Give students the feedback they need to be creative problem solvers with ActiveGrade
Today's featured startup, ActiveGrade, is turning grading into a conversational portfolio between teachers, students, and parents.
ActiveGrade is an online platform to help teachers give students meaningful, engaging feedback while also improving their own lesson planning. ActiveGrade helps teachers focus on what's most important in the classroom; learning not grades. Read our interview with Co-Founder and Director of Outreach and Meaningful Connections, Michal Eynon-Lynch.
What inspired you to start your company?
We were high school teachers struggling to find better ways of providing feedback for our students. We wanted their grades to empower them to take ownership over their learning. We also wanted the assessment process to provide more useful feedback to us so we could improve our instruction.
Tell us something unique about you and your co-founder(s)?
We felt it was important to build a product we felt good about and generate revenue before taking any outside funding. We are three teachers who got together and decided that we needed to create an easily accessible gradebook that measured standards and proficiency, not just kept track of grades.
What problem does your product or service solve?
Most gradebooks are ledgers for keeping track of how many points were earned and what tasks were completed. We don't believe that is very useful information. When students only receive single grades for a test or semester, they don't know which concepts they understand and which they need to work on. A "C" tells a student he needs to "try harder" but not what he can do about it. Instead, many become apathetic and find school irrelevant.
The feedback we give to students should reflect what we value. Currently we tell students that we value points and task-completion. Instead, lets give them feedback that shows them we value creative problems solving, critical thinking, collaboration, discussion of ideas, trying something that's hard, and learning from our mistakes.
What are your startup's three biggest challenges to growth?
1. Breaking into the education market on the large school and district level is difficult as a small company.
2. Keeping enough money flowing as we work our way up to bigger clients.
3. Finding and affording people to fill our talent gaps.
How has Startup America helped you overcome these challenges to growth?
Startup America has supported the opening of the Startup Iowa region. Building up the local startup ecosystem is immensely valuable to us in networking opportunities, mentoring, and fundraising.
What Startup America Member Benefits have you used?
We were invited to attend the CGI America conference in Chicago with the Startup America team and pitch ActiveGrade - what an awesome opportunity! We also benefit greatly from active participation in our Startup Region, Iowa.
Why should startups join Startup America?
I think it's important that innovation is supported in communities across the country and not just Silicon Valley. Joining Startup America gives credence to that idea and helps support the growing ecosystems. This in turn will mean that Startup American can provide more services and help regions identify what supports are needed.
What is the startup culture like in your City/State?
The startup culture in Iowa is supportive and growing. When we started we had no idea that we could expect to find community and support in the business world. Office space is a struggle for small companies and an accelerator or co-working space would be extremely helpful. The university economy dominates development decisions and I hope that with time the city will be come more aware of the benefits of supporting a startup culture.
ActiveGrade is on the front end of a growing movement in education to change the way we assess and grade. Many teachers find traditional grades meaningless and even counter-productive. On the other end, state and national governments want more well-rounded information about student achievement and data-driven curriculum.
It is our mission to support this fundamental shift in education to support teachers in nurturing innovative problem solvers to face the problems of the 21st century.
Founders with ambition to grow the American economy should join Startup America. Click to join over 7,700 startups: