling is on the rise in the U.S. A recent CBS news story, "DIY Home Schooling Growing in Silicon Valley,” states that there are now two million children learning outside a traditional school in the United States.

Why the rise in homeschooling?

More families today recognize that their children need a higher level of personalized attention than that offered in a traditional school environment. Whether a child is falling behind, not being challenged enough, or simply needs a flexible learning environment, research shows that structured homeschooling is an effective way to empower children in their education.

But homeschooling can be a challenge. Creating a curriculum, finding the right resources, and evaluating your child’s progress are not always easy. There may also be limited social opportunities with other children and adult mentors. When you factor in these considerations, plus the additional time, energy, and resources that parents contribute to become full-time teachers, homeschooling can be huge commitment.

That’s why we are proponents of the micro-school approach.

OIn our micro-schools, we combine the advantages of a homeschooling environment with an intimate classroom experience. Our teachers pay close attention to each student. Educators are constantly dialed in to each child’s short-, mid-, and long-term learning goals and create rich experiences for intellectual growth.

At the same time, we know how important group learning is to a child’s development. Each classroom is composed of students who complement one another and learn from each other. Our students engage in frequent hands-on, collaborative projects so they build the social and emotional skills they need to succeed in today’s workplace environments.

In the process of building our micro-school network, we are also learning how to create an outstanding learning environment for all kinds of children. Each classroom is supported by a world-class team of designers, engineers, and operations professionals who are continuously developing and refining tools and processes to make learning as enriching as possible.

When you consider the benefits of the micro-school network, coupled with the close-knit community of each classroom, you can see how our vision for a next-generation homeschooling environment takes shape.

We’d love to share more and learn how we can help your child flourish in one of our micro-schools.

Apply

 
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Topics: AltSchool Innovation, Admissions

South Bay Family Mixer at Y Combinator

Posted by The AltSchool Team

Feb 24, 2014 5:06:00 PM

We love bringing current and prospective families together to get to know one another and talk about the future of education.

This past weekend, Y Combinator hosted a mixer for our South Bay families. Parents Kate O’Connor, Dan Caracciolo, and Josh Williams spoke about their experiences being a part of the AltSchool community. We also had lots of fun activities for the room full of excited children.

Check out highlights from the event below:

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Children learned how to power a 3-D printed race car with air from a balloon.

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Then the children measured the distance travelled by the car. 

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Afterwards, they documented the outcomes of their trial runs. 

ChildrenCarRecords

Josh Williams shared what it's like to be an AltSchool parent. 

JoshWilliams

AltSchool founder, Max Ventilla, chatted with prospective parent, Paul Graham.MaxSpeaking

AltSchool parent, Alice Shikina, enjoyed the day with her son. AliceGriffin

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Topics: Admissions

Student Interviews: The First Step Towards A Personalized Education

Posted by The AltSchool Team

Feb 20, 2014 10:42:00 AM

Our student interviews are not about admissions screening in the traditional sense. Instead, they are an opportunity to lay the foundation for a personalized learning experience.

From the first moment we meet your child, we want to know how he or she learns about the world. We have two goals in mind:

1- To better understand your child’s strengths, styles, and interests.

2- To take what we learn about your child to design an ideal class mix.

Here’s an inside look into the K/1 child interview experience from the perspective of one of our teachers, Lauren Hancock.

Understanding your child

To create a setting that helps us know your child as a learner, we have a room with lots of books, educational toys, and art materials. We take our cue from the children themselves to see what they are drawn to, observe how they play, and ask them questions about their experience.

One of the interview activities we have for younger children involves exploring different materials. Our teachers lay out game materials on a table - checkers, marbles, backgammon pieces, dice, and others.

During the activity, we ask children questions such as, “What do you see?” “What do you think you can do with these materials?” and “What do you wonder about them?” Our goal in asking these questions is to make thinking visible. We look to see where their curiosity and strengths lie through the way they engage with these materials.

Take the example of three children who used the materials in recent interviews:

The first child was fascinated by the materials themselves. He was particularly interested in figuring out how many pieces fit within larger containers and displayed a keen sense of spatial awareness.

The boy hypothesized, “Will all these marbles fit within this circle? I think so because this space is a lot bigger.”

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He then wanted to see if all the pieces would fit within each other.

Material4-1

The second child found joy in organizing a game with the pieces. She designed a new game called “Harocky.” The game has nine rules in total and begins by spinning a spinner.  

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The child showed strong organizational strengths and a proclivity for structured interaction. When she left the room, she mentioned that the teacher could leave the set-up as is for the next child to play.

The third child was all about experimentation with the materials. He delighted in discovering the many ways that the materials could be used together. In one instance, the child stacked marbles on top of the plastic rings.

He said, “I learned something new. You can use these as a marble track. See? Push the marbles and they move.”

Experimenter

The child then wanted to experiment with another design of the materials. He wondered if the marbles would fit through a plastic ring.

“The game is now to shake the ring and get the marbles out,” he declared.

Experimenter4

Through this activity, we get a glimpse for how children interact with the world. We have an indication of how each child processes information - which is distinct from how other teachers often approach learning. 

“Teachers may unknowingly teach to their own style, not necessarily to the different styles of children in their class,” says Lauren.

Lauren takes these insights and begins to map out the learner profile of your child. She draws from this information on day one in the classroom (and continues to learn more about each student everyday) to design a tailored educational experience that excites and inspires.

Building a class

After the interview process, our teachers sit down with the admissions team to create a balanced class. We consider how each child will contribute to and learn from the larger group of children we assemble. We also strive to create an ideal social environment for each child that includes friends, intellectual peers, good influences, and children that will stretch them or broaden their horizons in some way.

In the case of the children above, Lauren looks to see how the children will complement one another through their differentiated strengths.   

“The child who plans and the child who likes to experiment, for example, will both stretch each other in the classroom. They have much to teach each other about structure and spontaneity,” she says.

Because the group setting will complement your child’s personalized education, we take great care to create a dynamic classroom with rich interaction that will help your child develop in ways that would be difficult to master individually.

Creating a Foundation for Personalized Learning

What begins at the AltSchool student interview is not only important because of what we discover and analyze from it; it is the crucial first step that begins an educational journey we feel honored to embark on with each of our students. We look forward to having you aboard.

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Topics: Admissions

Family Mixer at AltSchool HQ

Posted by The AltSchool Team

Jan 30, 2014 9:23:00 AM

IMG_1942Last Friday, we hosted our first family mixer at the new AltSchool headquarters. Over 200 current and prospective family members stopped by to mingle and enjoy an entertaining evening with their children.

Highlights from the event included:

We look forward to hosting another event soon and getting to know our growing network of AltSchool families. 

Check out the pictures below from the event:

Slade (AltSchool engineer) teaches children how to measure the distance travelled by their balloon cars  

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The view from downstairs 

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Fun with balloons 

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Sarah (AltSchool teacher) and current AltSchool students in the DIY photo booth 

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Topics: Admissions