Alt school fails

by John Watson

Alt School, the Silicon Valley start-up launched by a former Googler, has failed.

A few headlines tell the story and provide additional details if you click through:

Zuckerberg-backed startup that tried to rethink education calls it quits

AltSchool Gives Up on Schools and Focuses on Tech

How an Education Startup Wasted Almost $200 Million 

Alt School is calling this a transformation, and bringing in some highly experienced educators to help set it straight, and it’s worth noting that sometimes pivots work out very well. But it’s also worth recalling some of the hype from a few years back, especially considering the media sources:

The Return Of The One-Room Schoolhouse (National Public Radio)

AltSchool: The next generation of education? (CBS News)

The Future of Big Data and Analytics in K-12 Education (Education Week)

Apparently, a fair amount of that $200 million went into public relations.

Alt School was in fact known well enough that its demise has been almost as newsworthy as its launch, which is a welcome change from the more common situation in which the launch of an ed tech start-up gets far more attention than the demise.

There’s a lesson here, and it’s put best by Alt School’s founder in a blog post that he wrote in January of this year:

“People often ask what I wish I’d known before starting AltSchool and I say: However difficult you think working in education is...multiply that by 10. Life at a startup is hard, but education is exponentially harder.” (emphasis in original)

As Larry Cuban wrote in his own analysis of Alt School, in response to that quote: “No kidding.”


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