Panorama Education Scores $12M to Boost Student Voice, School Success


Panorama Education Scores $12M to Boost Student Voice, School Success

By Tony Wan     Aug 4, 2015

Panorama Education Scores $12M to Boost Student Voice, School Success

Of all the tools and training that companies offer to help teachers, there’s one approach that sounds irrefutably simple: why not ask the students?

Elevating student voice has been a mission for Panorama Education, which offers survey tools currently used by 6,500 schools across 40 states to gather feedback on everything from student engagement to school safety and parent involvement.

While schools may be getting mixed feedback, the company has positive responses from investors, having secured $12 million in a Series A round from Owl Ventures and Spark Capital. The Boston, MA-based startup has now raised $16 million, following a $4 million seed round that courted high profile investors including Ashton Kutcher and Mark Zuckerberg (through his Startup:Education fund).

Since launching in 2012, Panorama Education now serves three million students across 220 school districts, says CEO and co-founder, Aaron Feuer. The company counts active users in 14 of the 100 largest US school districts.

As pressure ramps up to create quantitative measures for “effective” teachers, Feuer believes there are important data points to consider beyond grades and test scores. By taking into account how students and parents feel about the learning experience, educators can get a better sense of how they can improve—which in turn can impact the standardized assessment results that often make headlines. For example, a Harvard study suggests educational outcomes get a boost when teachers and students know they share things in common.

Panorama’s surveys are offered in 10 languages, and through them administrators gain a deeper understanding of their schools’ strengths and weaknesses—and areas where educators and students may not be on the same page. The company compiles the feedback into reports that break down responses to every question. The results can be startling: the Dallas Independent School District recently found that fewer than half of the students in grades 6 to 12 feel excited about going to class.

Panorama also encourages schools to survey parents to get a sense of their involvement in their children’s learning through participation in back-to-school nights, or by simply reading to them every night. After all, the activities that happen at home can very well influence how a child performs in school.

The company also offers open-source surveys that schools can use for free. “We give it away to anyone to use, change or modify,” says Feuer. These surveys come with guidelines on how users can tweak the questions while maintaining the surveys’ rigor and quality.

Feuer wants to see more users analyze the data based on subsets of students from different backgrounds. “Traditionally, most people think about the question, ‘How are my students doing?’” he says. But “overall averages are not important,” and educators ought to see whether responses are different between boys and girls, or among foster students and those on free and reduced lunch.

The process of constant feedback and iteration that drive startups to improve can also benefit teachers, suggests Feuer. But many districts currently run the surveys one to four times each school year—a rate that he thinks is too infrequent. Feuer wants schools to be able to distribute and analyze results from surveys as often as once per week.

“The pace of getting data is often the pace of improvement,” says Feuer. “We want to help schools and teachers get better, and take action quickly so that they’re not waiting until the end of the year.”

Giving schools the feedback and data analysis tools is a start. Whether or not they have the capacity and culture to support the quick improvement cycles remains the question.

Panorama Education currently has 36 employees. Feuer estimates he will hire an additional 20 by the end of the year, with a focus on expanding its “client success” team responsible for helping districts translate survey data into meaningful action.

Learn more about EdSurge operations, ethics and policies here. Learn more about EdSurge supporters here.

More from EdSurge

Get our email newsletterSign me up
Keep up to date with our email newsletterSign me up