Can surveys of students, teachers, parents, and principals produce better schools?
That’s the premise at Cambridge-based Panorama Education, which launched last year and already helps about 5,000 schools field surveys and analyze the results. The startup pulled in $4 million in funding last fall — some of it from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and actor Ashton Kutcher — and is now up to eight full-time employees.
Panorama also just started its first pilot project with the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education that will survey 17,000 students and teachers between now and the end of this school year. The department’s eventual goal is a statewide roll-out of the new survey in 2014-2015, which would be a much bigger win for Panorama.
“We’ve spent time building up a bank of questions, learning about the best ways to ask questions about certain topics,” says CEO Aaron Feuer. “People are very interested in student engagement, and the student-teacher relationship.” The Massachusetts survey asks students about how challenged they feel, emotional support, and how clearly things are explained in classes, he says. Teachers’ opinions are being sought on topics like the whether they feel there’s a vision for the school, and the amount of coaching and leadership they get from principals.
Feuer says that since the holidays, Panorama has been launching its product in a new school district just about every day. Pricing varies based on the size of the district. In addition to gathering opinions from students, teachers, and administrators, he says there’s strong interest in surveying parents, too. “Schools want to understand how to get parents involved,” Feuer says. “They want to know if you were involved last year, and if not, why not?”
The company participated in the Y Combinator accelerator program last summer, shortly after the founders graduated from Yale University. Feuer says Panorama is expanding its team, hiring data scientists, engineers, and client services representatives. The company’s other customers include the Connecticut State Department of Education, Tulsa Public Schools in Oklahoma, and the Los Angeles Unified School District.
Scott Kirsner writes the Innovation Economy column every Sunday in the Boston Globe, in which he tracks entrepreneurship, investment, and big company activities around New England.
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