The edtech space is heating up and in the past few months more and more investments have been flowing into the industry and new startups seem to be popping up left and right. While we’ve chatted with several up-and-coming edtech startups here at Technapex, we wanted to catch up with a veteran in the space. School Loop was founded in 2004 and we turned to their CEO and founder, Mark Gross, to get his perspective and an update on what they’ve been up to.
Like many edtech entrepreneurs, Mark has a noble vision for his company. His dream? To help kids everywhere stay in school and on track. Mark explained how he plans to make this dream a reality by giving educators and parents a solution that can identify kids who are at-risk before they fail out of school. School Loop believes this is possible through better communication and information sharing. And 3,600 school districts across 30 states – all of which are School Loop customers – agree.
But first, back to the beginning. How did Mark come up with the idea in the first place? After building a career in publishing and a brief stint as a poker shark, Mark went back to school to get his teaching degree. After getting an inside view of the school system, he realized that, while everyone he worked with was there to make a difference in children’s lives, the way most schools were organized kept people from collaborating to better help individual students. This is because most schools are organized into “silos” where teachers often work in isolation without much collaboration – either with each other or with administrators and parents.
As a result, despite the best intentions of the fantastic teachers he was working with, Mark realized that everyone in education is trying to help their students on their own without understanding what other efforts were underway or what progress was being made. In other words, the proverbial right hand didn’t know what the left hand was doing. He felt there must be a better way to collaborate and share ideas to create an even better learning environment for everyone involved. A school should be a “learning community,” Mark explained. This epiphany drove Mark to create School Loop – a solution designed to build an environment where parents, teachers and administrators work in teams to support kids, monitor their progress and help them grow.
To accomplish this vision, it is important to gather more meaningful data and make it more readily accessible. Report cards are often very limited and don’t give teachers the chance to explain what is reallygoing on with each student. School Loop PLUS does just that, offering a more dynamic and shareable grade book that keeps everyone “in the loop” at school and at home.
They’re taking it to another level though. Just last month School Loop launched OnTrackEDU that aims to further enable collaboration and break down the “silos” that often separate teachers, education leaders, counselors, etc. It’s a social dashboard for educational professionals designed to let them better share important and more meaningful data about students so they can ultimately provide better support. OnTrackEDU offers a dashboard for education leaders to help teachers collaborate and become a true community. It identifies high-risk kids by looking at attendance stats, behavioral goals, and grades, while letting everyone involved add updates about how they are working with each student. To check out a demo of OnTrackEDU, click here. By making it easier for teachers, counselors, academic coaches, and specialty teachers to better communicate, OnTrackEDU can help find students who need help before it is too late.
And while nipping potential problems in the bud is important, it’s equally critical to provide positive reinforcement to students already doing well or getting back on track. Mark raised a funny point—when the phone rings and you find out it is the school calling…your first thought is that something must be wrong. What about opportunities to identify kids who are doing well so you can pat them on the back? With technology that makes it easier to track and sort through a wider array of data, principals and counselors can also identify kids who are trending up. For example, they can find and reach out to a “D student” who is improving to let them and their families know things are getting better. Mark thinks these details matter and can make a real difference in motivating students. It’s not just about catching kids before they fall, but also about boosting them up when they are doing well.
Overall, this type of collaborative approach – something that’s also being incorporated at the business level to boost productivity – is something that lends itself well to the K-12 market as well. By breaking down organizational barriers to share information with relevant stakeholders, School Loop is delivering a pretty powerful solution to help students succeed. We’re looking forward to seeing more from the company.