Keeping Track of What Matters

Kickboard platform demonstrates that data is more than just test scores

INTERVIEW | by Victor Rivero

Jennifer Medbery of KickboardThe idea came from her own experience in the classroom. “I built the platform to fill a need my colleagues and I had,” says Jennifer Medbery (pictured), founder and CEO of Kickboard, “for a better way to surface and share student performance data and use it to inform instruction and interventions.” Before Kickboard, Jennifer and her colleagues spent countless hours trying to organize all of the valuable information they were capturing everyday with “a homegrown maze of Excel spreadsheets and Google Docs,” she explains. “It wasn’t efficient or effective and I knew it was a struggle shared by educators everywhere.” As a technologist by training – she earned a degree in computer science from Columbia – Jennifer saw an opportunity to help so she left teaching to develop a solution to make it easier to collect, analyze and share student progress information in and across classrooms. In this conversation, she talks more about Kickboard’s origins and purpose; examples of its benefits, how she is handling their current growth and expansion, the role of Kickboard in today’s education climate—and what the future holds.

Victor: What does the name mean?

Jennifer: Our school analytics platform is a Kickboard for teachers, helping them stay afloat in a sea of student data, by providing a single secure and centralized place where teachers and school leaders can collect student performance information and make it visible across classrooms.

Victor: What is it? Who created it?

Jennifer: Kickboard is a school analytics platform that allows educators and school leaders to capture, analyze and share student performance data to improve data-driven teaching, facilitate collaboration across classrooms and advance a school-wide culture of performance. I founded the company in 2009, creating the first versions of the platform myself. Since then I’ve been joined by a talented team of software designers and developers, as well as customer support professionals, many of whom are also former educators. We all have a common vision and mission – to help build strong healthy schools where teachers and students thrive.

Victor: What does it do? What are the benefits?

Jennifer: Kickboard is a web-based platform that enables schools to develop richer profiles of student progress, including multiple assessments, standards mastery, 21st century skills, reading growth and, most uniquely, student behavior, character strengths and personal interests. The platform’s dashboards provide real-time visibility into student performance in and across classrooms so that teachers have the information they need to make meaningful adjustments to instruction and interventions. With Kickboard, schools are able to improve data-driven teaching, increase collaboration among educators, better facilitate family communication and advance a culture of performance school-wide.

Victor: How is it unique from other similar products/services? What companies do you see as in the same market?  

Jennifer: There are a few tools that do some of what Kickboard does, but none that address all of the same elements in a single, secure solution. To achieve something comparable you’d have to patch several products together and even then you still wouldn’t be able to recreate all that Kickboard can do.

Victor: What will you do with the $2M? In what direction are you headed?

Jennifer: Kickboard is in an exciting period of growth. With the funding, we are expanding our team and investing more in product development. Expect to see new, enhanced dashboards with upgraded ways to visualize student performance, including shared information from other tools teachers and school leaders use. The platform already integrates with a school’s SIS, so this will help further streamline data management, allowing teachers, students and families to see all aspects of student performance and make informed decisions to improve outcomes.

Victor: Where did it originate? Where can you get it now?

Jennifer: Kickboard began with a small pilot in New Orleans and has seen steady growth since officially launching in the fall of 2010. Currently more than 200 schools across the U.S. use the platform school-wide. And many individual educators and small teams of teachers use free Kickboard starter accounts in their classrooms as well. To get Kickboard, school and district leaders and teachers should go to www.kickboardforteachers.com.

Victor: How much does it cost? What are the options?

Jennifer: Kickboard offers an enterprise solution for school-wide adoption, which is priced per student. I strongly encourage school and district leaders interested in learning more about Kickboard’s enterprise platform to contact our team to get a demo and experience it first-hand. And for individual educators and small teams (up to three teachers at a school) who want to use the platform immediately without having to wait for their school to implement Kickboard, we offer free starter accounts that provide much of the same features and functionality.

Victor: What are some examples of it in action?

Jennifer: There are many examples of Kickboard in action on our blog. Equitas Academy Charter School in Los Angeles is an example of a school that uses Kickboard to gather student achievement data and assess strengths and opportunities for improvement, using interim assessments to track progress and 8-week improvement plans to set goals. The teachers input data into Kickboard and assess it across classrooms, then they re-teach as necessary.

KIPP Boston is a school that is using Kickboard to set a consistent culture of performance for all students. Through Kickboard, teachers create common definitions of behaviors, which are used across classrooms. Students get engaged in their progress on a weekly basis, with incentives and character reports. The team uses Kickboard to celebrate wins, small and large. The platform is helping these teachers create an invigorating school culture, providing an environment for an even greater student focus on academics. 

Victor: Who is it particularly tailored for? Who is it not for?

Jennifer: Kickboard can have an impact in any school. Regardless of type it empowers educators and school leaders to advance a culture of performance and improve student outcomes.

Victor: What are your thoughts on education these days?

Jennifer: It is a tremendously important time in education and we need to make sure teachers have the 21st century tools they need to work efficiently and effectively.

Victor: How does Kickboard address some of your concerns about education?

Jennifer: While accountability is important, the current system can hold a narrowly focused view on student performance, too often gauging performance by test scores. Though Kickboard keeps track of all major standards, interim assessments and skill mastery, it also allows teachers and school leaders to see beyond scores and consider other elements of performance like character development, behavior and personal interests, which are equally important. Kickboard gives educators a more complete picture of student progress; meaning students are more than just the sum of their test scores. It is a tool that gives everyone invested in a student’s success – teachers, students, parents, school leaders and support staff – greater visibility into all aspects of their performance.

Victor: What is your outlook on the future of education?

Jennifer: The public education system is on the right track towards improvement, but transformative change first requires a shift in attitudes about student performance. Educators need tools, like Kickboard, that give them a comprehensive look at student achievement and make it easier to analyze and act on information, as well as share that data with their colleagues. Not only will this make for more a transparent, collaborative, growth-minded and results driven environment, it’ll promote greater alignment and consistency across classrooms – all of which is necessary to advance a performance-based culture.

Victor: What else can you tell educators and other leaders in and around education about the value of Kickboard? What makes you say that?

Jennifer: Kickboard is an analytics platform, but it is about so much than just “data-crunching.” The impact we’re seeing in schools that implement Kickboard is profound. By providing teachers with a single and secure location to collect and share student progress information (both academic performance and behavior and character development), they can take decisive action to celebrate wins or intervene if necessary. And it makes teaching a team sport, helping increase collaboration so educators don’t feel isolated within the four walls of their classroom.

Victor Rivero tells the story of 21st-century education transformation. Get your story told through case studies, white papers and other materials you can share at trade shows and on your website. Write to: victor@edtechdigest.com

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