The push for better teacher observation, evaluation and development started about the same time Jason Lange was finishing up a master’s degree in education at Stanford. Jason could see there was a big opportunity for easy to use tools and personalized learning for teachers. Jason applied to be part of the first cohort of edtech incubator Imagine K12, and Palo Alto-based Bloomboard was born.
Fast forward a year and Bloomboard is a leading teacher effectiveness platform. Two weeks ago, Colorado announced a partnership with Bloomboard. The Executive Director of Teacher Effectiveness at the CDE said, “BloomBoard offers a free, simple, scalable way for Colorado districts to manage our educator evaluation pilot… Our districts have been asking for technology such as this and we are excited to provide the BloomBoard platform for [them].”
I talked to Jason last week about the Colorado partnership, what’s new in teacher effectiveness, and what’s next for Bloomboard.
TVA: What does your platform do?
JL: We provide school districts and states with user-friendly tools to collect effectiveness data and recommend personalized training for each teacher based on his or her particular professional development needs. We customize tools so that districts can use existing instructional frameworks–and we do all of that at no charge.
TVA: How can you afford to do that?
JL: We offer premium features for purchase, including third-party professional development content, software that gives districts the ability to host and manage their own professional development content and workshops, and visualization tools to track all of the gathered data in real time. We create personalized feedback and a support system for every teacher. We want to transform teacher evaluation from a process that is often viewed as punitive to one that supports personal growth.
TVA: How does the Colorado partnership work?
JL: The Colorado Legacy Foundation, working with the Colorado Department of Education, will be using our platform for its upcoming teacher and principal evaluation pilots in 27 districts. Colorado is one of the states to pass teacher evaluation legislation.
TVA: And, if that goes well?
JL: There is the potential to expand to many of the 180 districts statewide next year. Colorado uses a similar rubric-based observation process as numerous states that have recently passed legislation, so we’re excited about the opportunity to roll out with several other states over the coming year.
TVA: How do principals use it?
JL: Observers use an iPad or laptop to script notes in an observation and then tag those notes to relevant instructional standards. This same tagging functionality is available for documents, such as lesson plans and student work, as well as video observations. Observers can then choose to rate each instructional standard based on the evidence collected.
TVA: What about video observation?
JL: We support the use of video so that educators can leverage the same types of video feedback that other performance-based professions have been using for years. And, once an observer has provided feedback to a teacher based on their video observation, he or she can ask the teacher to share that video with the library for other teachers to learn from. This functionality allows districts to quickly create impressive libraries of great practice that are completely aligned with their instructional standards in real-time. We’re also loading the thousands of Gates-funded MET videos and can align them to any districts custom instructional framework.
TVA: Will video capture soon be common?
JL: Districts have traditionally struggled with it because it was hard to use and expensive, but it can be the best way to learn. When model lessons are tagged to an observation system, it’s easy to jump to a time stamp to quickly see example of differentiated instruction, for example. Now that the costs are dramatically cheaper (we charge $10 per video observation) and the videotaping process can be aligned with the existing observation processes, we’re seeing significant interest from districts.
TVA: What kind of PD will Colorado teachers have available?
JL: We’d like to be the central repository of video content and PD. There will also be third party content. In some cases, districts will want to host their own PD content, which they can then elect to share with the other districts, either free of charge or for a fee.
TVA: What districts are you working with?
JL: We’re working with Chicago, Oakland, and dozens of districts in Indiana, New Jersey, and Colorado. We’ll be working with approximately 100 districts this fall. We also work with charter networks including Aspire, Green Dot and KIPP.
TVA: What’s next?
JL: We’ll keep improving our ability to support personalized feedback and tailor development for teachers and administrators. We think development can be customized, collaborative and empowering.
TVA: Bloomboard has really taken off. What have you learned about leading a startup?
JL: It’s a ton of fun, although it’s pretty crazy at times. It’s really just a balancing act of trying to create a fantastic culture, trying to continually improve the amount and quality of user feedback we get at every stage of the development process, and trying to make sure we’re prioritizing the right functionality for our customers in the short and long-term.
Bloomboardis a Learn Capital portfolio company. This blog first appeared on EdWeek.