Disrupting the World of Private School With Tech and Guinea Pigs

Kate Taylor:

Long dominated by a small group of elite institutions, New York City’s private schools have limited seats, annual tuition approaching $50,000, and an admissions process that can drive even the most levelheaded parents to teeth-grinding anxiety. The schools range in philosophy from traditional to progressive, but in general, they change slowly, if at all.

Now, a rash of start-ups say they can offer more 21st-century alternatives — and make a profit in the process.

They are entities like AltSchool, a San Francisco-based start-up that says it can use technology to revolutionize education. It opened its first “micro-school” in New York in 2015, and has opened two more since then.

There are the cost-cutter schools, like the tiny Portfolio School, which opened last year in TriBeCa, and uses technology to keep administrative costs down but emphasizes experiential learning, like having students design a home for the class’s pet guinea pigs. BASIS Independent Schools, with campuses in Brooklyn and Manhattan, offer a traditional curriculum, with an emphasis on science, for about a third less in tuition than the city’s most prestigious private schools.