Take a peek behind the desk at a local public school, and the ancient software that education administrators continue to use looks like it should have been retired decades ago. Like hospitals, schools are struggling with old, inefficient systems — but unlike hospitals, platforms for education administration have yet to see the renaissance startups that is surging in health technology.
“I see a parallel with hospitals and schools, but EdTech is so far behind.” Andrew Herman, co-founder and CEO of of education platform startup Alma, which launched Monday. “Nobody has come in with an idea that we can use these tools to automate work.”
Simplifying the administrative duties of both teachers and administrators is the goal behind Alma, which will roll out to public school districts this fall. Based in the cloud, Alma is directly inspired by Herman’s experience as an educator in the public school system a decade ago.
“When I was a teacher, I was frustrated that schools weren’t set up to allow work to get done outside of the school,” Herman said.
Herman says that Alma takes a lot of inspiration from currently successful consumer and enterprise level productivity apps, like Salesforce and Dropbox, to help teachers focus on the overall performance of individual students as well as tasks to keep the entire classroom running. Alma includes standard classroom tools, like a gradebook and long-term school records systems, as well as features like a task list for both teachers and administrators. He adds that Alma has progressive educational methods built-in to its software, like the currently in-vogue Backward design curriculum, which encourages teachers to set classroom-wide goals before designing individual curriculum units.
“We’ve taken a holistic approach, so we can offer a teacher a complete view of a student, but we also believe that giving that information to the student and parent is important,” Herman said. “We’re really trying to empower them with the right useful information in a digestible way at the right time.”
Alma will roll out to roughly 500 private and charter schools within the next few months, with an eye on select public school districts this fall. Herman says that the entire Alma system can be set up in an hour, and that the startup is scaling carefully.
“We have to be strategic about how we deploy within a given school or school district, but I think we have a huge advantage because I feel like the market is ready. “