After two years in operation, Panorama Education, a startup that surveys students, teachers and parents to provide feedback to schools, realized it had a problem on its hands.
The Boston-based startup’s survey tools were working; teachers and principals were measuring student sentiment around education, safety and stress; and its analytics platform was helping thousands of schools evaluate and promote what standardized testing can’t quantify.
Yet once educators identified a problem, they were left empty-handed to solve it. Your 7th grade pre-algebra class isn’t engaged? Okay, well now what?
So earlier this year, Panorama started building a suggestion platform called Playbook to provide teachers and school administrators with some answers.
“We spend $22 billion per year in the U.S. on personal development for teachers, and the status quo today is paying a substitute to cover the class while the teacher goes to a workshop for a day,” says Panorama co-founder Aaron Feuer. “That’s not a particularly effective model.”
Playbook, the alternative that Panorama is releasing today, operates on the premise that teacher training needs to be highly personalized, and there’s nobody better to instruct teachers than their peers.
Once a problem is identified, Playbook pulls in data about the teacher, the class and the school to suggest approaches that teachers in similar situations have deemed effective. It aggregates national resources, as well as district-specific resources (that it helps schools digitize, if necessary) to provide teachers with a guide of vetted techniques that they can choose from.
A second-year high school English teacher in South Central Los Angeles, for instance, would benefit from a much different recommendation than an experienced, private school English teacher in Beverley Hills — even if the material they’re teaching is nearly identical.
As teachers rate the suggested techniques and report on their progress, Playbook’s prediction engine becomes more accurate over time.
Over the past seven months, a beta group of 7,000 teachers across 300 schools has been testing Playbook. Feuer reports that the majority of these early adopters are in low-income, inner-city schools, and that the per-school fee Panorama charges is affordable even for the poorest school districts.
“It’s totally mind blowing how much money we spend trying to help teachers and principals get better, and they really want to get better, but it’s not working very well,” says Feuer. “Two years from now, if we can be the central place where all the good ideas live, it will be really revolutionary.”