The latest Silicon Valley invention to make its way east is a new type of elementary school, and the first branch has just opened in Brooklyn Heights. NY1's Lindsey Christ filed the following report.
The brand new AltSchool in Brooklyn Heights is a tiny new private school that's actually part of a big, and well-funded, experiment.
"We want something that personalized education for students because we're right now growing children through a factory model," said Mara Pauker, head of school at AltSchools Brooklyn Heights.
AltSchool was started in 2013 in San Francisco by a former Google executive who was struggling to find the right school for his own child. In May, the company raised $100 million to expand, some of which came from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg's foundation. There are now five AltSchools in California. The Brooklyn Heights branch is the first on the East Coast.
"The main focus is on personalized learning," said Zubin Canteenwalla, head of admissions at East Coast AltSchools. "So the idea is that each child has a different learning style, may have different interests, may be progressing differently in different subject areas."
At the AltSchool, each child logs their progress throughout the day on their own laptop. The idea is to use technology to help create an individualized education for each child so teachers can monitor each child's strengths and weaknesses and tailor each student's lesson plan accordingly.
"Even though it's challenging, they teach it in a fun way," said student Aidan Pensiero.
More than 50 engineers work for AltSchool, developing the technology that tracks each child's learning and helps identify what he or she should be doing each day.
"I think that the technology enhances learning, but it doesn't replace the teacher and it doesn't replace hands-on learning," Pauker said.
Several other companies and nonprofits have tried to develop similar technology in recent years, including the city's Department of Education, with something called the School of One, and former Schools Chancellor Joel Klein, whose project, called Amplify, was just sold after losing $371 million in the past year.
AltSchool, though, has continued to raise money and expand. As a private school, tuition is $26,000 a year, with about one-quarter of the students receiving financial aid. There are already plans for a second school in New York, opening next fall on the Lower East Side.