Jennifer Medbery’s journey to the New Orleans educational community took an unusual route. A technology buff, she earned a computer science degree to help solve meaningful problems. After graduation she joined Teach for America, where her time in the middle and high schools of New Orleans gave her insights into the challenges that teachers face. Medbery then utilized her technical skills to help build solutions to these problems.
A teacher-friendly program, Kickboard is a web-based software product that provides a 360-degree profile of students. Like the traditional grade book, Kickboard tracks a student’s grades and attendance, but it also records literacy levels, learning styles, engagements and interventions. This wealth of information helps teachers make better decisions about teaching students on an individual level.
At the end of a lesson, for example, a teacher can easily gather data on students who need additional help, then create a small tutoring group to bring them up to speed. With the availability of data, busy teachers can use their time in a targeted, effective manner.
“With a startup, you cannot do everything right away,” Medbery says. She focused on creating the minimal viable product and then worked with six New Orleans schools to determine the best feature set and software design. After ensuring that the workflow, buttons and visuals were intuitive and easy to use, Kickboard was ready to launch.
After starting and growing the program in New Orleans six years ago, Medbery considers the city a fundamental component of her product’s success. She says that “the vibrant, supportive community has served as a fantastic home base” for her nationwide program.
Medbery loves hearing Kickboard success stories. Last week, an implementation coach reported that a school outside of Baton Rouge has experienced a fundamental shift in culture. The atmosphere is more positive, greater academic progress has been achieved and negative discipline has decreased by 30 percent.
She is quick to praise teachers for this success. “People who use the tool make that happen.”
Medbery has two pieces of advice for fellow entrepreneurs. The first is to listen to your customers, determine what they need and build solutions for these problems. Second, she advises entrepreneurs to persevere. Startups are hard work, and change is difficult – but if you overcome the initial inertia, she says, you can succeed.
Ultimately, Medbery hopes Kickboard will create mission-driven, healthy schools where students thrive. She trusts the data-driven approach will help teachers prepare students for state testing and academic success. Furthermore, by monitoring student’s social and emotional skills, teachers can tailor their approach to each pupil.
For more information on Kickboard, visit KickboardForTeachers.com.