When it graduated from Imagine K12’s edtech accelerator last year, Goalbook was tapping into the excitement over technology’s ability to personalize learning by embarking on a mission to give every student a single, shared lesson plan. The idea was to have students become part of a connected network of educators, administrators and parents through creating a database of goals, strategies and milestones — rather than their educational identities simply sitting in a manilla folder in a file cabinet.
After piloting in a group of Bay Area schools, co-founders and engineers Justin Su and Daniel Yoo discovered that their model might, in fact, work better if it were applied to special education, where a support network of educators, administrators and parents already lives around students — even if predominantly offline. Prior to founding Goalbook, Yoo himself left work at Oracle and Google to become a special education teacher in Palo Alto.
Today, the Imagine K12 grad is announcing that it has raised $915,000 in seed funding — led by NewSchools Venture Fund, with contributions from Rethink Education, Ed-Mentor, Patient Capital Collaborative, Wireless Generation co-founder Greg Gunn, former Magellan Health CEO Steve Shulman, Facebook VP of Advertising and Global Operations and Joe Gleberman — to fuel this transition and help it create the first social and mobile platform for special education teachers.
With the new infusion of capital, the startup plans to develop a “Toolkit,” or a repository of individual goals (aligned with Common Core State Standards) that will include assessments, instructional resources and videos, that is designed specifically for special education teachers.
The word “disruptive” is overused in the description of new technologies, especially in regard to technology’s affect on education, as it’s begun to qualify anything with an API, dashboard and a mobile app. But perhaps the most significant “disruptive” effect technology can have on education is its ability to help the system move from a compliant culture to an outcome-oriented culture.
Bringing better learning analytics and tools that measure inputs and help teachers, administrators and parents communicate and collaborate effectively in realtime has the potential to transform education for the better.
This is true for education in general, but has even more application for students with learning disabilities and developmental problems. By creating the first special education management solution, Goalbook addresses a huge market, considering thirteen percent of students at public schools in the U.S. receive special ed services.
Federal regulations mandate that schools must provide these students with a signed “Individual Education Plan (IEP)” that must be reviewed annually to help determine how well district programs are meeting student needs. As part of these learning plans, teachers, special educators, administrators and parents form teams to assist students in meeting their individual goals.
However, as has been the case with the educational system, IEPs, while helpful, are generally static documents that are only updated a couple of times every year and many of those who work with students don’t even have access to these documents.
Goalbook aims to solve this problem for special education by helping educators and administrators to create a profile for special needs students and provide them with easy access to IEP summaries, more effective communication channels, less paper work and higher compliance rates.
What’s more, federal regulations for special education require schools to meet 814 compliance requirements, so it’s no wonder that schools struggle to meet these benchmarks nor is it surprising that it’s created a compliance-oriented culture in public schools. Instead of focusing on teaching their students, teachers have to spend an inordinate amount of time filing paperwork and worrying about meeting these standards.
Over the past year, Goalbook has developed two products that aimed at making teachers’ lives easier and get them back to teaching, including a “Service Delivery” module that tracks the amount of time teachers, therapists and specialists are spending with special ed students and automates this kind of reporting for administrators. The startup also offers a Timelines module, which allows them to easily track dates and deadlines.
With its new funding in tow and its platform already in hundreds of U.S. public schools, Goalbook plans to launch Toolkit in November, piloting the special ed database with district partners throughout the U.S. The platform will enable special educators to find and customize Individual Education Plans and access instructional resources, assessments and accommodations. Along with rolling out Toolkit, going forward, the startup also plans to focus on its mobile strategy and launch cross-platform mobile apps to give teachers and administrators access to its products while on the go.
“Without solutions like Toolkit, we run the risk of once again segregating our students with special needs to a less rigorous and less rich academic curriculum,” said former Head of Special Education for DC Public Schools, Richard Nyankori. “Toolkit can therefore be instrumental in providing students with special needs access to the Common Core.”
Today, special education lacks an equivalent tool to the Asanas and Basecamps of the world that focus on ease of use and help teachers and support groups manage goals, projects and timelines. Goalbook hopes that by bringing the utility and functionality of popular business and consumer tech products into the equation, it can potentially have a big impact on special education and actually help influence student outcomes. And what’s better than that?
More on Goalbook at home here.