4 Alternate Schooling models that are disrupting K-12 education

Schools have changed very little over the past few decades, although the world has transformed at a pace that is hard to keep up with. Amidst the dogmatic resistance of incumbent schools in most parts of the world, innovate schooling models have begun to take shape and arguably have a head-start in shaping the schools of the future. Most are driven by market needs of providing access to high quality education to marginalized communities, while others bet on personalized pedagogy, driven by student interest and backed with technology. Here are four that are worth taking note of

Hippocampus Learning Centers


Hippocampus Learning Centres (HLC) was founded by Umesh Malhotra in 2010, who aims to revolutionize preschool education in rural India. HLC provides high quality, affordable, community-based kindergarten and after-school primary education services in rural India, while simultaneously creating employment opportunities for women in rural areas by hiring them as teachers

That mission has found support from a variety of funding agencies. HLC began with an angel fund of Rs 1.8 crore. A year later, it received Rs 4 crore from Unitus Seed Fund, Acumen and Lok Capital. And last year it raised Rs 17.25 crore from Asian Development Bank, Khosla Impact Fund and Unitus. It now aims to expand from its current 137 villages to over 300 centers. HLC has also begun to support private schools in running select programs



AltSchool is a network of “micro-schools,” each enrolling between 80 and 150 students, that aims to bring education into the 21st century. It is an alternative education model on several counts; for instance AltSchool divides students between the ages of 4 and 14 into three groups: lower elementary, upper elementary, and middle school. There are no traditional grade levels.  Each student has a Personalized learning plan or PLP, which is the foundation of the AltSchool experience. Teachers collaborate with families and students to design a set of goals for the learner based on the student’s interests, passions, strengths, and weaknesses.

Mark Zuckerberg has invested $100 million to AltSchool, a network of brick and mortar schools aiming to revolutionize the way elementary and middle schools are run. According to Wired magazine, any in Silicon valley believe that Altschool will save American Education.

School in the Cloud


In 1999, Sugata Mitra’s pioneering “Hole in the Wall” experiments helped bring the potential of self-organized learning to the public’s attention. His innovative and bold efforts towards advancing learning for children all over the world earned him the first ever one million dollar TED Prize award. At the 2013 TED conference, Sugata asked the global TED community to make his dream a reality by helping him build the ultimate School in the Cloud where children, no matter how rich or poor, can engage and connect with information and mentoring online.

In December 2013, the first School in the Cloud lab — located inside a high school in Killingworth, England — opened its doors to students. Six more labs have since been opened; five in India and one more in the UK. The labs aim to provide an environment in which we, as a global community of educators, can observe the impact of self-organized learning on children from a wide range of educational backgrounds.

Success Academy: New York Charter Schools


Success Academy has emerged from a one school experiment to becoming the largest charter school organization in New York, with 34 schools serving 11,000 children from pre-k through high school.

The big difference is its devotion to accountability on outcomes, where it may have no peer. At Success, everyone is measured by whether their students are doing well. After every networkwide quiz, students’ scores are entered into the Success computer system, which then ranks each teacher. The purpose of this, teachers and principals said, is to identify high performers and to see what practices they are using, and conversely, to determine which teachers might need better practices. Underperforming students too are taken to task, with (often criticized) methods of displaying lists of student performance with color codes. Its founder, led by Eva S. Moskowitz, believes it brings out resilience and adds that high performance is widely praised too.

Success Academy students, (primarily from poor, mostly black and Hispanic communities) rank in the top 1% in math and the top 3% in reading across the state, often out-performing schools schools in affluent neighborhoods. In New York City last year, 29 percent of public school students passed the state reading tests, and 35 percent passed the math tests. At Success schools, the corresponding percentages were 64 and 94 percent. Consequently, Success Academy has witnessed surging demand among prospective students, with more than 22,000 applications received this year for fewer than 2,300 available seats.

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