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The Case for a K-12 School Operating System

The Case for a K-12 School Operating System

Abbas Manjee

Abbas Manjee

Chief Academic Officer, Kiddom

Abbas Manjee is Chief Academic Officer at Kiddom. Before Kiddom, Abbas taught high school math serving at-risk youth in New York City. 

Nearly ten years ago, I started my career in education as a math teacher at a new alternative high school serving over-age, under-credited youth in New York City. My students were labeled “at-risk” of dropping out because they were 16–21 years old and previously unsuccessful in high school. Many suffered from chronic absenteeism, caused by factors such as homelessness, family responsibilities, and/or incarceration. If we, the educators, were going to serve our students well, we were going to have to get pedagogically creative.

One of the first curricular tools I built to share — on the first day of school — was a public, student-friendly gradebook on Google Sheets. (Yes, this was before Google Classroom existed!) Students could track their progress and identify which skills needed extra work at any time. Little did I know this experience would eventually propel me to help develop a school operating system that tackles technology issues plaguing educators and supports them with more opportunities to offer individualized instruction.

Creating a Toolbox — and Filling It

After creating the gradebook, my colleague and I developed a curriculum aligned to New York state math standards. We scoped and sequenced the curriculum according to a set of power standards representing scaffolded skills. If students mastered a power standard, they could move on and didn’t need to wait for others. This competency-based system made sense; if students were chronically absent, holding them accountable to a pacing calendar would prove futile.

To supplement in-person support offered during class and lunch periods, I published a simple Google site to house my lessons, assessments, and other resources. If students missed class or needed additional help, they could go to my website and access the day’s lesson as well as videos and digital exercises from YouTube and Khan Academy.

 

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As my students submitted work, I tracked everything in my gradebook. My goal was to minimize the information asymmetry that tends to exist between what teachers know about their students and what students know about their performance. At the time, I had no idea this system was called “standards-based grading.” I was so green at this point in my career that I probably assumed every classroom in the 21st century operated this way. I didn’t realize what we were trying to build was innovative.

The following year, I wanted to ensure that when students did come to class, they could participate and engage — or at the very minimum — access the content via a class set of iPads. I stepped up my game by adding even more videos and assessment exercises to my class website, mining resources from IXL and CK-12. I generated logins for my students and started “blending” instruction using the free content from these publishers. This worked nicely for my students, who felt like I was carefully attending to their learning pace and providing them with targeted learning materials.

By the end of year, more than half of my students passed the Algebra 1 state exam. For context: in years prior, every one of these students had failed this exam at least once. Of those who failed again this time around, many had never come so close to passing and looked forward to retaking it in the summer.

Enter the LMS

I was proud, but also exhausted. The time required to maintain the number of tools I was juggling was eerily close to the time I used to spend working as an investment banker. I dedicated hours every week copy-pasting student achievement data from multiple systems into one gradebook, analyzing each student’s progress and assigning work based on need. The last thing I needed was another system to maintain, but that’s exactly how my third teaching year started: my school administration decided a centralized system for grades was necessary to assess how all classrooms were doing. They bought a learning management system (LMS) and asked us to start using it.

Procuring the LMS was purely an administrative decision, fueled by a desire to monitor school-wide trends to make resource allocation decisions. I couldn’t fault school leadership for this, but I still hated using it. I didn’t want to change the way I’d set up my class because my model working for my students. Now, in addition to importing data from IXL, Khan Academy, and an adaptive learning program called Carnegie Learning, I had to transfer the achievement data from my gradebook into another system. It felt like every tool I used in the classroom was inherently designed to work in isolation.

 

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By the end of that year, my patience had grown thin. I stopped updating the LMS on a regular basis and wondered how long it would take before somebody noticed. My colleagues had mixed feelings about it too. Because the LMS was designed to contain a lot of tools for teachers in a single view, it was clunky and cumbersome to use. For example, it didn’t integrate with Google Apps, which we had spent the last three years using. Nor could I customize features to align with my class set-up, or remove certain features altogether.

Building and Brainstorming

After three more years teaching in alternative high schools, I left the classroom to join Kiddom and address this interoperability problem. In an ideal world, teachers would be able to access a set of tools driven by their classroom needs and aligned to an instructional model of their choice. Administrators would be able to measure and take action from macro-level trends, manage and review curriculum, and enable educators to incorporate the instructional models and technologies that serve their classrooms best.

Unfortunately, teachers are constrained by tools that are ineffective or redundant. Many education technologies are not interoperable. School and district leaders continue to spend an inordinate amount of time piecing together data to understand what’s really happening. When that takes too long or doesn’t work, they resort to classroom observations — because they’re easy to do.

During my time at Kiddom, I’ve had the opportunity to apply my teaching experience and work with a team of designers and developers to tackle these problems head-on. At first, we focused on teachers and learners and the tools needed to enhance a singular classroom experience; this led to a simple, visual standards-aligned gradebook. Next, we connected this gradebook directly to digital content publishers like CK-12 and Khan Academy so that teachers could access teaching resources in order to differentiate instruction efficiently and save time.

Because every classroom experience plays a role in the larger ecosystem within a school, we designed a set of collaboration tools to help teachers work together, share, and learn from each other more effectively. We then focused on the information asymmetry that exists between classrooms and their respective administrative bodies. Working with and listening closely to public school administrators, we brainstormed various ways we could support school systems from the top-down and bottom-up.

A K-12 School Operating System

The result of this work is Kiddom Academy, a K-12 school operating system supporting collaboration and individualized instruction. Using Academy, administrators can identify and act on aggregate achievement trends, manage curriculum and assessment, and efficiently integrate other tools they’ve come to rely on. They can set up frameworks for a range of pedagogies in line with their organizational goals. Classrooms gain access to a comprehensive library of standards-aligned resources and curriculum development tools. Beautiful, actionable reports help students, teachers, parents, and administrators monitor progress and take action.

 

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Kiddom Academy, our K-12 school operating system for schools and districts

 

A K-12 school operating system is the next step in the evolution of education technology. Interoperability matters in schools and districts now more than it has ever before, because we’ve come expect it everywhere else. For example, I can purchase a pair of concert tickets using my EventBrite app, and then export the information directly into my iPhone calendar. So too should teachers be able to use a variety of learning apps in their classroom and expect them to work together seamlessly. As we see more content and pedagogy-specific tools in the market, we can expect increasing numbers of teachers to find and patch together the tools that work best for them; administrators will be no different.

My teaching experience helped me understand that I didn’t need to buy a blended learning or personalized learning product. I had a process and practice in place, and needed a set of interoperable tools. I can’t imagine how much more passion and creative energy I might have offered my students and colleagues if I wasn’t staying up late every night copying and pasting data to differentiate instruction. “Personalized learning” might be trendy, but it isn’t new. Teachers have been trying to enhance and individualize learning using the tools at their disposal for a long time.

That’s why at Kiddom, we’re hell bent on designing and implementing technology that enables all students to learn via pedagogy and pacing optimized for them. We’re betting big on the idea of building a system for other learning apps to run on — rather than in — to help schools plug and play the tools they find most effective. We can’t wait to see how schools will use Kiddom Academy to execute their vision for teaching and learning.

 

 

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By: Abbas Manjee, Chief Academic Officer

 

P.S. Are you an administrator seeking resources to support your teachers? Book a 1:1 walkthrough with a member of our team.

Originally posted on EdSurge

3 Ways Teachers Can End the School Year on a High Note

3 Ways Teachers Can End the School Year on a High Note

It’s already May. Can you believe it?

If you’re done with standardized testing, your students are on the final stretch. This is a unique opportunity to go the extra mile and close the year with a bang. So instead of limping to the end of the year, use Kiddom to make every second count.

Share individualized resources

You strategically prioritized what to teach throughout the school year, and the end of the year should be no different. Instead of trying to keep up with your scope and sequence, consider taking a step back and reflecting on the progress you’ve already made. Determine what’s most important for your students to learn on an individual basis, given your time constraints.

Luckily, your reports in Kiddom can help you do just that.

 

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To get started sharing personalized work, use the drop-down menu in your Kiddom reports to cycle between individual students. Review the progress they’ve made on the skills you’ve covered, then use Kiddom’s library of teaching resources to quickly find and assign intervention resources.

 

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Add a message of encouragement to the individual resources you share — your students will appreciate the personal touch.

Send good vibes

You’ve spent an entire school year building relationships with your students, which means you probably have a lot more influence over them now than you ever did before. Unfortunately, you might never get another chance to advise or inspire your students again. So take advantage of every opportunity you have now to positively impact their work and their lives.

 

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The simplest way to do this would be to start with the assignments you’ve already graded. Do this through your Kiddom timeline and find an assignment for which you’ve entered scores without adding comments. You don’t have to have the assignment in-hand. Simply find the submissions with very high scores and add a personal note.

Then, be sure to go through a few more assignments spread the positivity to as many students as possible.

 

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A little positive enforcement can go a long way this time of year. Use it!

Spread the word

It might be tempting to simply keep your head down, submit your final grades, and walk out. But why stop now?

This time of year presents a golden opportunity to help parents and guardians understand why their child struggled in your class. Print PDF reports of students struggling in your class and offer suggestions, in writing, for things they can practice while school is out to prepare for next year.

It doesn’t matter if you can’t hold them accountable to act on it once they’ve moved on from your classroom. What matters is equipping them with knowledge to act in the best interest of their child.

 

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Let’s not forget about the students who excelled in your class. This is your last chance to help parents and guardians of students who excelled in your class to understand why they excelled. Consider providing extension playlists for your top-tier students to access and engage with over the summer.

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You’re almost there

Let’s be honest, you might be so overwhelmed with work right now that you’re at risk of losing sight of how important times of transition are for your students. You spent a lot of time at the beginning of the year setting norms, establishing routines, and building procedures. Consider spending just as much time bringing your classroom community to a thoughtful close. That’s the kind of stuff that sticks.

 

 


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By: Abbas Manjee, Chief Academic Officer

 

P.S. Thank you for passionately serving your students.

Raising $15M to Build Kiddom Academy, a K-12 Operating System for Schools and Districts

Raising $15M to Build Kiddom Academy, a K-12 Operating System for Schools and Districts

Kiddom’s mission is to build technology that unlocks the potential of all teachers and learners. In fact, we believe it takes a village to raise a child, from parents to teachers to school and district administrators.

For centuries, schools and technology have struggled to find a balance, with technology typically attempting to dictate the relationship between teachers and students. We believe technology has failed to unburden teachers. We believe technology has failed to help schools become centers of proactive support. Teachers, school leaders, and district administrators continue to spend an inordinate amount of time piecing together data to take the pulse of teaching and learning in classrooms, schools, and districts.

Given these inefficiencies, the idea of “personalized learning” seems impossible to achieve. For Kiddom, “personalized learning” is not about applying technology to learning or adding screen time, it’s about designing and implementing technology that enables every student to learn through pedagogy optimized for them, at their own pace. Our aim is to give schools and districts the power to execute on their vision for teaching and personalized learning.

Today, we’re excited to announce two things: (1) Kiddom Academy for schools and districts and (2) a $15M Series B round of financing led by new strategic partners Owl Ventures to help us deploy Kiddom Academy. Owl Ventures is a venture capital fund that invests in the world’s leading education technology companies. Existing investors Khosla Ventures also participated in this round.

A blast from the past

When we started Kiddom over three years ago, we first focused on classrooms and the tools needed to enhance the classroom experience for teachers and students. We realized every classroom experience played a role in the larger ecosystem within the school, so we designed a set of collaborative tools to help school communities work together, share, and learn from each other more effectively.

By connecting classrooms to each other, we discovered a disconnect between classrooms and their respective administration bodies, and so we listened and worked closely with public school administrators to understand how to connect school systems from the top-down and bottom-up.

Academy for schools and districts

With this funding, we’re ready to release Academy, our K12 school operating system for schools and districts to take advantage of our technology, allowing leaders at the school or district level to identify and act on aggregate achievement trends, manage and disseminate curriculum and proprietary content, and efficiently integrate with other tools districts have come to rely on.

To facilitate Academy adoption, we’ll be using the funds we raised to aggressively recruit for technical roles, as well as implementation and success roles to ensure that each and every learning community subscribed to Kiddom Academy is bought-in, on-boarded, and equipped with a plan to take full advantage of the product.

A special thanks to teachers

Since our inception, we’ve experienced rapid growth across hundreds of thousands of classrooms, catalyzed by word-of-mouth referrals from great teachers. The Kiddom team is forever indebted to our teacher base. Thank you for being our biggest champions. Thank you for continuing to passionately serve students around the world.

What’s next?

As the Kiddom team works toward our mission, we’re excited to help more and more teachers, schools, and districts achieve the wonderful things that were previously thought impossible. While today marks an exciting milestone, we’re just getting started, baby. Thanks for being with us on this journey. 💜


By: Abbas Manjee, Chief Academic Officer

 

P.S. Kiddom’s core product for teacher and learners will always remain free.

Just Added: Teaching Resources for Literacy, Writing, and Grammar

Just Added: Teaching Resources for Literacy, Writing, and Grammar

Knock knock. Who’s there? To. To who? To whom!

Grammar puns aside, the literacy gap is serious business. In the United States alone, an estimated 8.7 million 4th-12th grade students struggle with the reading and writing tasks required of them in school.

At Kiddom, we believe students deserve strong literacy instruction in all of their classes. That’s why we’ve just added teaching resources from the fine folks at Quill.org and RocketLit to our library.

Quill.org provides free writing and grammar activities for elementary, middle, and high school students. Activities are great for small group instruction or station work. They’re excellent for homework assignments as well.

Activities are designed to be completed in ten minutes, so there’s a lot of flexibility in how you use them. For example, a sentence combining activity asks students to combine multiple ideas into a single sentence. They then receive instant feedback to help them improve their clarity and precision.

Instantly find Quill.org’s resources and build grammar and language skills for writing assignments

Do I need a Quill.org account?
No. Both teachers and students can access the activity directly via the content library preview or in the student assignment. When a student completes the activity they will see a results screen.

RocketLit offers non-fiction science and social studies articles, written in a voice students love. The articles are packed with analogies and available at multiple reading levels, covering topics for upper elementary and middle school. Science resources are aligned to NGSS and a growing number of state standards.

Articles for students include listening support for lower reading levels and annotation options. Assessments include multiple choice and free response style questions. Students complete an initial reading diagnostic and RocketLit adapts each assignment you choose to the student’s own reading level. This adjusts as student’s reading improves.

Find RocketLit’s articles in Kiddom to introduce science or social studies topics

Do I need a RocketLit account?
Yes. However, teachers get a free one month trial and all 5th grade reading level versions are free. Your students will also need accounts which you can set up when you create your teacher account.

Whether you’re an English Language Arts teacher, literacy specialist, or just a grammar nerd, you’re going to love these resources. To learn more about library of free teaching resources, visit our help desk.

https://upscri.be/17b283/


By: Abbas Manjee, Chief Academic Officer

P.S. This educator guide on literacy instruction provides a definition of content literacy, its impact, strategies for incorporating literacy skills, and tips for using Kiddom to help you integrate literacy and content seamlessly for yourself and your students.

Introducing Standard Mastery Reports

Introducing Standard Mastery Reports

How to dig deep into student performance on individual standards

As more and more teachers across the globe manage their classrooms using Kiddom, we’ve been thinking about how our reports can be even more actionable.

Simply put: we want teachers to be able to complete the instructional cycle for every student faster. And more efficiently. To do this, we believe teachers must need to be able to (1) investigate progress already made on specific standards/skills and (2) quickly act on it.

Well, we’re thrilled to announce this is now possible. Teachers, meet your new standard mastery reports and prepare to say, “Ooh la la…” 🤗

Standard Mastery Reports

To access your standard mastery reports, visit your reports page. Click on an individual standard from your reports to view a more detailed summary of your class performance on a specific standard.

Access these reports by clicking on an individual standard
  • At the very top, you’ll see a more detailed description of the standard you clicked on
  • Use the arrows next to this card to cycle between standards
  • The first reporting metric, Class Average, shows your overall class average for this standard
  • To the right, Class Average is distributed by mastery group
  • Use the graph below this to track the performance of your class on this standard over time
  • Sort the order of students by first name, last name, or by performance (e.g. sort by “lowest grade” to display students who need the most support first)

Individual Student Progress on Standards

From your standard mastery reports, scroll down and click on any student to open up individual student progress over time on specific standards.

Click on an individual student from your standard mastery reports to dig even deeper
  • At the top, you’ll see a graph you can use to track the performance of this student (on this particular standard) over time
  • Every assignment that is aligned to this standard (and assigned to that student) can be viewed here
  • Clicking on an assignment will open that particular student’s submission (where you’re welcome to add additional feedback and/or comments)

Find Resources Directly From Your Reports

Remember the, “we want teachers to be able to complete the instructional cycle for every student faster” thing we mentioned?

  • From your standard mastery reports, clicking “Find more assignments for this standard” will instantly open your resource library.
  • Use our library to find and assign free teaching resources (videos, quizzes, activities, and more) based on the intelligence you obtain from your standard mastery reports
  • Teaching resources here are meant to supplement/enrich instruction and offer teachers additional differentiation materials

What’s Next

We’re building Kiddom to be a place where teachers and learners can work together effortlessly, no matter where they are. We’re going to be focusing on one particular group of patient folks next: Android users. Stay tuned…

In the mean time, what are you waiting for? You have new reports to explore!


By: Abbas Manjee, Chief Academic Officer

P.S. Book a free 1:1 demo to learn how Kiddom can support your instructional practice. We’d love to say hello in person!