A Day in the Life

Wondering what really goes on all day at Alpha?

We could tell you, but that wouldn’t be very Alpha-like.

Instead, come on in and learn for yourself! Like our Guides, we’re here for support (and to make sure you don’t get too far off course) but mostly we’ll just get out of your way — we’ve learned to step aside and let your innate curiosity and desire for growth lead the way.

Key Glossary Terms on This Page Guides

Unlike traditional teachers, Guides are not subject experts (though they certainly know their way around the Alpha apps). Guides are hired to inspire, motivate and connect with students to help them achieve their goals.

View the entire glossary »

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Good Morning!

Is this Alpha, or is this the greatest place on earth?

The only difference may be that our greeters aren’t in full costume... usually.

Expect unbridled warmth, enthusiasm, and encouragement of kids just being kids (only rule: no running inside the building!).

Morning Launch

Picture an extra strong cup of coffee...

Poured into a mug of hardcore fight training, wrapped in a blanket of motivational theme song.

That’s an Alpha Morning Launch. It gets us all ready to start another awesome day of setting and crushing our goals. Parents are welcome to attend Morning Launch.

Placement

Choose your level below

Feel free to explore another level later.

You might be wondering...

Are Levels basically grades, but more confusing and designed to frustrate my in-laws?

Key Glossary Terms on This Page Level

Alpha values having students spend time in slightly wider age bands than traditional schools allow, so they can grow from and guide each other. There are 6 total Levels that cover kids from traditional Kindergarten through High School age.

View the entire glossary »

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Writing Block

Once the level has come together as a group and started the best day ever (every single day. It’s a Guide superpower), it’s time to hop on your laptop (each kid has one) or pick up your journal and respond to a writing prompt, such as:

Morning Brew is a daily, 25-minute work block for Level 4 students to stay current on their individual areas of interest. L4s set up their own feed of news, blog posts, videos, and other quality media, and use Morning Brew time to consume information that will inform future written work and projects.

  • Go for a walk. Write a sentence about the walk you went on.
  • Describe what it would be like to live in a fish bowl. Plan your escape.
  • Tell about your favorite food and why it is so delicious.
  • If you had to eat one food for the rest of your life what would it be and why?
  • Today you're a suitcase on an international flight. Write a paragraph that describes the most exciting part of your day.
  • Do you love movies? Try writing a short screenplay.
  • Are you into drawing? Write a comic, or start a graphic novel.
  • Write a love letter to your favorite piece of technology.
  • Think about one invention that has had an impact on the way you live and write about it.
  • Make up an urban legend about your neighborhood (or another familiar setting).
  • Write about a personal experience in the form of a how-to manual.

Want to know more? »

Over time, kids grow from writing a few sentences to a paragraph, to stories or persuasive essays (all at their own pace). Guides give direct and constructive writing feedback multiple times per week to help everyone hone their craft.

You might be wondering...

Are Guides teachers, coaches or just superheroes?

Key Glossary Terms on This Page Guides

Unlike traditional teachers, Guides are not subject experts (though they certainly know their way around the Alpha apps). Guides are hired to inspire, motivate and connect with students to help them achieve their goals.

View the entire glossary »

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Goal Setting

Today, just like every day, you’ll work with a Guide to set daily goals in your four core subjects -- math, language arts, reading, and science. Not feeling STEM-y today? You can stick to language and reading on today’s goal sheet, but remember that every 6-7 weeks, you’ll have to hit your session goals in every subject to earn your spot on the top-secret outing with your pals at the end of the session!

You're in the big leagues now. Today, just like every day, you are in charge of your academic work time. Open up your email and project management tools to decide on how you can use your time most effectively during Core Skills. You'll look at your session goals (you know, the goals you and your Guides decided on) to make sure you are on pace and focused today. You know today's work will contribute to your overall high school transcript that will lead you towards achieving great things after high school. Game on.

Want to know more? »

Because broader goals are set by session (these goal setting meetings are more in-depth and often involve some negotiation), daily goals may skew toward one or two subjects. This offers our kids agency over what they are working on and when, while daily Guide meetings ensure that a child won’t fall way behind in a particular subject by the end of the session. Think of the Guide setting the guardrails, allowing students to decide how to get from Point A to Point B.

You might be wondering...

How do you actually get my student to WANT to do the work on their own?

Key Glossary Terms on This Page Goal Sheet

Students organize the goals they want to achieve for the week or session on a level-specific sheet. These are used to track progress towards the completion of session goals.

Session

The Alpha academic calendar operates in 7 week cycles. Students set long term goals to complete during this time and workshops run the duration of the session.

Agency

One of the most important lessons that students of all ages at Alpha are pushed to learn is the idea that they alone determine their destiny. Self-agency is the concept that kids are their own advocates, motivators, managers and analysts, empowered to do their best work because they want to -- not because a parent or teacher expects it.

Motivational Models

While almost everything about Alpha is self-directed, we’ve found that a variety of motivational models can be helpful in pushing kids to do their best. Each level has tools (ranging from leaderboards to paying kids “Alphas” when they achieve academic goals) specially designed to motivate students in their age range to do their best work.

Mobile Squad

An incentivized event earned through a series of varied requirements. Students earn the opportunity to go on a day-long trip/adventure/experience outside the Alpha campus. Mobile Squads have included going to Main Event to play laser tag and eat pizza, a Stunt Ranch to try their hand at actual movie special effects and stunts, and even an Astros game in Houston!

Beast of the Week

A weekly, level-specific competition among students to complete the most minutes of academic work in apps and computer science programs. Winners earn a spot on Beast Squad.

Shoutouts

Community members recognize one another during Closing Meeting for achievements and efforts they noticed throughout that day.

View the entire glossary »

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Mid-Morning

For the next two hours, the student becomes the master... literally.

You’ve probably heard that one of Alpha’s 3 promises is “Learning 2x Faster.”

We accomplish this by using adaptive apps. These apps are chosen based on skill level and learning style, and are designed to get that learning pace juuuuuuuust right (Challenging, but not intimidating.) and keep it up until mastery has been achieved.

Key Glossary Terms on This Page Promises

Every student at Alpha is promised three things about their school career -- that they’ll love school, that they’ll learn twice as fast, and that they’ll learn life skills.

Adaptive Apps

The best academic applications can analyze in real-time how their users are interacting and shift the challenges so that they are tough enough to keep users interested, without becoming so hard that users get frustrated. In short, they are personalized to keep a perfect pace in presenting new material and retaining mastery of old material.

Mastery

Alpha uses a mastery-based education model, meaning that students dedicate additional time to study areas they have not mastered, while moving quickly through subjects they already grasp. We use several assessment tools to ensure that mastery is achieved and that students are working on content that is appropriate for them.

View the entire glossary »

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Core Skills

Time to use your goal sheet to set your unique goals for the week.

Time to use Trello to set your unique goals for the week.

Imagine you set really ambitious math goals this session. You are ready to climb this mountain.

Which set of goals will you choose to help you achieve your session goals?

  • 50 questions on Albert Geometry
  • 2 chapters annotations and quizzes for CRR
  • 5 IXL Language Arts
  • 5 IXL Science lessons
  • 5 workspaces on Mathia Algebra 1
  • 3 chapters annotations and quizzes for CRR
  • 30 units on Lexia Power Up
  • 11 IXL Science lessons
You might be wondering...

How do I learn more about the apps my student is using?

Core Skills

You now have two hours, plus a fifteen-minute, no-screens Q-Break to run around or visit the Snack Shack, to work on your adaptive apps. Guides may step in to redirect and cheer you on while you work, but you are in charge of your own journey.

Want to know more? »

As students mature, they enjoy more choice in what they are reading or learning and which spaces are available to them as they dig into their academic work (we find that our younger kids have a harder time working with too much choice!). But even when kids share spaces, they continue to work at their own pace and don’t know if their neighbor is ahead or behind them on the Continuum.

You might be wondering...

Can you actually prove my kid is learning 2x as fast, even though they're spending such a small amount of time on academic work?

Key Glossary Terms on This Page Quick Break (Q-break)

A 10-15 minute break in between each Core Skills period.

Snack Shack

Students can use their hard-earned Alpha coins to purchase treats from the Snack Shack.

Adaptive Apps

The best academic applications can analyze in real-time how their users are interacting and shift the challenges so that they are tough enough to keep users interested, without becoming so hard that users get frustrated. In short, they are personalized to keep a perfect pace in presenting new material and retaining mastery of old material.

Academic Continuum

The Academic Continuum uses a student’s demonstrated comprehension to match them to adaptive apps and academic content. Students are placed on the continuum using their MAP scores, date of birth, and Guide observation.

Map Test

A web-based, adaptive assessment tool that provides an accurate measure of your child’s academic growth, independent of grade level or age. MAP is a high-quality alternative to state-based standardized assessments, and the data from biannual MAP tests helps us with goal setting and progress measurement.

View the entire glossary »

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Lunchtime!

Picture delicious, kid-friendly, farm-to-table options.

The lunches that smug parents Instabrag about.

And 45 minutes of free time for kids to scatter, run around, hit the basketball court, or chat up the chef and Guides (there’s no “teachers’ lounge” at Alpha). Followed by a campus-wide cleanup that shows our kids’ pride in their campus… and will make you realize what they’re capable of at home (Shhh. Don’t tell them we told you).

Key Glossary Terms on This Page Campus-Wide Cleanup

At the end of every day, students and staff do a quick tidy of the school building. This is one way we empower students to have responsibility over and respect for our shared spaces.

View the entire glossary »

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Workshops

Time to stash that laptop and dive into another Alpha promise - Learning Life Skills.

You’ll be able to choose two workshops for Monday/Wednesday/Friday and another two for Tuesday/Thursday. Which one’s first?

Your Chosen Workshop

Hello World

The Hello World program is made up of AI architects, data scientists and educators on a mission to equip and empower next generation innovators and lead weekly workshops at Alpha. We’ve got robots. We’ve got video games, 3D printers, drones, and more.

Want to know more? »

Alpha students are free to choose whichever workshops excite them most, but Guides can help with the process if a particular workshop would be PERFECT for a specific student. When students love school, they are more willing to jump into something intimidating or uncomfortable (like improv or computer science) because they feel safe and known.

Alpha Zoo

Students are introduced to a variety of art media while creating fun projects about and for animals. Students gain a greater understanding about animals through an interactive hands-on experience with multiple small animals as well as a trip to the Austin Zoo.

Want to know more? »

Alpha students are free to choose whichever workshops excite them most, but Guides can help with the process if a particular workshop would be PERFECT for a specific student. When students love school, they are more willing to jump into something intimidating or uncomfortable (like improv or computer science) because they feel safe and known.

It's Showtime!

Students understand that great details make great stories and will apply detailed story elements in the creation and performance of an end-of-session puppet show for the school.

Want to know more? »

Alpha students are free to choose whichever workshops excite them most, but Guides can help with the process if a particular workshop would be PERFECT for a specific student. When students love school, they are more willing to jump into something intimidating or uncomfortable (like improv or computer science) because they feel safe and known.

This Alpha Life

Students use the art of storytelling to share important memories from their lives through podcasting. From brainstorming to publishing, students use peer feedback to improve their written stories. Then, they incorporate specific podcast elements, like music, special effects, and editing tools, to their stories as they move through the stages of production.

Want to know more? »

Alpha students are free to choose whichever workshops excite them most, but Guides can help with the process if a particular workshop would be PERFECT for a specific student. When students love school, they are more willing to jump into something intimidating or uncomfortable (like improv or computer science) because they feel safe and known.

L1earn to Cook

Discover the principles of nutrition, experimentation, and learning to learn as students gain practical kitchen skills. Teamwork and patience are put to the test as students chop, mix, and (hopefully don't) burn delectable treats!

Want to know more? »

Alpha students are free to choose whichever workshops excite them most, but Guides can help with the process if a particular workshop would be PERFECT for a specific student. When students love school, they are more willing to jump into something intimidating or uncomfortable (like improv or computer science) because they feel safe and known.

Facing Your Fears

Learn the ins and outs of improv while also gaining tools to navigate complicated social situations. This "just for fun" workshop coaches students through the tough skills of embracing inevitable embarrassment, learning empathy, and the art of active listening.

Want to know more? »

Alpha students are free to choose whichever workshops excite them most, but Guides can help with the process if a particular workshop would be PERFECT for a specific student. When students love school, they are more willing to jump into something intimidating or uncomfortable (like improv or computer science) because they feel safe and known.

Secret Life of Ads

Understand common advertising forms, platforms and tactics in order to successfully create a marketing campaign. This workshop is broken up into sections- print, video, social media, and audio advertisements. This workshop includes various activities or research to understand each form so students can create their own advertisement(s).

Want to know more? »

Alpha students are free to choose whichever workshops excite them most, but Guides can help with the process if a particular workshop would be PERFECT for a specific student. When students love school, they are more willing to jump into something intimidating or uncomfortable (like improv or computer science) because they feel safe and known.

Smartest Person in the Room

In this workshop, students start by learning how to learn, becoming more self-sufficient in academic work. Next, they develop basic reasoning and research skills so they can become critical consumers of information. Finally, they choose an area of expertise to go deep in. Test to pass? Win an “Expert Showdown” competition against a panel of peers armed with Google.

Want to know more? »

Alpha students are free to choose whichever workshops excite them most, but Guides can help with the process if a particular workshop would be PERFECT for a specific student. When students love school, they are more willing to jump into something intimidating or uncomfortable (like improv or computer science) because they feel safe and known.

PFX

In this workshop, students tackle a series of independent challenges centered around the science of special and practical effects in film production. Students will build simple machines, play with fire, and build robotic arms, but they must master each of the steps to unlock the next!

Want to know more? »

Alpha students are free to choose whichever workshops excite them most, but Guides can help with the process if a particular workshop would be PERFECT for a specific student. When students love school, they are more willing to jump into something intimidating or uncomfortable (like improv or computer science) because they feel safe and known.

The Action League

Create an action plan that alleviates or solves homelessness in Austin. This plan will be submitted to the Austin City Council. Students use design thinking methods to research a problem within our community and create an action plan. Guides and students engage in hands-on design challenges that focus on developing empathy and active problem-solving.

Want to know more? »

Alpha students are free to choose whichever workshops excite them most, but Guides can help with the process if a particular workshop would be PERFECT for a specific student. When students love school, they are more willing to jump into something intimidating or uncomfortable (like improv or computer science) because they feel safe and known.

Lit Scout

Let's get writing....creatively! Students hone their writing skills through a series of exercises, while simultaneously learning about the business of writing and how to submit their work. Towards the end of the workshop, they focus on revising a single story that they will submit to One Teen Story.

Want to know more? »

Alpha students are free to choose whichever workshops excite them most, but Guides can help with the process if a particular workshop would be PERFECT for a specific student. When students love school, they are more willing to jump into something intimidating or uncomfortable (like improv or computer science) because they feel safe and known.

CRR

Students develop their reading, writing, and thinking skills by engaging with AP-level English curriculum. CRR coursework is both self-guided and collaborative. While students work through many assignments independently, they also participate in group discussions. And like the rest of Alpha’s program, CRR is tech-enabled. Students use apps to annotate collaboratively, practice their reading comprehension and grammar, and get feedback on writing.

Want to know more? »

Alpha students are free to choose whichever workshops excite them most, but Guides can help with the process if a particular workshop would be PERFECT for a specific student. When students love school, they are more willing to jump into something intimidating or uncomfortable (like improv or computer science) because they feel safe and known.

Lead Labs

Modeled after the course of the same name at Stanford GSB, Lead Labs shows students that exchanging direct feedback is essential for being a good teammate and leader. Students will learn tactical approaches to giving and receiving feedback, and will practice these approaches in actual team project scenarios, improvisational role-plays, and interpersonal situations. The core message of Lead Labs is simple: if you care about people and want them to succeed, give them honest feedback.

Want to know more? »

Alpha students are free to choose whichever workshops excite them most, but Guides can help with the process if a particular workshop would be PERFECT for a specific student. When students love school, they are more willing to jump into something intimidating or uncomfortable (like improv or computer science) because they feel safe and known.

AlphaX

AlphaX, short for Alpha Expertise, is a four-year program that each Level 4 student must complete before graduating. The AlphaX mission is to give students the practical tools to do something bold and significant with their time in high school. AlphaX is all about meaningful work that not only sets students apart in the eyes of colleges but gives them the tools to teach themselves anything.

Want to know more? »

Alpha students are free to choose whichever workshops excite them most, but Guides can help with the process if a particular workshop would be PERFECT for a specific student. When students love school, they are more willing to jump into something intimidating or uncomfortable (like improv or computer science) because they feel safe and known.

Closing Discussion

Your two workshops are in the books for today...

So it’s time to tidy up our space once more and then bring our school day to a close.

Did you meet your goals? If not, you can use the time to explain why and course correct for tomorrow (our supportive environment is great for encouraging self-assessment). Or maybe you’ll use the time to grapple with a moral question as a group (would YOU clone your pet?), play a game (we love Statues and Kahoot) or give a shoutout to a fellow student for doing something awesome. Think of it as a calm close to the day... until Friday, when the Leaderboard comes out.

Alpha’s goal is to maximize opportunities for each student, ensuring their acceptance to a top 20 university. While we recognize that this isn’t every student’s goal, our high standards open all kinds of doors, ensuring a bright future for all Alpha graduates. In support of this standard, we have ambitious objectives: Alpha students will score a 1500+ on their SAT and 5’s on at least 3 AP tests.

How do we do this? We create a clear pathway where the only factor influencing a student’s outcome is their own work ethic. Learn more on the Parent Portal.

Key Glossary Terms on This Page Shoutout

Community members recognize one another during Closing Meeting for achievements and efforts they noticed throughout that day.

View the entire glossary »

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Leaderboard

You’ve done it. You knew you were crushing your goals for the week but -- what? That’s you sitting at the top of the Leaderboard! We may call you the victor, the Beast of the Week, the T-Rex or simply a really hard worker, and man it feels good.

And even better than that, there are rewards to cash in on for different accomplishments and milestones! Maybe it’s cold, hard Alphas, or a sweet trophy to display on your workspace. Celebrations for your work come in all shapes and sizes and are designed to motivate someone exactly your age.

Want to know more? »

While almost everything about Alpha is self-directed and focused on kids setting their own goals and achieving them, we’ve found that a little healthy competition can be extra motivating for some. But unlike other school leaderboards, kids are still only competing against themselves when it comes to accomplishing work — nobody else will know whether you’re crushing goals below or above grade level.

You might be wondering...

You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here….

Key Glossary Terms on This Page Learn 2x Faster

One of Alpha’s 3 Promises. Alpha uses adaptive technology, an innovative schedule, and self-agency to create an environment where students learn twice as fast as their counterparts in traditional schools. Students accomplish the work of a typical academic day in approximately 100 minutes.

View the entire glossary »

Close

End

So… did you LOVE it?

While Loving School is one of our 3 promises, it's really the secret sauce that Alpha relies on.

When kids love school, they don’t just show up, they SHOW UP. They work harder; they trust enough to step out of their comfort zone; they connect with each other; and they take ownership — in everything from their education to their space to their future. And it shows.

Ready to take the next step with Alpha? Sign-up for a campus tour!

Key Glossary Terms on This Page Loving School

One of Alpha’s 3 Promises: A love of school creates the atmosphere necessary for students to succeed. Everything else (learning, creativity, risk-taking, hard work) follows a love of school, so Alpha uses many innovative methods to keep kids engaged and -- yes, ask them -- in love with school.

View the entire glossary »

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Alpha Glossary

A
  • Alphas

    Alphas are school currency. Students can earn Alphas by achieving their daily goals or session goals.

  • Academic Continuum

    The Academic Continuum uses a student’s demonstrated comprehension to match them to adaptive apps and academic content. Students are placed on the continuum using their MAP scores, date of birth, and anecdotal information.

  • Adaptive Apps

    The best academic applications can analyze in real-time how their users are interacting and shift the challenges so that they are tough enough to keep users interested, without becoming so hard that users get frustrated. In short, they are personalized to keep a perfect pace in presenting new material and retaining mastery of old material.

  • Alpha Anywhere

    This remote mode of school allows students to keep up their academic work while not participating in daily, on-campus programming.

B
  • Beast Squad

    An incentivized event earned through a series of varied requirements, including winning Beast of the Week. Students can earn a limited spot on a day-long trip/adventure/experience outside the Alpha campus at the end of session.

  • Beast of the Week

    A weekly, level-specific competition among students to complete the most minutes of academic work in apps and computer science programs. Winners earn a spot on Beast Squad.

  • Black Widow

    The student who completes the most units in a given app in a given week wins Black Widow for that particular app. Given that there are multiple apps in each subject, there are multiple Black Widows awarded each week, and a student may win Black Widow in multiple apps. Black Widow winners also receive bonus points in Alpha Rewards.

C
  • Campus-wide Cleanup

    At the end of every day, students and staff do a quick tidy of the school building. This is one way we empower students to have responsibility over and respect for our shared spaces.

  • CRR

    Composition, Reading, and Rhetoric is a block of time in which students analyze AP-level texts that range from literary fiction to nonfiction essays. CRR also develops skills in writing, discussion, and critical consumption of non-academic media, particularly news media.

E
  • Endorsements

    Endorsements are used in LL and Linc to recognize and reinforce positive behavior. At the end of the day, students recognize one another for being independent, persistent, respectful, attentive, accepting of feedback, courageous, self-regulating, and collaborative. Students who have been endorsed by a peer get a sticker on their Level Resumé.

G
  • Goal Sheets

    Students organize the goals they want to achieve for the week or session on a level-specific sheet. These are used to track progress towards the completion of session goals.

  • Guides

    Unlike traditional teachers, Guides are not subject experts (though they certainly know their way around the Alpha apps). Guides are hired to inspire, motivate and connect with students to help them achieve their goals.

J
  • Jeopardy Board

    A collection of projects and challenges, organized by subject-matter category, that propels students toward developing life skills, both tangible and abstract. Check out level Jeopardy Boards on the Parent Portal to learn more.

L
  • Leaderboard

    Students compete with peers and themselves as they earn points on level-wide leaderboards. This effort-based motivational tool is used in earning rewards and privileges across levels.

  • Learn 2x Faster

    One of Alpha’s 3 Promises. Alpha uses adaptive technology, an innovative schedule, and self-agency to create an environment where students learn twice as fast as their counterparts in traditional schools. Students accomplish the work of a typical academic day in approximately 100 minutes.

  • Level

    Alpha values having students spend time in slightly wider age bands than traditional schools allow, so they can grow from and guide each other. There are 6 total Levels that cover kids from traditional Kindergarten through High School age.

  • Loving School

    One of Alpha’s 3 Promises: A love of school creates the atmosphere necessary for students to succeed. Everything else (learning, creativity, risk-taking, hard work) follows a love of school, so Alpha uses many innovative methods to keep kids engaged and -- yes, ask them -- in love with school.

M
  • MAP Test

    A web-based, adaptive assessment tool that provides an accurate measure of your child’s academic growth, independent of grade level or age. MAP is a high-quality alternative to state-based standardized assessments, and the data from biannual MAP tests helps us with goal setting and progress measurement.

  • Mastery

    Alpha uses a mastery-based education model, meaning that students dedicate additional time to study areas they have not mastered, while moving quickly through subjects they already grasp. We use several assessment tools to ensure that mastery is achieved and that students are working on content that is appropriate for them.

  • Mobile Squad

    An incentivized event earned through a series of varied requirements. Students earn the opportunity to go on a day-long trip/adventure/experience outside the Alpha campus. Mobile Squads have included going to Main Event to play laser tag and eat pizza, a Stunt Ranch to try their hand at actual movie special effects and stunts, and even an Astros game in Houston!

  • Motivational Model

    While almost everything about Alpha is self-directed, we’ve found that a variety of motivational models can be helpful in pushing kids to do their best. Each level has tools (ranging from leaderboards to paying kids “Alphas” when they achieve academic goals) specially designed to motivate students in their age range to do their best work.

P
  • Parent Council

    The Alpha Parent Council is a group of parents that fosters social and community engagement among Alpha families and supports and enriches Alpha programming. The Council has four areas of primary focus: Parent Outreach, Social Connections, Community Service, and Alpha Enrichment. To learn more about engaging with the parent council, visit the Parent Portal or contact parentcouncil@go-alpha.org.

  • 3 Promises

    Every student at Alpha is promised three things about their school career -- that they’ll love school, that they’ll learn twice as fast, and that they’ll learn life skills.

Q
  • Quick Break (Q-break)

    A 10-15 minute break in between each Core Skills period.

R
  • R.O.A.R.

    Learning Lab and Linc students participate in Reading On A Roll for daily small group reading instruction. This time is led by Alpha’s Reading Specialist Guide.

  • Running Buddy

    A mentorship program that gives one student an opportunity to coach and “run with” another student through mastery of a topic. This allows one student the opportunity to gain insight on new strategies and ideas from a peer who has previously accomplished this skill.

S
  • Self-Agency

    One of the most important lessons that students of all ages at Alpha are pushed to learn is the idea that they alone determine their destiny. Self-agency is the concept that kids are their own advocates, motivators, managers and analysts, empowered to do their best work because they want to -- not because a parent or teacher expects it.

  • Session

    The Alpha academic calendar operates in 7 week cycles. Students set long term goals to complete during this time and workshops run the duration of the session.

  • Session Goal

    Students and Guides set goals for how many units or levels a student will master in each app during the seven-week session. These long-term goals inform daily academic goals.

  • Shoutouts

    Community members recognize one another during Closing Meeting for achievements and efforts they noticed throughout that day.

  • Snack Shack

    Students can use their hard-earned Alpha coins to purchase treats from the Snack Shack.

T
  • Town Hall

    A community meeting where students and guides propose changes to shape the school environment. (i.e. change a rule, create a rule, etc.). The group votes on the issue to find a creative solution. Proposed changes are then submitted to the director.

Z
  • Zombie Break

    In the event of bad weather, students are permitted to use their devices for games or web surfing during free time in lieu of playing outside.

Alpha FAQ

General

What are Alpha’s three promises?

Alpha makes three promises to every one of our students (and by proxy, their parents): Love school, learn 2x faster, and learn life skills.

  • Students love school

    A love of school creates the atmosphere necessary for students to succeed. Everything else (learning, creativity, risk-taking, hard work) follows a love of school. Self-agency is built upon engagement, which requires investment and commitment to their work.

  • Students learn two times (2x) faster.

    Alpha utilizes adaptive technology, an innovative schedule, and self-agency to create an environment where students remain engaged and therefore learn twice as fast as their counterparts in traditional schools. Students accomplish the work of a typical academic day in 100 minutes, or two traditional class periods, as compared to the 7 hours of a traditional school.

  • Students learn life skills.

    Alpha students learn practical life skills, such as public speaking, giving and receiving feedback, personal finance, and entrepreneurship, via project-based workshops. Students tackle these projects as individuals, within a group, or as a part of a whole-level experience.

What do you mean by the Alpha Promise, “Love School?”

A love of school is the first principle of education, and creates the atmosphere necessary for students to succeed. Everything else (learning, creativity, risk-taking, hard work) follows from a love of school. But when we speak of loving school, we don’t mean that school is easy, or that we should go to Six Flags everyday, or that we cater to every student’s whims. In fact, if students really love school, they are more motivated to take on harder tasks that push them out of their comfort zone to grow their abilities. Here’s how we create an atmosphere that students love at Alpha:

  • Challenge & Competition: Students want to feel progress. They want to work on problems that challenge them at the outer edge of their capabilities. We do this through hands-on projects and personalized learning apps that meet each student at his or her level. Students want to compete with each other, so we create engaging competitions based on achievement in learning apps.

  • Connection: Students want to learn in an environment where they are known and loved. They need to be surrounded by adults who care about them deeply and expect them to be great every single day. It is with this in mind that we choose our Guides.

  • Sense of Place: Love of school is about the practices and spatial design that make any place exciting and thought-provoking. Moveable furniture? Check. Rituals built into the schedule? Check. We pay attention to the details when we create the physical and social environment at Alpha.

  • Ownership: Students must feel like they own their time at school, and that they are in the driver’s seat when it comes to both setting and achieving their goals. It is with this notion of “agency” that we developed everything we do at Alpha -- it’s even the reason our students are in charge of cleaning up the Alpha space twice each day.

    To learn more, view this blog post.

What do you mean by the Alpha Promise, “2x faster?”

2x learning means that our students spend half of the time that traditional schools spend on core academics, and in that time are able to achieve the 90th percentile or above on their MAP testing. Adaptive education technology has enabled us to meet students at their level and shape a path that fits their pace. A focused 100 minute period every morning, Core Skills, is spent using a variety of adaptive educational software.

What do you mean by the Alpha Promise, “Learn Life Skills?”

We teach life skills through a project-based curriculum. Students tackle these real life projects as individuals, with a group, or as a part of a level workshop. We orient our life skills curriculum around specific, teachable, and measurable skills. When students learn concrete skills, they build integrated, holistic qualities like “leadership” and “adaptability” along the way. And they gain the confidence to chart their own path through life.

How do levels work, and how do they relate to traditional school grades? When do I know it’s time for my child to jump up a level?

Students are placed into levels based on a combination of their age and academic progress. After each round of MAP testing*, MAP scores are reviewed along with each student’s age to determine their level placement. A student will never “level down” -- he or she will only stay in the same level or advance to the next one.

The LL and Linc programs are designed to cover kindergarten through second grade. While age ranges vary in each level, students typically spend two years in each subsequent level, with the exception of Level 4, which is designed to be a four-year program.

How does the lunch program work? Do you stay away from common allergens?

Families may sign up for Alpha’s daily farm-to-table lunch program at the beginning of the academic school year. The lunch program includes prepared menu items, along with some grab-and-go bento boxes as an alternative food choice for those participants who aren’t up for the day’s special. The program also offers vegan and gluten-free meals to accommodate students with dietary restrictions. However, Alpha is not a peanut-free or allergen-free environment.

Does Alpha have a Registered Nurse on staff?

Alpha does not have a registered nurse on campus. That said, all members of our staff are trained in the use of Epi-Pens and the monitoring of specific medical needs. Our staff are also CPR and first aid certified annually.

What is the daily schedule?

While Alpha schedules vary by session (and we are continuously optimizing them for our students!), they tend to follow the same rough format that’s outlined in the walk-through on this website. You can also review schedules for specific Alpha levels on the Parent Portal, or read a quick write-up on our Typical Day.

What items should my child bring to Alpha each day?

Students aren’t weighed down by textbook-filled backpacks at Alpha, no matter what the grade. Because the learning takes place online or in a group, the only required supplies are:

  • Shoes (you’d be shocked, but we feel the need to mention this :)
  • A water bottle -- our tiny push to save the environment!
  • A lunch if your child is not participating in Alpha’s lunch program
  • A snack if desired
  • Their school-issued laptop

What school supplies does my child need?

No giant list of glue sticks, color-coded folders or safety scissors here. For our LL, Linc, L1 and L2 students, Alpha provides everything students need to be successful -- laptops, headphones, pencils, paper and all workshop supplies. They may bring their own personal items -- think toys for breaks or fancy pencils to express their unique style -- but nothing else is required.

L3 and L4 students don’t need much, but they will need to supply their own graphing calculator, writing utensils and a notebook.

How large is the school, and what is the student breakdown?

Alpha currently enrolls 150 total students between Learning Lab and Level 3 and has nearly a 50/50 ratio of male to female students.

Academics

How does goal setting work for daily, weekly and session goals? How do I know my child’s goals aren’t too easy or hard?

We love giving students the agency and accountability of setting their own goals at Alpha. That said, these goals are not set in a vacuum. Our Guides evaluate each student’s current placement, rate of progress, and the ultimate goal of getting to 90th percentile of grade level, and then work with each student to ensure that they are walking down the right academic path. The daily, weekly and session goal setting process becomes a student-Guide negotiation, with constant coaching. Over time, our students get better at this, while our Guides continue to monitor and push them toward an appropriate level of challenge.

Sometimes goals will be too easy or too hard. We don’t consider this a failure -- in fact, we welcome these times, because realizing that something is easier or harder than you thought is one of many “on the job” ways our students learn and grow at Alpha. If our students don’t fail from time to time, it’s a sign that they aren’t pushing themselves hard enough. Because our school is a safe place to try new things and there’s no penalty for failure, it’s the perfect environment to practice the important life skills of grit and resilience.

Tell me more about MAP testing.

The MAP (also referred to as MAP Growth) assessment is a web-based, adaptive assessment tool that provides an accurate measure of your child’s academic growth, independent of grade level or age. MAP was developed by the Northwest Evaluation Association, (read more about it at NWEA). In short, this test is a high-quality alternative to state-based standardized assessments (e.g. STAAR). For more detail about why we use it, you can check out our blog.

MAP test data helps us with goal setting and progress measurement. It’s an adaptive test, which means it results in a different experience for each student, and we coach students to think about it as an extension of their regular Core Skills time. We want our students to be comfortable taking tests and for them to see these times as a way for us to better understand their personal learning strengths and growth areas.

How do I know my student is working on content that is appropriate for them?

Alpha has developed an Academic Continuum to ensure that our students progress properly throughout their academic career at our school. The Continuum uses a mastery-based education model, meaning that our students dedicate additional time to study areas they have not mastered, while moving quickly through subjects they already grasp. To understand where students currently belong on our Continuum, and therefore to ensure that they are working on content that is appropriate for them, we use three data sources -- the MAP test, the built-in assessment tools within our adaptive apps, and when necessary, Guide observation.

I don’t see Social Studies apps - how do my kids learn Social Studies?

From LL to L3, our students learn Social Studies in two ways -- from the non-fiction reading comprehension apps they work on during their Core Skills time, and via relevant workshops they choose in the afternoon, such as “Build a Civilization.”

Social Studies becomes more prescriptive at the “high school” level. L4 coursework includes AP Human Geography, AP World History, AP U.S. History and AP Government. Students may extend this coursework into Economics and Government coursework, depending on passion and aptitude.

Why don’t you give letter or numeric grades at Alpha?

Our L4 students are the only Alpha students who receive numeric grades and a grade point average (GPA) at Alpha, as grades can be helpful both in the college admission process and in preparation for more traditional grading in college. For the rest of our students, grades do not fit with our mastery model of education.

When working through our Continuum via a mastery model, students dedicate additional time to studying the concepts they have not mastered and move quickly past concepts they already fully grasp. There is no floor or ceiling on the content our students tackle, so if their test results show they need to go back to the basics in a subject, they will. If their results show they’re ready for advanced content, that’s what they’ll be matched with. The mastery model has been shown to dramatically improve educational outcomes without numeric grades or an association between age and content.

How do you motivate students? Can you explain the reward systems and how they all relate?

The primary motivators of our students are our Guides. Because of our app-based educational approach, Guides have the time and resources to focus more deeply on truly understanding and connecting with our students, building authentic relationships and encouraging them to put in their best effort.

We know that different things motivate different students to put in extra effort, especially in varying age ranges. As student experts, Guides collaborate to create systems that keep their group of students engaged and excited to press into new academic work. Some systems (also called Motivational Models) last a session and are replaced after those seven weeks. Some systems have been so universally successful that they have become an enduring trademark of their level.

While our motivational models vary per level, they have a few commonalities:

  1. They focus on effort, not outcome
  2. They reward positive behaviors instead of penalizing negative ones
  3. They are based on each student and his or her individual goals, rather than comparing students academically to each other

Tell me more about the workshops.

Because our students use their time more efficiently by using academic apps, they have the time to learn life skills, explore new interests and learn by doing in our afternoon workshops.

Afternoon workshops are oriented around a clear learning objective, and have clear criteria for successful completion. Specific information about your student’s current workshops can be found via the Parent Portal.

Our workshops vary widely in topic area and format. Students may learn principles of personal finance, or how to build and market an iOS app. That said, they have something in common -- along the way, they’ll also teach your student more holistic qualities, such as how to manage teams of peers or adults, have difficult conversations, give presentations, offer and receive productive feedback, make decisions probabilistically, or write a cold email so good it can’t be ignored. In short, our workshops are designed to engage each student, while giving all of our students the confidence to chart their own path in life.

Parent Involvement

How can I best support my child’s academics at Alpha?

While parents are always a valuable source of moral support and encouragement for our students, you can leave the rest to us. The best way parents can help at Alpha is by stepping back and empowering their kids. With Guide coaching, your children are capable of managing their schoolwork, picking workshops, meeting goals and asking the right questions -- we promise! If your student is struggling with motivation or content, his or her Guide will step in to help. That said, you should feel comfortable contacting your child’s Guide with any questions, concerns or suggestions at any time.

How often/when do parents meet with Guides and other staff?

Formal parent conferences take place after each round of MAP testing. These conferences typically take place during the school day. That said, we encourage any parents with questions, concerns, or suggestions to reach out to our Guides or other staff members via email at any point in the session. All staff can be expected to answer emails within 24 hours.

What should I access in the Parent Portal? How do I get there?

Everything! Need a form? Curious about workshop descriptions? Want to see photos of your student? Go to the portal! If you haven’t yet registered for the Parent Portal, you can do so here: https://parents.go-alpha.org/wp-login.php?action=register

How do I know when my child completed a task or goal? Is there a way for me to have “parent access” to the apps?

Curious about your child’s progress within the apps? Don’t hesitate to have your child take you through his or her daily and weekly goals, and even show you inside individual apps. You can also reach out to your student’s Guide for more information, or wait for progress reports at the end of every session, which note goal completion. As for parent access to individual apps -- no way, José. You’ve chosen Alpha because you believe in our methods, and those methods include trusting the apps and the Guides to monitor student progress and ensure you have nothing to worry about!

What should my kid do if they are stuck on an app?

Getting stuck on an app is something we’ve all experienced as adults, and we expect it to happen with our students. It’s the process of getting “unstuck” that helps teach our children “how to learn” and helps them take responsibility for their own progress. Students are given coaching on how to access the resources to help them get unstuck, such as some common troubleshooting questions:

  • Did you use the help function in the app?
  • Did you read the explanation in the app?
  • Did you use the online and offline resources that are readily available to you? (offline being tools such as a number line or manipulables for LL)
  • Have you asked a friend?
  • Have you asked a Guide?

Policies

What is the shadow and interview process like, and how do you choose who to accept at Alpha?

Alpha’s enrollment process is simple. A family comes to tour the campus, the student spends a day in his or her prospective level as a shadow student, and an enrollment decision is made by Alpha staff.

There are a few academic requirements. For example, we require incoming LL students to be able to recognize all letters and numbers. Level 3 students must also take informal math assessments to determine proficiency. But for the most part, we use the shadow day as an opportunity to determine whether your child will be successful in the Alpha environment. Alpha Guides and support staff spend time with shadow students and observe whether they are able to work independently, embrace new challenges, and treat their classmates with respect. At the same time, your child uses the shadow day to determine whether this unique academic environment feels right to them.

What are the main Alpha school rules?

Alpha operates on a high-personal-accountability model. Students are expected to act with honesty and care as they uphold the following values within the community.

  • Alpha community members do not lie, cheat or steal.
  • Alpha community members are responsible, loyal and considerate.

Does Alpha have an attendance policy?

We’re proud to say that attendance is not a real issue at Alpha. Because Alpha students LOVE school, they generally want to be here! While there is no official attendance policy, Guides do monitor absences when they begin to impede on a student’s productivity or ability to participate in a workshop.

Can my child really work from anywhere? What are the requirements for Alpha Anywhere?

Our goal is to make the Core Skills in Alpha Anywhere as similar to Core Skills at school as possible. That means that even though these students are not on campus, they are still responsible for setting their own goals, choosing when they switch between subjects, and having a daily check-in with their Guide. To that end, the only requirements for Alpha Anywhere are solid internet access and the ability to check in with a Guide daily during school hours.

Are there consequences for not hitting goals?

Alpha’s motivational systems focus on positive rewards instead of negative consequences. These positive rewards are carefully designed for individual learning levels and kids, and continue to adapt to ensure effectiveness.

How do I find information about the day-to-day policies of each campus?

Parents can review the Alpha Campus Handbooks on the Parent Portal. Don’t have access? Register here: https://parents.go-alpha.org/wp-login.php?action=register

Level 4

How are GPAs calculated in L4?

Our L4 students are the only Alpha students who receive numeric grades and a grade point average (GPA) at Alpha, as grades can be helpful both in the college admission process and in preparation for more traditional grading in college. For more information about how L4 grades are calculated, click here.

What is AlphaX in L4?

We believe that students can design and execute wildly ambitious plans to learn and achieve anything they want, provided they are willing to put in the work. AlphaX, or our subject matter expertise work, is not only an opportunity for each student to learn about something they love; it will also set them apart from the competition when applying to colleges.

Every L4 student at Alpha chooses their AlphaX project as part of their first L4 year. They pick an area of interest, set an ambitious goal within that area, and create a learning plan that will allow them to reach that goal. You can learn more about AlphaX here.

How does Alpha tackle Foreign Language?

Students complete their coursework for foreign languages via online classes. This coursework satisfies the academic requirements of top colleges. In addition to this online work, all L4 students complete an immersion program that brings the language to life and gives them a chance to engage with new cultures. More information on the foreign language program is forthcoming.