AltSchool Receives Funding, Expanding to Manhattan


High-tech education startup AltSchool, which recently received financial support from Mark Zuckerberg, has announced an expansion through the opening of a new location in Manhattan for 2016.

The single-room schoolhouses, which currently have $133 million in funding, opened this year with 350 students across six locations in California and New York, including one in Brooklyn.  The company said it had received 3,500 applications for the 200 available spots this year, prompting them to consider opening a new location.

In addition to the new location, the company is implementing new tech tools that will help its teachers personalize the education experience within their classrooms.  One such tool, TetraPod, will allow teachers to collaborate, while Progression will keep track of how each student is progressing within a given subject.  AltSchool CEO and founder Max Ventilla said the goal is to perfect the tools within the confines of the company-owned schools in order to be able to then license them out to public schools who do not have the resources to build the tools on their own, writes Ainsley O’Connell for The 74 Million.

Ventilla, who created the schools to aid in the shortcomings he saw within schools in his own neighborhood, said “We started AltSchool because we wanted to change kids’ lives.”  He added that the schools he saw did not personalize learning or work to foster curiosity and learning.

The company works to employ as many engineers as it does teachers, asking the two groups to collaborate on hardware prototypes and software designs to support instruction, which so far includes a mobile app for parent messaging and a central hub for sharing lessons, among other things.

“We have created an operating system that not only our own schools can use, but an expanding universe of schools that start to look more like Altschools,” Ventilla told Techcrunch.

Zuckerberg appears to be very interested in the idea and has offered substantial financial support to the company.  More recently, he announced that Facebook would be entering into a partnership with Summit Public Schools to aid in the creation of a Personalized Learning Plan tool (PLP).  The tool will act as a daily calendar of assignments for students, working in a similar fashion to the way the tools built by AltSchool do, writes Issie Lapowsky for Wired.

In a blog post announcing the Summit partnership, Facebook chief product officer Chris Cox wrote, “We’ll use feedback from this program to improve the PLP so we can eventually offer it, for free, to any school in the US that wants it.”