Startup firm AltSchool has announced that they will be closing their Palo Alto branch and cancelling plans for further expansion. The school’s $30,000 tuition price tag has not been enough to offset company losses of $40 million per year. One of AltSchool’s main projects has been developing educational software for children. Founder Max Ventilla says that the company will turn its focus away from opening more schools and concentrate on distributing their software instead.
AltSchool seemed destined for success from the start. After leaving Google in 2013, Max Ventilla was determined to create the ideal high-tech American school. He launched the educational startup in 2014, raising $33 million in venture capital funding. Ventilla’s vision gained further backing in 2015 when he attracted the attention of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. With the support of Zuckerberg and other venture capitalists, Ventilla was able to raise an additional $100 million in funding. Backed by this extra capital, AltSchool set up nine different schools across the United States.
AltSchool attempted to shake up the typical grade school curriculum by integrating technology into everyday education. Students use tablets to sign in to their classes and create new projects. Creativity and software literacy are built into the curriculum. AltSchool classrooms are different from traditional grade schools in that they have no grade levels, but are divided into lower and upper elementary school; older students are placed in the middle school category. Also, students do not use desks, but sit on the floor or in bean bag chairs. Ventilla believed that this hands-on, personalized educational experience would revitalize the field of education. However, after the announced closures, industry experts have acknowledged that Silicon Valley has yet to crack the tough nut of the American school system.