Alpha: The Beginning
A few years ago, I had my first conversation about blended learning with Gisele Huff at the Hume Foundation. Prior to that, like most people at the time, I had not visited Rocketship, seen Khan Academy, or developed a vision for personalized learning. I only knew that the brute force, no-excuses model of education that I grew up in as an educator was not the most effective way to serve diverse groups of students well, and it was not a system that encouraged excellent teachers to focus on teaching the higher order thinking skills that students need to succeed in college, career, and life. I became convinced there was a better way to teach and to learn.
In four months, Alpha Public Schools will open its first blended model school in the Alum Rock neighborhood of San Jose, California. By no means have I become an expert in the last two years. In fact, I hope to use this space (in part) to talk about the challenges we face and explore our failures as we build Alpha from the ground up. I expect Alpha will succeed, that student achievement will be exceptional, and that we will redefine the role of teachers. But I don’t expect any of it to be easy. By chronicling our most important learnings, I hope that others who are dipping their toes into this space, and who are intimidated by so many unknowns, will have the courage to take the leap.
As we execute our plan, we will continue to think through difficult questions that are critical to Alpha’s success. For example:
How will the role of the teacher change in next-generation schools and what new skills must these teachers possess?
How do we allow students to move at the pace they need while also ensuring some consistent whole group instruction?
How much of the curriculum is ready to be blended?
How can schools innovate responsibly: iterating rapidly to drive their models forward without risking student outcomes in the process?
In answering these and other questions, my hope is that we will become better educators and better innovators.