Academy For Software Engineering

AfseSix weeks ago I wrote a post talking about a new NYC public high school called the Academy For Software Engineering. I wrote that post the day after Mayor Mike Bloomberg announced the creation of this new high school in his State Of The City speech.

In the six weeks since that post, a lot has happened and I want to give everyone an update.

First, and most importantly, we have a leader for the school. His name is Seung Yu. His first name is pronounced like sing. He's been in several new high schools working directly for the Principal waiting for his opportunity to lead a new school and now he has found it. I've been working very closely with Seung for the past four weeks and I'm really impressed with his passion and commitment and considerable talents. 

We are now recruiting the first class of 9th graders. Today and tomorrow are big days as we will be at the citywide High School Fair at Martin Luther King Jr High School on the Upper West Side. The fair is on from 10am to 2pm both days this weekend and Seung and I will be there along with many of the folks on the school's advisory board. Next week on Tuesday night there is an open house for parents and students at Google's office and next weekend there is an open house for parents and students at NYU. And there is one more open house the following week at NYU. If you know any students who are going into ninth grade and are a fit for this school, please tell them and their parents to come to the High School Fair and the Open Houses. That's the best way for them to get into this school.

We also have a full blown web presence now. We have a website, a twitter, and a facebook page. I'd like to thank Sean Gallagher for his tireless and excellent work on all of our physical and virtual brand presence. Sean is creative, technical, and hilarious. His sense of humor and vision will be plastered on this school for many years to come.

I'd also like to thank AVC community member Larry Erlich who left a comment on that first post six weeks ago that he was gifting the school a handful of web domains. That was the gift that kept giving and giving. With Larry's help, we assembled a bunch of domains, decided to use, and lit that one up. Larry has also helped with a bunch of stuff around getting our web presence live. He's an example of what makes this community so great and why it is such a force.

There are literally dozens of people in the NYC tech community who have given massive amounts of their time for this school. The advisory board has people on it from many of the big and small tech companies in NYC. It is led by Evan Korth of NYU who has become a full partner in this effort. Evan's research interest is K-12 computer science education and he's getting a real-time live immersion in that right now.

Finally, I need to call out the NYC DOE. It's easy to dismiss government as big, slow, dumb, bureaucratic, and ineffective. I know I've been guilty of that myself. But I have to tell you that the DOE has impressed me again and again in this effort. The folks we work with are smart, committed, decisive, and most surprisingly, they are risk takers. There are too many of them to mention here, but they know who they are and I am extremely grateful for their efforts to get this school off the ground.

I'll end with a video that the folks at Makerbot (also on the advisory board) put together to explain this school and what its all about to the parents and students who are considering it. Please pass this on to any 8th graders you know in the NYC school system that you think might like to go to a high school and learn how to make software. 


Comments (Archived):

  1. Dave Pinsen

     Congratulations, it looks impressive so far. What happened to that NYC comp sci teacher who partly inspired this (if memory serves)? Does he have any involvement with it now?

    1. fredwilson

      Yes. He’s on our advisory board and we are working with mike to figure out how to come up with a curriculum that can eventually be rolled out to a much larger number of high schools

  2. Clay Hebert

    So exciting and exactly more of the type of education we need, both here in NYC and everywhere. 

  3. William Mougayar

    Larry (LE) is amazing to work with, as I also had to pleasure of being the recipient of his generosity, not just in domain acquisitions but in priceless advice. That website is very cool btw- really well done, clear and sets the tone and image of the School.

    1. LE

      Thanks William I appreciate that and I’m glad I could help (by the way I still need that “username” from you!).

      1. William Mougayar

        I thought I did. I’ll resend 🙂

  4. William Mougayar

    This school is going to unleash an amazing set of talent that will have the chance to really make a quantum difference in creating new and innovative companies for the NYC region. In essence, this pushes down the access to learning software engineering to a much earlier stage. You don’t have to wait for university to become a great developer. You didn’t say that you’re part of that video. I won’t say what #mins you appear at 🙂

  5. SimpleSocial

    Excellent! Curious if there will be an active effort in recruiting to have a gender and ethnicity balance in the students?

    1. fredwilson

      Yes. We chose the folks in the booth today and tomorrow with that in mind

      1. Dave Pinsen

         Good luck with that. Did you see the NYT article on Stuyvesant last week? Here’s its current demographic mix: – 72.5% Asian – 24% White – 2.4% Hispanic – 1.2% Black

        1. fredwilson

          Stuyvesant is a treasure. But we need to do more for the students who can’t get in there

          1. Cam MacRae

            Will you be using the SHSAT? 

          2. fredwilson

            There is no test to get into AFSE

          3. Cam MacRae

            @fredwilson:disqus Good. You’re already a long way towards towards that goal.

          4. BillSeitz

            I agree a big problem is the huge gap between the great schools and all the others (outside a few “good” neighborhoods). In my son’s middle school, as a 6th grader, he could be in any of 5 years of math, regardless of his level in other subjects. That kind of flexibility is key. (And it’s not like his school is any bigger than a NYC public middle school.)

      2. Guest

        Out of curiosity, why not a purely meritocratic approach? Isn’t that what we want to promote in our society?

  6. Dave W Baldwin

    Good job to everyone… and keep what is going on in the open to inspire others.

  7. mikenolan99

    Great job – my son is a senior at the University of Minnesota – a Computer Science major.  I can only imagine where he’d be with an opportunity like this.Look forward to following the success… 

  8. Drew Meyers

    Wow..what an awesome project/initiative.Down the line, would be totally awesome to see high school students working on non profit websites as part of their education..

  9. Richard

    Wow, good luck with the recruitment. I was listening to an TED talk yesterday on the topic of the learning styles of introverts vs extroverts. Hope that the program will not jump onto the everything has to be worked on in groups bandwagon. The introvert creative side of people needs space to grow!

  10. Rohan

    LE – you the man!

  11. heavenlee

    So inspiring to see ideas become reality, especially in education. Hats off to everyone involved!

  12. Richard

    NYC has a few design high schools. Why not give the cs students an important first lesson about collaboration and have the design high schools compete to make a logo for the school.  



      1. Richard

        Dear Grimlocks Mother, Monster Son’s Report CardA+ ComprehensionA+ Originality

    2. Brandon Burns

      or why not have the design kids design the things the tech kids build. my biggest gripe with startup folks is that, despite consumers gravitating towards well designed things, many (but certainly not all) of them have a complete lack of respect for designers. being able to code is only one of the core skill sets needed to build software. those 1s and 0s mean nothing if the interface doesn’t make sense to the end user.

  13. Mike Kijewski

    Again, Fred. This is awesome. Really excited to see you involved in this.I wish I was in 8th grade.

  14. sigmaalgebra

    From the video clip:Liz Arum: “Programming is about problem solving. It’s about critically thinking about a challenge, about breaking it up into pieces, and putting it back together except celebrating successes.”Yup!When I was in grad school in applied math, some of my profs wanted to teach some computing. I told them that I didn’t think they were teaching the right stuff. They asked what I thought that they should teach, and I said:”A programmer bridges between the real problem and a computer-based solution. The key to the solution is to look at the real problem and see how to break it into pieces. Then the software for the pieces should be independent, small, efficient, easy to document, understand, check, and test, and robust to reasonable changes in the real problem, relatively so on each of these.” or some such.So, my opinion has to be that Ms. Arum got it right!And for her “celebrating successes”, that’s right, too: It’s great fun to see the software work, partly because there is a feeling of power when it is so easy to run, invoke, launch, or whatever the software, just a click, typed command, etc., and then have the software do what was intended — big results from small efforts!It’s fun stuff.But I would encourage the school and the students to continue with math and science since they may be even more important for the future exploitation of computing than software engineering alone. E.g., JPG compression? Sure: Two dimensional discrete Fourier transforms! Such Fourier transforms? Sure, projections onto mutually orthogonal axes, in principle countably infinitely many. Why is this good? Because in an important sense it leads to the best possible approximations, that is, the best compression.

    1. jenny

      i think you should send a mail to the head of the school explaining why maths and sciende are relevant. you made lucid points

      1. sigmaalgebra

        > should send a mail to the head of the schoolI thought of that! Then, before I finished sending, I thought of a much better and more powerful way to reach many of the students and their parents, the head of the school, and also the leaders in the whole effort, Mayor Bloomberg, Fred Wilson, etc. That way? Sure, just post here on!

      2. ShanaC

        But mail is so expensive compared to Email!

        1. sigmaalgebra

          But, but, but Shana, if I sent you regular mail, then you would get to touch and feel a sheet of paper that I touched!  You would get the tactile sense!  The mail would be physical, not just bits!  You would have the original, unique, 100% true, died in the wool, genuine copy you could frame, display, and cherish forever! Think of the provenance! Just think of the increasing value, rising and rising, exponentially over time!Just think of ‘Antiques Road Show’!Why, someday, I confess, in the far distant future, that cherished, coveted communication along with a dime might be able to cover as much as a ten cent cup of coffee! I’m exaggerating, of course!Don’t worry: I won’t send!You did ask for something “funny”, right! I’m doing my best!

          1. Cam MacRae

            Well too be fair, just how will a library/museum acquire your papers if there… are no papers?

          2. sigmaalgebra

            Ah, drats, foiled again:  You discovered why I use e-mail and not paper!  Can’t fool the community; it’s too sharp! 

          3. ShanaC

            I mean, antiques road show is awesome. (and you’re funniness is doing well)

    2. leigh

      Yes and for anyone worried about single focused schools – my daughter goes to a arts high school in Toronto in the drama program — it is one of the top public high schools in Toronto and has more students enter engineering and sciences then they do humanities and the arts.  Schools that have a focus creative problem solving and critical thought are the only schools that give kids a foundation for life.  Bring on change in this world because they will be able to break it down, understand it and adapt with it.

      1. sigmaalgebra

        > Schools that have a focus creative problem solving and critical thought are the only schools that give kids a foundation for life.There’s a point to that.But also part of “life” is making money, and for that now software engineering is one of the more promising directions. So, education might teach some software engineering.What education would, could, and should be is tough to describe. E.g., there are some lessons I had to learn the hard way after formal schooling. But the lessons would be really fast and easy to teach (although sometimes not politically correct). So I very much wish I’d gotten the lessons in school. Alas, the lessons are not available in formal education at all or at least not in the mainstream.What gets taught tends to be old stuff, some ‘rationally’ solid, some not. Call the old stuff box A. Out there in the future, decades from now, is material in box C that no one knows now but people will need to know then. E.g., say, in 1980 the effects of the Internet now; the Internet existed in 1980, but likely no one then saw what it has become now.So, now at the boundary between boxes A and C is box B, and box B is not solid and is awash in confusion and uncertainty.Now, here’s a fundamental point: Over time we increase the content of box A. Good. But given box A, there will still be boxes B and C. Net, we will still be struggling with the confusion and uncertainty of box B on the way to box C. No matter how big box A gets, we will still be struggling with B on the way to some of C.So, one thing to teach is how to struggle with the confusion and uncertainty of box B, that will always be with us. Much of how to do relatively well with this struggle is your “critical thinking”; much of how to do well adding to box A is your “creative problem solving”.Those points granted, again, it’s important to teach enough from box A so that the students can get jobs: Being a sagacious, wise, broke philosopher is not good!And some of those lessons already in box A that could be taught easily and that I, and likely a large fraction of people, are forced to learn the hard way would good to teach. Getting those lessons into the curriculum would be difficult. Gee, maybe someday I should start a blog to pass out some of those lessons! That’s on the TODO list after my business is successful!An additional point, especially for the next few decades of a current student, is how to do high quality learning largely independently.I’d insert one more point about educational content: There are two cases, (1) good knowledge that should know but don’t and (2) false ‘knowledge’ that do know (believe) but shouldn’t. Case (2) is much worse than case (1): While case (1) can be expensive, case (2) can be disastrous and even fatal. For case (2), one could believe in, say, crackpot medical cures and set aside some effective treatments of current high quality medicine. Yes, hopefully the skills at critical thinking are good enough to permit one to separate cases (1) and (2).Good luck to your daughter. It appears that she has some good advice at home!

  15. Tom Labus

    Congrats!!Will kids be exposed to history and literature also?

    1. sigmaalgebra

      History in a Nutshell:  Get a chronology from the big bang to the present.For human history, tracing parts of DNA, there is evidence that humans walked out of Africa about 40,000 years ago, went mostly east, and then had one branch go northwest to Europe and the other go east to Asia and eventually the Americas.  A guess is that early on humans stayed close to the oceans, rivers, and lakes and there ate a lot of seafood, especially shellfish.  Staying close to the oceans led humans to Patagonia surprisingly quickly.Apparently some of the most important resources for the development of civilization were agriculture, domestic animals, and metals.  The most important plants in agriculture were wheat, rice, and corn.  For animals — horses, cows, sheep, goats, pigs, chickens, dogs, and cats.  For metals — gold, copper, tin, and iron.Civilization tended to spring up along rivers, e.g., the Nile in Egypt, the Tigris and Euphrates in Iraq, the Yangtze in China.A guess is that arithmetic was invented for accounting and geometry, for land surveying.Apparently all the civilizations in temperate latitudes discovered that they needed a calendar to know when to plant and harvest crops and that such a calender was available from observing the stars, especially where at dawn and dusk selected stars crossed the horizon.By the Romans, humans were good at large scale political, social, economic, engineering, and military organization.Tyrannical monarchies were common.  By 1776, the US Founding Fathers saw how to have a better political organization — our Constitution with its three branches and checks and balances.Large scale political, social, economic, and military organization remain dangerous, and history can show many of the dangers that should be avoided. 



        1. sigmaalgebra

          My description was laughably short, and yours was much shorter!  But you are not wrong!  The history teachers are likely yelling and screaming in protest.  Like I was yelling and screaming when my college history course spent way too much time before Rome and never made it into the 20th century.

    2. sigmaalgebra

      Literature in a Nutshell:  Humans are heavily emotional; the emotions are heavily what provides motivation to do things and to think, understand, and create, fear to avoid danger, join groups, romance and sex to be successful at parenting, etc.Civilization has been powerful for humans, the main reason there are 6 billion humans in the world who totally dominate all other forms of life.  For civilization, humans are heavily social.  As part of being social, humans like stories.  The stories can provide vicarious emotional experiences about life.  To see how such stories work, just watch some good movies. 



    3. fredwilson

      Yes. The standard core curriculum plus software engineering

  16. Stephenzeek

    I love this – that you were able to make this happen so quickly in a public bureaucracy is a big achievement. My only reservation about sending my children there would be that I want them to learn to read and write effectively as well as learn a marketable skill. Call me old fashioned.

    1. fredwilson

      The school will have the standard English and history curriculum

      1. William Mougayar

        And teaching about NUTRITION is also another neglected topic that isn’t taught early enough. At least, one could start by having healthy cafeterias and banning certain junk foods. 

        1. leigh

          Have your kids watch Super Size Me.  Cee wouldn’t eat McDonalds after that and became ‘healthy lunch’ obsessed (and still is 🙂

          1. William Mougayar

            That was a good movie. I think more of the public should understand that, but NA is full of junk food places. A new mall opens and it gets filled with the same junk food outlets. That’s crazy. You can’t walk into an airport and expect decent food, etc…

          2. Donna Brewington White

            My kids were impacted as well.  But, more importantly, so was my husband — the main culprit since the kids were not able to drive themselves!

          3. leigh

            i know this makes me a terrible mom – but we have a fishing camp about 6 hrs. North of Toronto — she won’t let us go to mcD’s. It’s actually a problem! You know how many options there are when you go that far north and you don’t know which greasy spoon might have changed management over the winter?

          4. Donna Brewington White

            That’s the one thing about Mickey D’s — at least you know what you are getting. The salads aren’t so bad, or don’t they have grilled chicken wrapped in a tortilla?I don’t judge you. Vacations have their own set of rules — or lack thereof. Same with amusement parks.

        2. Donna Brewington White

          I wholeheartedly agree, William!  Nutrition needs to be part of basic education.  As I learn more about nutrition, I am continually surprised at the ways in which it impacts our lives. My kids are all at schools that have a strong nutritional focus and for this I am grateful.  To be fair, three of them are at private schools so this is not as surprising.  But the public elementary school that my youngest son attends is among the strictest of the three schools.  But, then, that’s Malibu, one of the most health conscious places on the planet..  

          1. William Mougayar

            That’s good to hear. This is needed in particular in NA where the junk food mentality & availability prevail.

  17. andyidsinga

    thats very cool. awesome of you to higlight so many of the people and orgs that pulled it together.

  18. Vernon Niven

    Wow, congratulations. What a great opportunity for the children of NYC.Have you thought about franchising/duplicating this model across the country (non profit charter school model, perhaps)? Personally I would prefer that we just upgrade our public schools (replace part of votech with systems engineering)… but that might take 20 years to accomplish down here in FL.Vernon Niven

    1. fredwilson

      We own and are using so yes we’ve thought about expanding this

  19. Aviah Laor

    Least important, but finally I have something to forward to people who ask me why I enjoy to code.

  20. Carl J. Mistlebauer

    I think this is a really exciting time for NYC because initiatives like this cannot be limited to just software engineering; this type of effort spawns so many to try new things and ways in a variety of educational endeavors.While I may squabble over not losing focus of the benefits of a liberal arts education and our need to always focus on basic skills I cannot help but admire the efforts the folks of NYC have put into their educational system and the desire to make a difference.This is something every community should be doing within their own school systems!I also have to commend all the members of the AVC community who pitched in and helped out! One of the things that always fascinated me was how local communities respond to disasters, and as we were in the path of the deadly weather yesterday I am out assisting in the clean up, so it really is good to see communities come together for great causes rather than just disasters.

  21. DanielHorowitz

    Sounds amazing. Thanks to everyone involved. 

  22. sigmaalgebra

    It looks like when Mayor Bloomberg, Fred Wilson, and a few others get behind a good public project, then good things happen quickly. 

  23. Aaron Klein

    There should be one of these in every city in America. I’m inspired by what you’ve done, Fred…and I hope to be able to follow this model in my community in the future.

    1. LE

      I’m pretty sure that will happen and that this is only the beginning.

      1. Aaron Klein


      2. William Mougayar

        Absolutely, I know what you’re thinking…afsechicago.orgafsela.orgafsedetroit.orgafsedenver.orgafsemiami.orgetc…$$ $$

      3. awaldstein

        Great contribution.I realized sourcing domains for a project how much I don’t know. Nudge nudge LE…would make a useful post or two on the subject.

  24. John Revay

    Good photo of the event today!/mrSe… Fred & Joanne Wilson making investments – not only financially, but equally important w/ time, energy and passion.#PayitForward

    1. fredwilson

      We are both products of the public school system#payitforward

      1. Prokofy

         Did you send your kids to public schools?

        1. fredwilson

          yes, for a timebut they aren’t products of public schools like the gotham gal and I are

  25. Matthew Lenhard

    Wow this sounds awesome, hopefully if you’re successful with this school it will spread to other states as well. In Delaware, where I’m from, most of our school’s are outdated and poorly managed. You can count on one hand the number of decent schools. Luckily, I was fortunate enough to attend one of these schools, but there’s plenty of kids who cannot. If you don’t have the money for a private school and you don’t get into our local charter school you’re pretty much out of luck. Sounds like this one could be be a game changer though. Keep us updated, I’m exited to see how it goes

    1. sigmaalgebra

      Not really “out of luck”:  Parents can still make a HUGE difference.

      1. Matthew Lenhard

        ahh very true, but if the kids don’t have active or involved parents there’s not much else, they personally can do.

        1. sigmaalgebra

          Here’s something “they personally can do”:From ‘pop culture’, the K-12 students can hear about pop music and basketball and get really devoted and good at both, even if their parents are not much involved with either. There are cases when kids do that!Soooo, if a kid hears about software and somehow gets some access, now maybe via a Raspberry for $35 or whatever, then in principle he could get really devoted and good at software. E.g., he could write a simple program in C or Visual Basic .NET, look at the Microsoft intermediate language and then the Intel instructions, one instruction at a time, and conclude “Eureka! So THAT’S how it works! How hard was that?”.Or, maybe he is darned tired of being scowled at and down graded by the teachers, who REALLY like the girls with the really neat papers, really good verbal skills, and much superior social skills, is totally torqued off, wants to be sure not to take it anymore, happens to have a good plane geometry book, looks at the three exercises the teacher assigns each day and regards them as too easy to be worth attention, refuses to write out anything for the teacher, mostly sleeps in class, works all the more difficult exercises and turns to the back of the book for the more difficult supplementary exercises and works all of those, in the margin of the book, on whatever pieces of paper, ALL, 100%, not once for the whole year a single exception.Then, wonder of wonders, in the achievement test on plane geometry he is at the top of the class. Same for the SAT math in the graduating class, not 800 but over 750, actually twice. Then with those SAT math scores, he gets into a college with a bang up math department, gets ‘honors in math’ and 800 on the GRE math test. Etc. It could happen!Except for one little problem! Maybe one of the supplementary exercises takes the weekend, from Friday before dinner to Sunday after dinner. Finally he gets it. Then on Monday, the teacher works at the board an easy exercise with the same figure, and at the end he raises his hand (first and last time in the class) and says: “There’s another exercise with the same figure on page …”. Twenty minutes later the teacher is a case of rising temperature and blood pressure, exhorting the class to “Think, class, THINK”. There’s a knock at the door, and when the teacher returns to the quiet class, there’s still no progress. Not wanting to be accused of ruining the whole class, he raises his hand and starts to give a solution. The teacher interrupts and shouts, “You knew how to do it all the time.”. Of COURSE he did! Special case of a more general situation: He knew how to solve every non-trivial exercise in the book so far. No way would he have asked otherwise. Somehow the teacher never wanted to hear the rest of the solution. Amazing!Later there was a challenging problem from outside the class, how to inscribe a square in a semicircle. Hmm. Circumscribing a semicircle around a square is easy, so go off on the side and do that. Then that figure is similar to the desired one, and by constructing a fourth proportional can get the crucial length in the given figure. He shows the teacher this solution after class as a check, but the teacher says, “You can’t do that.”.Later he gets another problem, given triangle ABC, construct D on AB and E on BC so that the length AD = DE = EC. Again, finding the crucial length in the given figure is a challenge, but constructing a figure similar to the desired one is not difficult, and then the crucial length is available from a fourth proportional. The technique is known as ‘simitude’ although rarely covered in K-12. So, he rediscovered simitude, twice, the first time with the square and semicircle problem. The teacher was wrong.Such things could happen.Actually such a thing could happen in a relatively good public high school where nearly all the students graduated, 97% of them went to college, and one year three of them ran against each other for President of the Freshman Class at Princeton, but with a math teacher one of the nastiest humans on the planet!Small lesson: For a student, with mathematical proof, if he can give solid proofs of his results, then there is a good chance he can win even if some teacher is determined to cut him down. Tougher to win in English literature where there is no mathematical proof! This lesson can now be generalized to software: If his program runs correctly, then it will be tough to be successful trying to cut him down.Can parts of academics see their role as cutting down some of the students, in ways that are ugly, nasty, destructive, unfair, and tyrannical? Yup.Another lesson: For a motivated student, in math a good book and some quiet time studying can be enough. Generalization: That technique has long been a major source of learning in software in the US.Another lesson: Respected national tests such as the SAT and GRE can cut through a lot of total nonsense within the halls of some academic buildings. Generalization: At the Ph.D. level, just PUBLISH the work and then let the faculty try to say it is not a good dissertation. Application: To ‘hack’ education, one key is some respected national tests.Another lesson: Even if you are correct, in some cases especially if correct, expect some people to work to cut you down. Then, have some good criteria to know when are correct, be quite sure are correct, charge on anyway, and have confidence that still have good chances of success.Another lesson: There are a lot of influences in our society available to motivate a student, and a motivated student can do a lot, even with parents not providing much direct guidance and even with a teacher doing their best to cut him down. With Raspberry, the movie about Facebook, the fame of Google, lots of TV dramas with major roles for computing, etc., some students should be able to pick up a ball, in math, physics, software, music, art, entrepreneurship, etc., and run with it.

          1. Matthew Lenhard

            Agreed, a motivated person in America can accomplish anything.

  26. Max Yoder

    Congrats to everyone involved.I liked your comment about the DOE, Fred. We do give government a lot of crap for being ineffective, slow, and all that jazz. Much of it is probably deserved. But it is interesting to see that, in this instance, when you and your partners were there to hold people accountable, things went really smoothly.Our biggest problem with government may not be that it has inadequate folks at its helm or too much bureaucracy surrounding it, but that it’s much too big to be held truly accountable.

    1. John Revay

      Good comment Max – agree w/ you about gov. lots of crap – I think there are many times they deserve it ( I think most people who work for the gov forget who the customer is).However in this case it sounds like they were real partners in getting this done – Doing their job educating the children of NYC!

      1. Max Yoder

        Yeah, I get the feeling that a lot of folks pursue governmental positions with the best intentions—thinking they’ll truly be able to effect positive change where others have failed—only to be worn down by the red tape and rampant favor games.Stories like this give me hope, though.

    2. LE

      “But it is interesting to see that, in this instance, when you and your partners were there to hold people accountable, things went really smoothly.”I agree with what you are saying. I also think there is a bit of a “Hawthorne Effect” going on here and that’s a lesson to be learned and applied elsewhere. The people involved are special. And the way they have been singled out and treated has made them feel even more special. They are rising to the challenge, and this will be only the start of more great things to come with this school and those that follow.

      1. Max Yoder

        I hear ya 🙂 And thanks for introducing me to the Hawthorne effect—I’d never heard of it, and I love social phenomena like that. Great job helping out with the domains, too, LE. You should be proud.

      2. sigmaalgebra

        Once I was working in a building, and there was a proposal to study an operation carefully with a lot observation. No control group was proposed.I wrote the head guy and told him, congratulations, he was about to rediscover the Hawthorne effect.The location of the building? Sure, Hawthorne, NY! Maybe the Hawthorne effect discovered by Bell Labs, Western Electric, or some such was in a different Hawthorne. Whatever, the ‘irony’ was too much!The head guy wrote me back that my note was the first he had heard of the Hawthorne effect. I believe he altered the design of the study!I had learned about the Hawthorne effect from my wife: Her Ph.D. was in essentially mathematical sociology where her program worked hard on experimental design where the mistake of the effect was a 101 level lesson.Actually, it may be fair to say that, in the ‘operation’ of this thread, the observations are more complicated, more like much of a significant whole community getting behind something; and that doesn’t have to be a temporary thing like some old time and motion study. I mean, getting Mayor Bloomberg, Fred Wilson, Google, and more behind the project will provide long lasting and powerful collections of motivations, inspirations, carrots, sticks, etc. It’s like it is all happening in MSG where everyone has to bring their A game.For the usual horror stories about K-12 education, don’t even think about it! So, somehow I suspect that somehow they won’t have to wait seven years for each 10 students to share one five year old computer or do without copies of software that usually companies have to pay big bucks for! When they need a Cisco LAN switch, some application level router, some system management and monitoring software, or an intrusion detection and packet filtering box, I suspect they will get one! Of course, they will want to know that any Web pages they develop will work, complete with cookies, hidden fields, JavaScript, HTML5. on each of a large collection of client devices so will have to have at least one of each device — somehow I suspect they will get the devices!And they won’t be interested just in Web 2.0 development but will also care about software for trading desks at hedge funds including high performance, high frequency trading, for on-line banking, for automated manufacturing, for various aspects of security, etc.The local university computer science departments may have to look over their shoulders! Silicon Valley may have to pay attention, too!

  27. kirklove

    Awesome across the board.

  28. matthughes

    “It’s easy to dismiss government as big, slow, dumb, bureaucratic, and ineffective.”I’m usually the first to do that…But local governments supporting a focused local program is a good thing – this is a great example.

  29. panterosa,

    So cool. I live in the area and so will spread the news.Along the lines of teach someone to fish and they will be able to feed themselves, solve someone’s problem and they will be eternally grateful and will never forget you. The bigger the problem, the more they remember you.#payitforward

  30. aarondelcohen

    Fred and Evan (hope you’re reading)Exceptional progress.  I cannot believe this will be an option for my current 3rd and 6th graders My son is at 276 a two-year-old battery park middle school that is exceptional and demonstrates how vibrant school startups can be.I will tell you that I’m spending real time with these classes and that we have a long way to go at making sure kids think it’s cool to program.  Mainstream media remains our enemy at making programming “cool”.  My kids and their friends still believe geeks and nerds are not the popular kids.I have some ideas for how to address this, but I think one thing your team (including Seung) can do as be as transparent as possible with what you think kids in elementary and middle school should be doing (if anything?).  As career Internet executive, I still feel underequipped even to help my kids on codecademy.    Imagine, how most non-engineer non-tech industry parents feel.  Happy to help on this front of of course,Aaron

    1. fredwilson

      We met a lot of kids today, including a lot of girls, who think programming is cool. I was really happy to see that



        1. fredwilson


          1. FAKE GRIMLOCK


          2. fredwilson


  31. ShanaC

    Will the students need to sit the same exam as the one for Bronx Science, Stuy, etc.

    1. fredwilson

      Nope. Anyone with a strong interest in software engineering can go to this school if they make the effort

      1. Akshay Kumar

        Fred, in general how do you make investment decisions. Sorry, it’s off topic but I have been reading MBA Monday’s and I think one of the major things that investors get wrong a lot, more than one might imagine, is the people they invest in.I am only takling tech companies here, I don’t nearly know enough to make a generalization but when was the last time you saw a big successul tech company where even one of the founders was not a tech guy. Only one exception comes to mind as far as the most successful companies go – the ones that your kids would know about.

        1. fredwilson

          it’s not something i can do justice to in a comment reply. if you read this blog every day, you will understand how i approach things

      2. ShanaC


  32. Cynthia Schames

    @fredwilson:disqus This is absolutely fantastic!  As you know, I’m very excited about this project and eager to help in any way possible.  Can we pick back up on the idea I had, or do you & Mr. Yu feel that it’s unnecessary?

    1. fredwilson

      we’ve got plenty of money now to open the school. i think we should wait to finish off the fundraising until the school is opened and people can see what it is they are investing in

  33. Brandon Burns

    Awesome to see. Congrats to everyone who made it possible.Really cool to hear about Makerbot getting involved. Been recently hanging out with more makers, and its opening my eyes to a whole ‘nother (and unfortunately separate) world of entrepreneurs making physical things. Feels like what people say the 70s building-stuff-in-garages area was like; but now its happening with tools that are boh more powerful and simple, and in a more collaborative environment at places like TechShop and NYC Resistor… and eventually this school. Can’t think of too many things that could be more awesome than that. Wish I had that when I was in school. Though I was a pretty artsy kid so not sure I would have cared anyway, but someone smart would have! 

  34. Clif Kussmaul

    If you’re interested in teaching & learning techniques and curricular materials,please check out process oriented guided inquiry learning (POGIL),an approach developed & validated over the last ~20 years (see for details)that has been used in college and high school in a variety of disciplines.The basic idea is that students work in teams with defined roles & responsibilities (process)that work through scripted activities to help them discover key ideas (guided inquiry).Disclosure: I am the PI for an NSF TUES grant to develop POGIL materialsfor computer science & software engineering (see for details). Clif KussmaulAssociate Professor of Computer Science, Muhlenberg College, Allentown, PA

  35. awaldstein

    An amazing endeavor. My dad was a high school physics teacher. Today, 0ver 30 years since he’s been gone (and he would have been 95 this year), I still get pinged on Facebook by students who just wanted to say ‘thank you’ to some one in his family.Education can really matter.

  36. karen_e

    Gorgeous website. Absolutely tippy-top.

    1. Donna Brewington White

      I second that.  A website that kids AND their parents can enjoy…and navigate. 

  37. Robert Thuston

    I like this. It’s a very focused initiative, and traditional education misses the impact of that sometimes. Would be nice to find a scalable version. Good job.

    1. Donna Brewington White

      First we had hacking education.  Now education that is scale-able. That’s great.

  38. frederic boulanger

    From ottawa Canada, you’re doing something really good, keep it up. We have done something with the same intent but in a different way here in the city. We’re pumped with the traction we’re getting, and we’re about to scale the program significantly. if you ever want to compare notes let us know we’d love too learn more and exchange, @fredboulanger 

    1. fredwilson

      I will reach out. Thanks

  39. Donna Brewington White

    CONGRATULATIONS!  (Had a FG moment.)Fantastic and impressive.  Especially impressed with how quickly this came together.  I join with those who hope that this will seed similar ventures in other cities.  And I must say that I am gratified to see that the principal of an academy for software engineering taught English for four years.  There is a nice balance in that,.



  40. Kasi Viswanathan Agilandam

    I take back my skeptical statement made 6-weeks back.You persistence and pursuance never seize to amaze me … Have to learn lot from your traits.

  41. bsoist

    @fredwilson:disqus I am so glad this is going to happen. Thanks for your participation.

  42. Morgan Warstler

    just awesome

  43. I'm Unknown

     I know C++/VB.NET/PHP/HTML/Javascript and I do Internet Marketing and I think I qualify for this school. But I don’t know if you’ll be accepting Sophomores this September?

    1. fredwilson

      we only have a freshman class this september

  44. NYC Parent

    I’m the parent of an incoming ninth grader. We’ve been in private school and looking to switch. I gotta admit, I’m intrigued. Here are my concerns, and I’m sure they’ll be the concerns of a bunch of, you know worried middle class NYC parents, so this is what you’ll be up against: 1) AFSE wasn’t available for the first round of choices, therefore it’s getting kids who didn’t get into any other school or whose parents are sufficiently dismayed at the school they got into that they’re making an effort to look again, which is a hostile and wearying process. In other words, who are my kid’s peers going to be, this first year out? Are you going to be able to achieve your aims with kids who had trouble getting into their first four or five choices?2) I have no idea if my child would be a good software engineering. Coding to me is a mystery and it looks boring and hard. The very nice lady at MLK on the weekend said it was a good school for problem-solvers. But it;s a risk, cos high schools are hard to change.I do wish you well in your endeavors. And I am coming to an open house. Fingers crossed. .

    1. fredwilson

      these are good questions. and the open house is a great place to come to get answers to them. i plan to be at all the open houses so maybe i can help answer them

  45. dean howell

    Amazing progress.  excited to see this take off.  Would love to help out as this school gets going.  I am in the Enterprise Tech space, and from the urban landscape, and fully recognize this school’s potential.  As I travel the country (and the world) and meet with buyers/users of software and their associated services, I can’t help but notice that almost nobody in this space comes from my background.. an urban male of color.  Considering the amount of jobs in the tech landscape and the lack of jobs in the urban males’ sight-line, I see this school as a fiercely important piece to closing that gap, and bringing an entirely new level of opportunity to the urban kids from NYC.  I am ready and willing to help.  Especially when it comes to dealing with the students and parents themselves  ( I was in College Admissions at a local College and this was my specialty).  Find me on Twitter a @Dean_Howell:twitter