Why I’ll be Sending my Kid to Mark Zuckerberg’s School


Trust these tech leaders to lead education into a new era.


What happens when two former Google execs can’t find a suitable preschool for their daughter? They go looking for venture funding and create their own, of course. AltSchool, Max Ventilla’s network of private micro-schools or “learning labs” in San Francisco and New York, offers mixed-age classrooms from kindergarten to grade 8 that blend a personalised, Montessori-approach with tech. Mark Zuckerberg is already on board with Founder’s Fund (the foundation started by Mark and his wife Priscilla) putting US$100 million towards the project.

Here are the top five reasons we think it’s worth thinking about sending your kids to an AltSchool learning lab:


Because Silicon Valley believes it’s the future of education…

The take-up from the Silicon Valley crowd has been tremendous. AltSchool has raised up to $133 million over the past two years, among the largest investments ever made in education technology. Considering the capital comes from some of the titans of tech, we wouldn’t be at all surprised if this is a glimpse into the future of an industry ripe for disruption. In addition to Facebook’s CEO, notable investors also include eBay founder Pierre Omidyar and Laurene Powell Jobs, widow of the late Steve Jobs. They’re hoping AltSchool will help “reinvent” American education: first, by innovating in its micro-schools; next, by providing software to educators who want to start up their own schools; and, finally, by offering its software for use in public schools across the country.


Because they’re turning teaching into a desirable profession…

With over 100 applications for each teaching position, AltSchool is hiring the cream of the educator crop. But it’s not just the $100,000 a year salaries that are proving attractive. Looking to the much-celebrated Finnish public school system, AltSchool is all about giving teachers flexibility and autonomy in the classroom. Max asserts that treating teachers like teachers, rather than babysitters means you’ll have no problem keeping educators in their posts.

Mentorship and unique professional development opportunities are also a key component.


Because they encourage entrepreneurial kids…

The best education meets kids where they are, but that’s challenging when you’ve got one teacher verse a class of 30 students with diverse interests and rates of progress. At AltSchool the curriculum isn’t set; it evolves out of the interests of the students. They use all the technology and software developers at their fingertips, to create a highly-personalised education, targeting each student’s passions, strengths, and weaknesses. Students use their tablets or laptops to engage in bespoke activities that had been assigned to them through a “playlist”—software that displays a series of digital “cards” containing instructions for a task to be completed. Sometimes it’s an online task, sometimes it’s an off-line group activity


Because education has to change…

This is not school as we all grew up knowing it. The focus is on developing skills that will be useful in the workplace of the future – one that will demand individuality, creativity, collaboration, and critical thinking. Texts are not tossed, but approached anew. A lengthy study of Homer’s Iliad might, says Altschool middle school teacher James Earle, focus more on creating data from literature that can be measured qualitatively and quantitatively. And you can bet they’ll be no foreign languages or complicated calculus (a waste of time according to Ventilla, given we all walk around with calculators and live-translation apps will soon be so powerful, we’ll all be multi-lingual).


Because there’s no Saturday morning sports…

‘Nuf said.



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