An edtech founder answers the question with solutions that support students to keep on track toward success.
INTERVIEW | by Victor Rivero
They began with just a few dedicated individuals from K-12 backgrounds who saw a need for better, more accessible data. Having worked in education, they recognized quickly that teachers simply didn’t have the tools and resources they needed to make data-informed decisions on a day-to-day basis. Out of that need, SchoolStatus emerged. Since those humble beginnings, a growing team has continued to add functionality and service requested by fellow educators to best meet their needs, including powerful reporting, two-way communication tools, and best-in-class customer service—tools educators need to do their jobs. Russ Davis, CEO, answers some basic questions, doesn’t rest on his laurels, and shows he is focused on improvement and doing his part to create the future of learning.
What prompted you to found your company—and where are you at today?
My mother was a teacher in the district I attended as a student, and because of how my teachers were able to quickly and consistently communicate with my mother, I was kept on track. A lot of kids don’t have a parent or guardian who works within their school district. How can those kids get that consistent level of parent involvement that was so important for me? This was a main driver into starting [the company] as we strive to make the process of school-home communication easier for teachers and parents. Our product is a gamechanger for teachers, parents, and the students who gain extra support and encouragement in school. With a click of a button, educators can send a text message or make a phone call to follow up with parents and base those conversations on easily accessible data. Data-informed communication makes those school-home relationships more meaningful and impactful for students.
‘A lot of kids don’t have a parent or guardian who works within their school district. How can those kids get that consistent level of parent involvement that was so important for me? This was a main driver…’
Congrats on your big win from The EdTech Awards! What does an honor like this mean for you and your team?
We are always excited to be recognized by programs like The EdTech Awards. These types of award programs help us reach more schools, and increased awareness of [our company] helps us to make a difference for more students and schools.
What is tech’s role in learning—and with your company using technology to improve, enhance, and accelerate your efforts?
Tech has many roles in education. We really focus on how technology can make it easier for teachers and administrators to support student success. We’re making it easier for schools to partner with students’ support systems at home to drive meaningful results.
We’re continuing to grow and adding to our capabilities with new product offerings and features to support frictionless school-home communication that is informed by data. I’m excited about the future and how we’ll continue to grow and impact K-12 education. Recently, we acquired both Operoo and TeachBoost.
Operoo supports schools, clubs, and associations around the world to automate, manage, and track operational tasks from a single cloud-based platform. Operoo offers digital workflows for a range of routine processes – which are often manual, disconnected and paper-based – including distributing and collecting parental consent, payments, medical and emergency information, student registration, staff onboarding, policy management, incident reporting, activity and group management, paperless school trips, and more.
By integrating Operoo’s operations and productivity technology into our comprehensive communications platform, we are taking another step toward creating a frictionless environment between school and home and enabling K-12 districts to provide an even better experience for their parent community and educator stakeholders.
The acquisition of Operoo comes at a pivotal time in the K-12 sector, amid surging demand to streamline and automate operational school tasks and processes and enhance communication. By further expanding the capabilities of our leading data and communications platform, SchoolStatus is well-positioned to transform the interactions between school and home.
TeachBoost supports educator observations, evaluations, and coaching to personalize professional development and support student success. The addition of TeachBoost enables SchoolStatus to offer our district partners a leading solution for every step of the K12 teacher development process, from evaluation and compliance to personalized coaching that drives educator growth. It’s an excellent complement to our leading data and communications platform, as it will help strengthen communications between educators, administrators, and coaches, ultimately leading to greater student success.
Broadly, what is the state of education today?
The state of education is always evolving and changing. During the pandemic, we saw an uptick in parent engagement due to school shutdowns across the country. Parents had to be more involved than ever before with their kids’ day-to-day schooling to make sure they were staying on track with their education.
Now, we are seeing that parents are continuing to be involved and schools are embracing new ways of communicating with students’ families. When we design systems for communication, we need to make sure that we’re addressing barriers to communication for parents and addressing the needs of all students. The pandemic also emphasized the need to think about issues of equity and look into issues impacting students and their experiences both in and outside of school.
How can technology play a role in that?
Technology can help remove barriers between school and home and allow students to benefit from parents being involved and partnering with their schools. When parents are informed and regularly communicate with the schools it allows for meaningful relationships to develop, which support students’ success. Technology can allow parents to communicate with teachers despite barriers.
SchoolStatus offers translation into more than 100 languages and is intentionally designed to be able to be used by parents who may not have access to certain types of technology. At [our company], we focus on removing barriers to school-home communication and allowing for meaningful, data-informed communication. When schools have and apply data on students, classrooms, and schools it helps with addressing inequities system-wide. Having a holistic picture of each student—including academic, behavioral, social-emotional learning, attendance, and disciplinary data—will be essential to targeting interventions and resources to the students who need them most. Sharing this data with families through ongoing, meaningful school-home communication is a gamechanger for schools.
We recently named a new CFO, Scott Mitchell. Scott brings extensive experience, and I am confident that his contributions will help [us] to continue to grow as a leader in the unified K-12 communications field. We’ve also expanded our Development and Data Analytics teams with seven new hires. This continued growth speaks to a tremendous market opportunity for [our] unified data communications platform, driven by demand for increased communication and engagement with parents and more accessible communications platforms.
Victor Rivero is the Editor-in-Chief of EdTech Digest. Write to: firstname.lastname@example.org