AltSchool Raises $100M to Build Microschools

altschool

Reposted from IndustryWeek:

Tech industry leaders including Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg have raised $100 million for an education initiative aimed at “reimagining” schools from the elementary school level. The San Francisco-based AltSchool announced Monday the latest funding came from the venture capital groups Founders Fund and Andreessen Horowitz with the Silicon Valley Community Foundation led by Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla. Other contributors included Omidyar Network created by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar and venture investor John Doerr.

“From SpaceX to Airbnb to Oscar, today’s strongest entrepreneurs are creating technology-enabled models to transform some of the oldest and most established industries in the world. We believe the time has come to reimagine education,” said Brian Singerman of Founders Fund. “The US education system has remained largely unaltered for decades. AltSchool has the audacious vision and scalable solutions to accelerate truly transformative change in the education space.”

AltSchool calls itself “a collaborative community of micro-schools that uses outstanding teachers, deep research, and innovative tools to offer a personalized, whole child learning experience for the next generation.”

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Read/Listen to the NPR interview/podcast on AltSchool here.

Beyond Education Wars

forsale

Reposted from the New York Times:

For the last dozen years, waves of idealistic Americans have campaigned to reform and improve K-12 education. Armies of college graduates joined Teach for America. Zillionaires invested in charter schools. Liberals and conservatives, holding their noses and agreeing on nothing else, cooperated to proclaim education the civil rights issue of our time.

Yet I wonder if the education reform movement hasn’t peaked. The zillionaires are bruised. The idealists are dispirited. The number of young people applying for Teach for America, after 15 years of growth, has dropped for the last two years. The Common Core curriculum is now an orphan, with politicians vigorously denying paternity.

K-12 education is an exhausted, bloodsoaked battlefield. It’s Agincourt, the day after. So a suggestion: Refocus some reformist passions on early childhood.

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How to Win the Education Reform Wars

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Reposted from Flypaper:

The title of my talk is “How to End the Education Reform Wars.” But as I’ve thought more about it, I’ve decided that this isn’t exactly the right title. That’s because you, as superintendents, don’t have it within your control to end this war. That’s because it’s not really about you. Especially here in New York, it seems clear to me that it’s a war between the governor and the unions, as well as between the reformers and the unions. It’s also a fight between the governor and Mayor de Blasio.

So the real question is how you can navigate these wars. A better title for my speech might be, “How to Survive the Education Reform Wars.” And how can you do so in a way that allows you to do good work for kids?

With all due respect, let me suggest three principles that might guide your advocacy work—to stand up for what’s right for kids while distancing yourself from the worst instincts of the unions:

  1. Be the voice of the sane, sensible center.
  2. Grab the ball—and run with it.
  3. Demand charter-like freedoms

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How Should We Rebuild the U.S. Education System?

rebuild

Reposted from Forbes:

Anybody else tired of having to be “boundlessly and annoyingly skeptical” about the reforms advertised as fixes to bad public schools?

A good education is worth investing in—that has always been true. To get some perspective on what a quality learning experience could look like, and how we can turn that vision into reality, I reached out to a few people who are fighting to build a better education system here in the United States and asked them these three questions:

  • Why are schools in the United States failing their students?
  • If you alone had the power to do so, how would you fix the U.S. education system?
  • What does your “dream school” look like?

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Sheninger: Teacher Accountability Through a New Lens

possible

Reposted from A Principal’s Reflections:

The structure and function of the majority of schools in this country is the exact opposite of the world that our learners are growing up in.  There is an automatic disconnect when students, regardless of their grade level, walk into schools due to the lack of engagement, relevancy, meaning, and authentic learning opportunities.  Our education system has become so efficient in sustaining a century old model because it is easy and safe.  The resulting conformity has resulted in a learning epidemic among our students as they see so little value in the cookie-cutter learning exercises they are forced to go through each day. The bottom line is that they are bored.  It is time that we create schools that work for our students as opposed to ones that have traditionally worked well for the adults.

Creating schools that work for students requires a bold vision for change that not only tackles the status quo inherent in the industrialized model of education, but also current education reform efforts. Even though Common Core is not a curriculum, many schools and districts have become so engrossed with alignment and preparing for the new aligned tests that real learning has fallen by the wayside.   We need to realize that this, along with other traditional elements associated with education, no longer prevail.  How we go about doing this will vary from school to school, but the process begins with the simple notion of putting students first to allow them to follow their passions, create, tinker, invent, play, and collaborate.  Schools that work for students focus less on control and more on trust.

There is a common fallacy that school administrators are the leaders of change. This makes a great sound bite, but the reality is that many individuals in a leadership position are not actually working directly with students.  Teachers are the true catalysts of change that can create schools that work for kids. They are the ones, after all, who are tasked with implementing the myriad of directives and mandates that come their way. Leadership is about action, not position. Schools need more teacher leaders who are empowered through autonomy to take calculated risks in order to develop innovative approaches that enable deeper learning and higher order thinking without sacrificing accountability. If the goal in fact is to increase these elements in our education system then we have to allow students to demonstrate learning in a variety of ways.

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Today’s Reformers Have a Major Blind Spot

know it all

Reposted from the Thomas Jefferson Street Blog:

The education reform world is increasingly obsessed with “diversity.” Organizations and individuals are struggling to ensure people with different racial, ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds have a place in the conversation about how to improve our schools. Although these efforts range from serious and thoughtful to plainly exhibitionist, it’s an important conversation – especially because public schools have never worked particularly well for minority students. Yet for all the attention to diversity, one perspective remains almost absent from the conversation about American education: The viewpoint of those who weren’t good at school in the first place.

Of course there are people in the education world who were not good students, or didn’t like their own schooling experience. But for the most part the education conversation is dominated by people who not only liked being in and around schools, they excelled at academic work (or at least were good at being good at it and staying on the academic conveyor belt). The result is an over-representation of elite schools and elite schooling experiences and little input from those who found educational success later in life or not at all.

The blind spots this creates are enormous and rarely ever mentioned. Elliot Washor, founder of The Met Center, an innovative school in Providence, Rhode Island, and co-founder of Big Picture Schools says he sees a cadre of education leaders who are like horses wearing blinkers in a race – unable to see the entire field.

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Paradoxes of Ed Reform Critics

dravitch

Reposted from Forbes:

There’s a lot of important, nuanced debate to be had between the most optimistic education reformers and those who are more skeptical. But I think there are many, though of course not all, on the education reform critic side who tie themselves in knots telling inconsistent stories about education in this country. So here are the most common paradoxes of that movement. This isn’t to say those who criticize some or even many aspects of education reform embody all these paradoxes, but I would argue they are relatively common. I think education reform critics spend a lot of times opposing individual policies or ideas or changes, and so it is hard to tie all of those disparate criticisms together into a coherent vision that also explains what education policy should be. These six paradoxes, I would argue, identify a problem:

1. Administrators can’t be trusted with firing, but are perfect at hiring.

2. Socioeconomic is the only thing that matters for life outcomes, but standardized tests and insufficient school funding are a serious problem.

3. The power of corporate education reformers is a huge undemocratic problem, but union power is not.

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