I don’t know why, but I find it fascinating to read about entrepreneurial ventures in education that launch with dazzling publicity, then quietly disappear. For some reason, entrepreneurs with no education experience think it should be easy to revolutionize schooling. Bill Gates has been reinventing American education for about 20 years. Laurene Powell Jobs started the Emerson Collective and the XQ Initiative to reinvent the high school and put on a show on all three networks to launch. SamuelAbrams wrote an excellent book about the high-flying adventures of Chris Whittle and the Edison Project, called Education and the Commercial Mindset. Joel Klein persuaded Rupert Murdoch to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in his plan to revolutionize American education with a program called Amplify, which Murdoch unloaded in a fire sale to Laurene Powell Jobs (Klein now works for an online health insurance company called OSCAR, founded by Jared Kushner’s brother). Jonathan Knee wrote a book called Class Clowns: How the Smartest Investors Lost Billions in Education.

And here is a new entry about the dangers of amateurs reinventing education.

Peter Greene tells the story of the glorious rise and inglorious descent of AltSchool.

It was founded by alumni of Google. They raised large sums of money from investors. What could go wrong?

Greene begins:

You remember AltSchool, the miraculous Silicon Valley technoschool that was going to Change the Game. We’ve checked in on them from time to time, and it’s time to see what has happened since the Altschool ship ran aground on the shores of reality a while ago.

After two years of tinkering and tweaking, AltSchool burst on the scene with a flurry of PR in 2015. Founded by Max Ventilla, formerly of Google, and Bharat Mediratta, also a Googlite, it was going to bring technology and personalization to new heights. Like a wired-up free school, it would let students and teachers just sort of amble through the forest of education. Teachers would capture moments of demonstrated learning on video, students would do work on modules on computer, and it would all be crunched in a back room full of IT whizzes who would churn out personalized learning stuff for the students. The school set up some branch schools, lab schools, hither and yon. All the big names wanted to invest– Zuckerberg, Powell Jobs, etc.

They had money. They had ideas. All they were lacking was knowledge and experience.

You will want to read the rest. It’s a cautionary tale for other entrepreneurs.