Altschool brings Silicon Valley’s data and metric driven approach to K-8 education

Imagine yourself as an 8 year old in 3rd grade in a parallel world, where going to school is not a chore, in fact you cannot wait to get up in the morning to go to school and learn. You have supportive teachers who really know you on a deep level, and collaborate with you on shaping your own education by giving you materials that are of interest to you. You are engaged, you love learning, you are happy.

Welcome to Altschool, a VC backed benefit corporation, startup and community of schools based in San Francisco. The company provides a new model of independent, private K-8 schools, founded by Max Ventilla, tech entrepreneur and former Head of Personalization at Google who believes that a new century education should be personal. The company uses “outstanding teachers, deep research, and innovative technology tools to offer a personalized, whole child learning experience”. The technology is all produced in house (Playlist – on which teachers assign activities to the individual child, parent communication app, teacher networking and collaboration tools etc.) and is supposed to help cut down time spent for admin tasks and enhance quality of education.

Altschool’s use of data is contributing both to the value creation and enhances its operating model. The schools attract progressive parents who want to give their kids a top notch, personalised education, and it all starts with data.

1) During several interviews with the students at the onset of school, every child’s “Learner Portrait” is formed. This catalogues “interests, passions, strengths, opportunities, and learning strategies that work best.” This data collection then serves to form a “Personalized Learning Plan” (PLP), which gets updated quarterly as the teachers get to know students better in order to better tailor specific activities or learning objectives for the child.

2) The micro school network approach that Altschool is taking implies that with more schools on the platform and more data sharing among the constituents (best practices, strategies that work best on particular types of students, types of activities for students that are interested in a particular subject etc.), the better the product will be as teachers and students making up this network will be able to tap into the collective knowledge.

3) Altschool also brings best in class metric driven approach into education, measuring and tracking data about anything and everything that supports their mission. The list is long, but some metrics include teacher/student/parent satisfaction, teacher workload, ease of use of technology tools, gross and net profitability, etc. Most data is collected on a monthly basis, is shared throughout the company, and specific projects to improve priority metrics get implemented as a result.

4) Lastly, feedback from all constituents play an incredible role at improving the product (both education as well as the technological tools through which education is delivered).

Altschool’s use of data is a refreshing take on education where most measurement is on standardized test scores. The company aims to solve important pain points in education, and the only solid way they can do this is by collecting data on important attributes and improving them. The value capture occurs by charging students for this top notch and continuously improving education model ($20K/yr). The advantage they have against competitors who are edtech startups that provide only the technology platform is that they operate schools themselves, have full-stack approach, and as such they get first hand data and are able to iterate on it. The challenge I anticipate for them in the future is about scaling, specifically how to keep the personalized experience as the number of schools as well as student/teacher ratio keep increasing. The data in that case will become even more valuable, but also the distilling and use of the most useful data will be a challenge of its own.

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7 thoughts on “Altschool brings Silicon Valley’s data and metric driven approach to K-8 education

  1. Thanks for your post Nazli! I think it is fantastic for education innovation like this to challenge the status quo and rethink about whether the data we collect makes sense to achieve the ultimate objective. Meanwhile I do not like the idea that standardized test score is the only indicator to determine students’ success, it is also extremely difficult to quantify some of the behavioral / qualitative data and make assumptions that they would drive students’ success. Can you elaborate more how AltSchool tries to test out the metrics that they measure and improve these predictions in time?

  2. Thank you for this post! Given the many ed tech startups out there, it will be so interesting to keep an eye on firms like Altschool to see how they scale and if they can survive in this space. I love the personalized approach they offer, especially the PLP really creates value for students, teachers, and parents.

    1. Agreed! I’m also interesting in seeing how they compete against some other personalized types of schooling like Montessori schools and also against homeschooling.

  3. Great post! It’ll be interesting to see how much evidence-based proof they are able to yield over the years!

  4. Really interesting post! I have always found the education system to be flawed in many respects and it seems Altschool is taking a progressive approach to really addressing many of these issues. I would be interested to know how the “Personalized Learning Plan” balances between the strengths and weaknesses of a child. Obviously you want to promote an individual child’s strengths (which would require time and focus), but at the same time you do want to divert attention to their weaknesses as well to make them better well-rounded students. I wonder how Altschool thinks about balancing these two things.

  5. Love this post! I agree with Jenny’s comment about the metrics. Part of what I see as being broken in many education systems is the over-reliance on metrics (such as test scores) to indicate success or failure. In reality, these test scores may not be the right was to measure success and may be giving perverse incentives. I wonder how the new metrics that these schools use will be received by high schools and higher education systems. While the new metrics likely have more value than the current common metrics, schools tend to be entrenched in current ways of working, so I wonder how high schools, for example, would react and accept students who aren’t measured by the “normal” metrics. Without doubt, there should be a solution, but this could present an implementation and scaling challenge in the future.

  6. How does the 20K/yr cost compare with the cost to educate a child in the USA? Will the state governments pay for this?

    Also, does ALT school have “substantial” benefits for the “majority” of students or only for special needs students? Also can the benefits be achieved without correcting the other social problems that also lead to under-performance of students e.g. lack of discipline, poverty and unstable homes? The data would be very noisy. In fact i would argue that it would be almost impossible to emiprically verify if ALT school works or does not work due to all the other factors that contribute to educational achievement.

    Do you see this disrupting the US school system or just the special needs segment? And what are the alternatives? Is this better than getting education at home or private school? What does it do to the social aspect of schooling? Dont kids begin learning how to compromise and operate in society through interacting with others in school? Will this make kids more individualistic and maybe even a little spoilt and selfish?

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