How AltSchool is Powering Education with Data

The most memorable part of my education is the buzzing notification I receive each morning alerting me of a new text from Mrs.Nordenger, The Director of Community Service at my high school.

Whether she was baking me special gluten free brownies or letting me turn her office into my second home, the woman who was intended to be my school’s community service director quickly became known as Aunt Susie and my best friend. (Hi Aunt Sus! I know you’re reading this.)

It wasn’t until I left for college that I learned relationships like these were rare. Aside from having the most genuine heart I’ve ever encountered, Aunt Susie mentors students by celebrating their strengths and encouraging them to embrace their passions.

Take my brother and I, for example. Adam and I have completely opposite skill sets and yet our responsibilities on The Community Service Board hugely dictate the work we do today.

Growing up my mom always asked what it would be like if we had more Susie’s in the world. Thanks to Max Ventilla and AltSchool the next generation will.

After selling his last company Aardvark to Google in 2010, Max decided to resurrect education from the 19th century.

I don’t believe that there is going to be an education experience that is going to be optimal for a child today that still is going to be for a child 10 years from now.
Max on the importance evolving education.

An engineer at heart, Max knew that the only way to scale the highly interconnected industry is through data; Making AltSchool a startup rather than a traditional institution for education.

The team’s ultimate mission is “to create a process of continuous improvement,” according to Max.

A year is way too long. You want to shorten that time scale to a minute. Even a week is a long time in the life of a child to be doing the wrong thing.
- Max on the goal of real-time feedback.

My favorite part of our conversation is the way Max never says students. He always refers to children singularly, reflecting AltSchool’s commitment to customizing each child’s education.

At AltSchool, each student has a special playlist based on their interests and current achievements. While they, of course, have to reach certain development milestones, no child has the same playlist as their friend.

The team’s ability to offer highly personalized portraits is a result of their efforts to power education with data.

AltSchool is a building a network of micro schools where educators can use technology to leverage their work. Thus, one educator’s work creating a playlist for a student in Palo Alto can be used by an educator in San Francisco. They’ll also be expanding to Brooklyn in the fall.

The team’s in it for the long haul. According to Max, they’re “finding a way to stitch together these experiences into a coherent whole that gets better and better over time.”

The first step towards creating a different model of school balances between things that you really want to be small — individualized, custom, dynamic, and intimate — and the things that you want to be large, the brand, the resources, the best practices, and the data.
- Max on building the AltSchool model.

Perhaps the most special part of our conversation is Max’s highlight of the journey so far; Families who have stayed or moved back to San Francisco for their children to attend AltSchool. Having parents who made our education their top priority, this an unwavering testament to the team’s success.

To learn more about AltSchool tune into Max’s 33founders interview and check out these adorable videos with students explaining their experiences — Seriously, you don’t want to miss these!

Originally published at www.33voices.com.

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