No matter how you cut it, last school year was a tough one for education. However, thanks to the growing field of education entrepreneurship, I believe that there is new hope for hurting schools in the ’13-’14 school year. I think that some of the most powerful solutions to our current education problems will come not from the government or the public sector, but from emerging businesses. It’s time we recognize the crucial role business can play in improving American education. After all, our children are our future, and when we improve education, we change our country for the better.
As a founder of Spirit Desk, LLC, a Chicago-based company that serves schools, I’ve experienced the good that can come out of education entrepreneurship firsthand. Here are four other startups that give me new hope for our education system:
In 2009, American teens ranked 23rd in the nation in math and 31st in science. Policymakers have responded with Common Core curriculum standards and STEM initiatives, but a new startup called Tynkr is beating them to the punch. Tynkr has created an innovative visual programming language and Web-based learning environment that helps children learn computational thinking and programming skills in a fun and imaginative way. Tynkr’s programming curriculum starts in elementary school and continues through high school to prepare children for in-demand careers in technology and engineering.
The gap in education quality between high- and low-income schools is still startlingly wide. Turnaround for Children is working to transform the public school system so that high-poverty schools are able to confront the predictable challenges of poverty as they manifest in schools. Turnaround partners with low-income schools to create customized student support systems, offer teacher training, and improve school culture so that children can be given a chance to succeed at school no matter their community’s income level.
Mytonomy believes that all students should be adequately prepared to attend college upon graduation from high school. This company has created a near-peer social network designed to bring alumni advice to high school students while supporting the overburdened high school counselor. Mytonomy helps young people make better decisions about big life choices: how to go to college and pay for it, where to apply, what to study, and how to link all of those decisions to an eventual career.
By international standards, our teachers are underperforming. However, we must question whether that underperformance is due to a lack of training and skill, or a lack of resources. ThinkCerca is addressing the latter of those concerns with their tools and content that enable teachers to be strategic in helping students think critically and make effective arguments.
From STEM skills to teacher support, these companies are taking innovative approaches to school improvement that have the power to revolutionize components of our education system. Of course, business solutions are only one part of the education improvement puzzle. If we hope to see our education system turn around, our nation must come together to provide schools and teachers with the tools they need to better engage students. But it’s time we recognize the crucial role business can play in preparing our country’s children for a more successful future.