Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Kickboard and Drop the Chalk
Education: Ridgefield High School in Connecticut; bachelors in computer science, Columbia University
Family: Husband, Trey
Mentors: Leslie Jacobs, education reform advocate; Matt Wisdom, CEO of Turbo Squid; Tim Williamson, CEO of The Idea Village
In June 2009, Jen Medbery had just completed her third year teaching middle- and high-school students and she saw a need for a better way to track student performance and behavior. The computer science major developed a prototype for an innovative, user-friendly program for teachers to collect, share and access student information. Through her company Drop The Chalk, Kickboard evolved and is now being used in nearly 50 schools across 14 states.
Where did the need for Kickboard come from?
Through Teach for America I went to a public school classroom in the Mississippi Delta. It really gave me a first-hand understanding of the challenges teachers face in documenting and tracking student progress. The obvious next step was to leave the classroom and build a tool that would leverage the power of computers to capture and synthesize data and look for patterns.
What did the first prototype address?
It directly addressed one of the biggest pain points of one of the schools where I had been, which was the incredible amount of time teachers were spending tracking student behavior.
How does better tracking improve education?
Teachers can spend 30 seconds as opposed to 30 minutes imputing their data documenting which students are struggling with which skills, what they need to re-teach, and see how student behavior impacts overall academic achievement.
When did it take off?
In the first year, I worked with about five schools and I was an entrepreneur in the Idea Village (incubator) program, which really accelerated the business side. We won seed capital which allowed us to bring on more staff so by the end of year one, I had a full-time software developer.
How has New Orleans helped launch your business?
We are in the right place at the right time. New Orleans is really the epicenter of education reform. We’ll have schools from all over the country say, “If New Orleans has it, we want it, too.”
What does the future hold?
We are constantly building out new features. We’ve received requests from schools and other education organizations from Mexico to Zimbabwe to India. And that’s the really exciting piece — education is truly global.
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