Less than five years after graduating from high school themselves, several Yale alumni will use data analytics to improve teaching and learning in Massachusetts public schools.
In 2012, Aaron Feuer ’13, Xan Tanner ’13 and David Carel ’13 founded Panorama Education, a technology startup that works with over 4,500 K-12 schools to distribute detailed surveys, analyze the results and report findings back to the institutions. Five months after receiving $4 million in funding from investors including Mark Zuckerberg’s Startup: Education foundation, Panorama Education has now been awarded a contract by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (ESE) to conduct a pilot program with the state’s schools, according to a Monday press release. As a part of the partnership, Panorama Education will survey 17,000 students, teachers and administrators to find data-driven solutions to issues like school safety, academic performance and faculty support.
“Because it’s a pilot, we’re involved in shaping the future education in the state,” said Jessica Cole ’12, partnerships director for Panorama Education. “There are even more students and teachers and staff members who are being able to get feedback than ever before.”
According to Cole, this pilot program will give Panorama Education greater access to a wide range of Massachusetts schools, from technical high schools to special needs institutions. Cole said the most important part of the initiative will be surveying a large number of students, teachers and staff members to get enough feedback to make a difference.
Since ESE plans to administer surveys statewide in the 2014-’15 school year, Feuer said he hopes Massachusetts will use Panorama Education’s surveys for this initiative. By breaking down survey respondents along socioeconomic strata, linguistic skill or gender, Panorama Education surveys can yield important information, said Gabe Friedman ’10, outreach coordinator for the company.
“We really want to make a difference in schools, and we use technology to help schools” Feuer said. “I can’t wait to continue moving in that direction.”
In October 2013, Panorama Education announced it had raised $4 million in funding from investors including Startup: Education, SoftTech VC, Google Ventures, YCombinator, the Yale Entrepreneurial Institute and Ashton Kutcher’s A-Grade Investments.
“We continue to be excited [about Panorama Education],” said Erika Smith, Deputy Director of the Yale Entrepreneurial Institute, adding that Panorama Education was part of YEI’s 2012 summer fellowship program. “They’re just making incredible traction in the market.”
Panorama Education employees interviewed all highlighted the rapid growth of the firm. In five months, the company has nearly doubled its workforce, from seven to 13 employees.
Tanner said with the bigger team and more experience, the company is starting to hit its stride and build on its foundation.
“I think that it starts with providing the feedback and data in a structured way,” he said. “Our goal is that our reports are providing information and feedback to teachers that is clear and really lets them dive into what their students are saying about them. When you look through the responses that students give, its amazing the trends that you see.”
Cole said one of the challenges the company faces is determining exactly which questions to include in surveys. Though this level of detail may sound mundane to those not involved, Cole said questions chosen carefully yield the most telling responses.
Jacob Evelyn ’13, a software engineer for Panorama Education, said he got involved as a means of working helping others through computer science. Evelyn said one of the most unique opportunities about working for the relatively small company is that he gets to handle jobs that at larger firms would be given to senior engineers.
Panorama Education is based in Boston, Mass.