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    #215481 - 05/04/15 10:13 AM AltSchool
    Bostonian Offline
    Member

    Registered: 02/14/10
    Posts: 2593
    Loc: MA
    I don't know if it will work, but it's interesting.

    Inside the School Silicon Valley Thinks Will Save Education
    by ISSIE LAPOWSKY
    Wired Magazine
    May 4, 2015

    Quote:
    And so, if you are truly fed up with the school status quo and have $20,875 to spare (it’s pricey, sure, but cheaper than the other private schools you’ve seen), you might decide to take a chance and sign your 7-year-old up for this little experiment in education called AltSchool. Except it’s not really so little anymore. And it’s about to get a lot bigger.

    Founded in 2013 by former Google head of personalization Max Ventilla, AltSchool has poached high level executives from Google and Uber. It’s got users—in this case, parents—applying by the thousands. It’s actually making money. And as of today, Mark Zuckerberg just became one of its largest investors.

    ...

    Schools today, Ventilla says, cater to the lowest common denominator, teaching to the middle instead of to each individual child. He refers to this problem as “the tyranny of majority” and says it’s a pervasive issue in schools that’s as worrisome as it is understandable. “If I asked you to go teach twenty 9-year olds, some who don’t want to be in that classroom, and all of whom have very different interests and needs, fluctuating throughout the day, you’d probably also reinvent this factory model we use in education,” he says. “You’d break the day up into 45-minute segments. You’d move the kids along, and if anyone is disruptive, you’d admonish them, or if they’re zoned out and bored, you’d move on and wait until the buzzer goes off each period.”

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    #215494 - 05/04/15 12:58 PM Re: AltSchool [Re: Bostonian]
    bluemagic Offline
    Member

    Registered: 03/29/13
    Posts: 1489
    How is this different from the alternative schools of the late 60's and 70's except for the fact that they have more $$? The rhetoric sounds exactly the same. It sounds great, but how is the implementation good?

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    #215505 - 05/04/15 02:45 PM Re: AltSchool [Re: Bostonian]
    Lepa Offline
    Member

    Registered: 10/24/14
    Posts: 103
    We toured and applied to Alt School last fall. We liked some things about the school but didn't like others.

    What we liked: it seems very flexible and responsive to individual students' needs. For example, the admissions director told us that two girls who started out in the kinder/first grade class were rushing through the curriculum so they sent them across the hall to spend half a day with the second/third grade students until they were comfortable in that class and then they moved them up. Sounds dreamy, right? They also have tons of resources and seem to have great teachers. I also know several people who are happy there.

    What we didn't like: First, Alt School staff refer to it as "the company", which makes me a bit uncomfortable. Many locations are basically like a store front with no campus. The kids go to local parks for exercise and make the best of the space but I really prefer to have a building or campus with some outdoor space. Also, my kid is sensitive to noise and the rooms I saw function like one-room school houses and seem very busy,even chaotic. I think my son would have a hard time functioning there. I have reservations about how much the teachers rely on technology in the classroom. I'm not anti-technology but I don't want my son spending a good portion of the day (in kindergarten!) looking at a screen by himself. Finally, I've heard feedback that some parents aren't thrilled with the stem curriculum but that the school is working on it.

    That said, it's not clear that Alt School is interested in admitting gifted kids. My son wasn't accepted by Alt and neither were the three other kids I know who had IQ testing done (for another school) and were identified as gifted. All the parents clearly communicated that they were interested in the school as a good option for gifted kids but we didn't get in. Who knows why we didn't get in. There were tons of applicants so it could have been just a matter of numbers but it was disappointing because it seemed like such a good option for kids who may not be able to find another school willing or able to accommodate them. We will keep an eye on the school and maybe reapply if the school we are at doesn't end up working out.

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    #223691 - 10/12/15 06:15 PM Re: AltSchool [Re: Bostonian]
    thx1138 Offline
    Member

    Registered: 01/30/12
    Posts: 93
    My DS is now at AltSchool. Basically, so far, so good. Though, we are still early in the process. I agree with Lepa that its by no means clear how they feel about gifted. They do not use the word on their website. By happenstance, DS' official written DS WISC-IV at PG was not ready in time for the application, and thus I only mentioned it later after he was admitted. The teachers seemed interested in this.

    A child 2 or 3 sigma below 100 would tax any school. Thus also a child that much above the average. So it is possible they do not want it. Though you’d think their Yalie founders and Harvard funders are and understand gifted, that may not be their target market. An issue becomes, if a gifted child works 3 (and increasing) levels above grade, are they staffed to teach him calculus in 7th or 8th grade. Or even to guide him/her teaching him/herself.

    Lepa I agree we don’t have enough data yet. Between us we know of 5 gifted applicants and 1 accepted. I read that “the Brooklyn location… has received 900 applications for 60 slots.”

    They seem quite well organized. After all, they are in the business of opening new schools. So they need to be good at this. Not perfect. But at DD’s school, many of my emails simply go unanswered. Sometimes AltSchool might feel like a business. Like, they are afraid to stray from the talking points from headquarters. But if being a business means they answer all customer emails, I’ll take it.

    I am basically giving them some breathing room to get things up to speed. For example the kids are only just now getting their “playlists”. Upcoming is more individualization of these lists, and parent access to them. I think this is a significant tool. Most of the schools I’ve seen, the parents have practically no idea what their child is studying.

    At DS’ campus, there are 3 co-teachers for grades 3-6. At some point one will be assigned as the point man. They administer the MAP test. In theory, a school (or student) can "prove themselves" by showing that the MAP test score increased. Testing is often controversial. I basically think MAP is more good than bad. Though I have to say DD’s 4 MAP test scores have been all over the map (so to speak) and not as useful as I'd hoped, and she’s maxed out the useful range of RIT for reading.

    Ideally, soon I will talk to my son’s specific (soon assigned to him) teacher about his (soon) administered MAP test and how it informs his individualized playlist. They seemed open to a variety of curriculums. I am thinking, NOT “everyday mathematics” (some parents hate it), and instead AoPS. Khan does not go into as much depth.

    I did have an intake meeting with his 3 teachers. They seem open to learn. I did broach the topic of gifted there, and gave them a copy of his WISC-IV. I have not pressed the issue. Viz. just how individualized can you be. At either extreme.

    AltSchool comes with a web interface that is optimized for web and for cell phone. As a software engineer, I feel like they haven’t written a ton of code. At the same time, they do seem well focused on keeping things simple and addressing the most important problems first. (Here, and above, a lot of what I am saying is just my intuition or reading the tea leaves). So I would be okay provisionally judging it “quality not quantity”. I do feel also that they are still “pivoting” as far as their marketing messages, and thus their implemented tools and code (perhaps a knock-on effect). That said, they had enough of a clear enough message to raise $33 + $100 million, so apparently they had the right amount.

    Note that their tuition varies.
    San Francisco Lower School: $20,875
    San Francisco Middle School: $21,375
    Palo Alto Lower School: $26,250
    Brooklyn Lower School: $27,500

    When friends ask about AltSchool, I say, “Its great!”. And they ask what they do, and why its great. And I’m not sure I remember all my talking points. But some of them are above. I would also say that my son seems happy to arrive early and to leave late. And he’s started reading more. If they can help him to love math, and to stay challenged in it, by letting him work at his own pace until he’s above grade level, then I’m happy.

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    #223717 - 10/12/15 11:33 PM Re: AltSchool [Re: Bostonian]
    thx1138 Offline
    Member

    Registered: 01/30/12
    Posts: 93
    I can’t entirely allay your concern about “the company”. For better and for worse, AltSchool has a larger mission that may not align with what one expects from a school. Their investors want them to go wide with their formula. Though the formula is still being cooked. Still the upside is they have tons of resources. And as far as I can tell they do screen quite a few teachers and I’m impressed with the ones they hired.

    I also agree that the schools don’t seem spacious, and lack some amenities. AltSchool’s latest messaging says the kids are not plugged into computers all day. As I noted above I do find their use of technology to be the right amount. They simply address the quotidian but important questions of “who can pick up my child”, “when am I picking up my child”, what is going on at the school and with my child (the "stream"), and (coming soon) “what is my child studying” (their “playlist”... right now the child and teacher have access but not yet the parent). Such questions have never been well answered at the other schools we’ve had and its a valid differentiator.

    Personally, I feel the gifted community is losing ground in this country. Its like 99 wolves and 1 lamb voting on the dinner menu. My hope for AltSchool is that they have a product that can appeal to 100% of the population. Every student would benefit from a customized education. Perhaps they can cover us. At some point I will learn more and, well I'm a bit wary but I wonder if they would ever state a policy on gifted, we want to know.



    Edited by thx1138 (10/12/15 11:41 PM)

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    #223721 - 10/13/15 06:37 AM Re: AltSchool [Re: Bostonian]
    blackcat Offline
    Member

    Registered: 05/23/13
    Posts: 2154
    We have a new charter in our area that sounds very similar (kids grouped by ability, and heavy use of technology), but they struggled to get min. enrollment required, and now they are struggling to keep it afloat.


    I just had to comment on the "20 nine- year- olds" in the original post. Ummm, in our school, it's 32 nine-year- olds. The teacher is so overworked I can't even get replies to emails that are really important, like asking if DD is falling asleep at school because of her medication. The school has mixed aged groupings and a lot of kids are accelerated, but otherwise it's very much like a factory. It has to be when one teacher has a class of 30+ kids. But then these districts keep quoting stats about how low class size doesn't raise achievement, so therefore it's not fiscally sound to lower class sizes. At some point, they will put 100 kids in an auditorium, and teach them college-lecture style.

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    #224655 - 10/29/15 09:50 PM Re: AltSchool [Re: Bostonian]
    thx1138 Offline
    Member

    Registered: 01/30/12
    Posts: 93
    I attended an after-school picnic recently for AltSchool parents. Not a valid sample but half the parents I talked to said their child was gifted. At the same time, one noted that AltSchool does not have nor plan to have a gifted policy. Now if the percent of applicants or matriculates is really double digits, I do wish they'd address this issue. At least make sure their teachers are exposed to say https://education.arts.unsw.edu.au/about-us/gerric/resources/pd-package/

    There are however many reasons many schools choose to bury their heads in the sand regarding gifted. To not test for gifted. Primarily that it could polarize the parent community. Though, less so at AltSchool, where every student gets customized learning.

    I would (and may soon) put it to AltSchool that if 20% of their customers care about gifted, they may like to pivot towards them. However, their goal is to get funding and open more campuses. Their current investor-facing messaging has attracted $133 million and their current parent-facing marketing has attracted 600 applicants. So they may feel, if it ain't broke don't fix it.

    I can't completely blame them for this, as they did not go about selling me a product any different than what they delivered. Though I do blame some gifted schools for co-opting the word gifted, when they actually only admit HG but not PG, or when they say they cater to GT SEN but then just accept lower IQ kids who are easier to manage or extroverted (may correlate with lower IQ) and need less of the SEN that they supposedly understand and can deliver.

    I should also note that Google Classroom seems to share some the features of software AltSchool has developed. AltSchool at one point talked about licensing their software to other schools.


    Edited by thx1138 (11/03/15 06:08 AM)

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    #232592 - 07/30/16 09:53 AM Re: AltSchool [Re: Bostonian]
    thx1138 Offline
    Member

    Registered: 01/30/12
    Posts: 93
    To follow up, DS is thriving at AltSchool. They do rarely entertain the word gifted (though its not forbidden) you won't find it on the website. I am pretty certain that they nevertheless have an inordinate number of gifted kids there. They resist (or keep internal) analyzing their data, even though they have hundreds of MAP percentile scores. Perhaps their marketing department advised them to avoid the word gifted. Who wants a product that is sold to 1% of the population. And, they have, well I think the term in Silicon Valley is 'pivoted', away from any 8:1 or 10:1 ratio. (Hattie says its not much of a factor. But the devil is in the details. Their CEO does use Hattie's book http://visible-learning.org/). HOWEVER they go to great lengths to hire great teachers. Again, DS is thriving there. His teacher sent him a very thoughtful and insightful note for him to think about over the summer. They are open to acceleration. They do put DS 2 years ahead in math, so we decided not to push it.

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    #232593 - 07/30/16 08:46 PM Re: AltSchool [Re: thx1138]
    Edward Offline
    Member

    Registered: 02/19/14
    Posts: 52
    Originally Posted By: thx1138
    At least make sure their teachers are exposed to say https://education.arts.unsw.edu.au/about-us/gerric/resources/pd-package/



    Misleading in my opinion, dry empty words with some truths mixed in for linkage. The way its written it assumes the child will automatically display gifted performance in some areas. It advocates for bright kids, but truly gifted kids can be left out as well as those called "2E". What it fails to mention is that kids may be doing poorly because the work is to easy or the environment is inappropriate to begin with.

    However, that is not to say some of the research mentioned toward the end is not good. Some of it is excellent and spot on. Of course, having a typical educator digest it is hit or miss.


    Edited by Edward (07/30/16 10:45 PM)

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    #234090 - 10/01/16 08:22 AM Re: AltSchool [Re: Edward]
    thx1138 Offline
    Member

    Registered: 01/30/12
    Posts: 93
    Well I suppose everyone's entitled to their opinion, but Edward you seem a bit hasty and dismissive.

    GERRIC was developed by Miraca Gross. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miraca_Gross

    Quote:
    Miraca Una Murdoch Gross AM is an Australian author and scholar recognised as an authority on the academic, social and emotional needs of gifted children.

    Born and trained in Scotland but spending a large part of her life in Australia, Gross is currently Professor of Gifted Education at the University of New South Wales School of Education and the director of Gifted Education, Research, Resource and Information Centre. She is a frequent speaker at international conferences and a columnist for the quarterly journal, Understanding Our Gifted.

    Her 1993 book Exceptionally Gifted Children presents fifteen subjects selected from a longitudinal study of 40 Australian children with IQs in excess of 160, including Fields Medal recipient Terence Tao among others.[1] The second edition was published in 2003. There are currently[when?] 60 highly gifted children in her ongoing study. Gross advocates radical acceleration for exceptionally and profoundly gifted children.

    Gross has won five international research awards and held the position of President of the Gifted and Talented Children's Association of South Australia for six years. From 1995–1999 she served on the seven-person Executive of the World Council for Gifted and Talented Children.

    Gross was inducted as a Member of the Order of Australia in 2008.[2]




    Edited by thx1138 (10/01/16 08:24 AM)

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    #235548 - 12/16/16 02:03 PM Re: AltSchool [Re: Bostonian]
    arlen1 Offline
    Member

    Registered: 11/20/12
    Posts: 113
    Info about AltSchool on SfKFiles site: http://www.sfkfiles.com/2013/10/dadinthefog-altschool.html . The main post is from 2013, but the comments are from 2013 - 2016.

    (I have found sfkfiles.com quite useful in the past. On some occasions I can get better insight from there than from the more well-known sites like greatschools.org and k12.niche.com .)

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