Forbes’ ‘30 Under 30’ Education Changemakers to Watch in 2016

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Very few people in this world can brag being on the same list as Steph Curry, point guard for our beloved Golden State Warriors. But this latest Forbes “30 Under 30” List—now in its fifth year—offers shot-makers, king-makers and changemakers across nearly every industry, including education, that distinguished honor.

Selected by an all-female panel that included Stacey Childress (CEO of NewSchools Venture Fund), Laurene Powell Jobs (founder of Emerson Collective), Wendy Kopp (founder of Teach for All) and Sarah Kunst (investor and board member at Venture for America), the education list features 30 vicenarians—and one 18-year-old—building high-tech learning tools and working across local communities to make educational opportunities available to learners of all ages.

More than 450 nominations were considered, according to Forbes editor Caroline Howard. Here’s a glance at those who made the final cut—including our senior editor, Mary Jo Madda, who heads the Instruct newsletter, runs the DILA awards and the 50 States Project, among her many feats. (Congratulations, MJ! You penned this roundup when I received the honor two years ago. My, how the tables have turned.)

The Tool Builders

Coding—a discipline creeping into classroom curricula and getting a lot of press—got a nod on the list through Sarah Filman, VP of Curriculum at Code.org, and Zach Latta and Jonathan Leung, the co-founders of Hack Club. But “old-school” writing and literacy skills were recognized as well through Peter Gault, founder of Quill, and WriteLab co-founder Matthew Ramirez. Other time-tested ideas continue to live on through Logan Cohen and Trevor Wilkins’ Küdzoo, a tool that rewards students’ grades and achievements with deals, giveaways and scholarship opportunities.

Other tool builders include Charlie Stigler, whose company, Zaption, offers an interactive video tool for teachers, along with Socratic co-founder Christoper Pedregal, who has helped build the online Q&A platform, Socratic. There’s also Andrew Colchagoff, co-founder of Gingkotree, which allows instructors to build digital curriculum from both licensed and openly available materials.

The Nonprofits

Nonprofits also made a strong showing in their quest to improve access to educational opportunities for underserved learners. The list includes Sarahi Espinoza Salamanca, founder of DREAMer’s RoadMap, who has an app that helps undocumented students find scholarship opportunities.

The list also celebrates those bettering their local communities. Milagros Barsallo, who co-founded RISE Colorado, is working to get parents in low-income families more involved in the school process. Up in South Dakota, Maggie Dunne is helping youth on the Pine Ridge Reservation through her nonprofit, Lakota Children’s Enrichment.

Others are building pipelines to make STEM more accessible to traditionally underrepresented groups. Chelsey Roebuck, co-founder of Emerging Leaders in Technology and Engineering (ELiTE), and Jerelyn Rodriguez, co-founder of The Knowledge House, both aspire to help young adults acquire STEM skills and, hopefully, jobs.

Whither the Educator?

It’s only fitting that a “Who’s Who” list of education highlight work done within schools. But, unlike the 2014 and 2015 lists, no current teacher or administrator made the cut this year. Forbes, after all, is an industry publication that celebrates dollars and revenue as much as social impact.

The list does honor two women for their research at universities. Carissa Romero is co-founder of Project for Education Research That Scales, a $6.4 million center at Stanford University that studies “growth mindset” interventions. Constance Iloh, a postdoctoral fellow and incoming assistant professor at UC Irvine, was also recognized for her work on diversity, equity and access in higher education.

The (New)Schools Connection

When it comes to making lists, who one knows may trump what one knows. And while education may be a trillion dollar industry, the edtech circles are small. The money trails reveal the web of connections that tie together many of the entrepreneurs on this list.

Esther Trioche, who works with Childress at NewSchools Venture Fund, made the list, along with four companies affiliated with NSVF—Blendspace, WriteLab, Zaption and yours truly, EdSurge. TNTP, a nonprofit on the list that helps train public school teachers, has also received support. NSVF also funded Camelback Ventures, an incubator for minority- and female-led businesses that includes Heart of Man, Küdzoo and The Knowledge House.

Another education funder making the list is Eric Lavin, founding manager of Aspen Ventures. He previously founded Whetstone Education, a company focusing on teacher professional development whose CEO, Libby Fischer, also got a nod this year.

Other Members of the 2016 Club

Disclosure: EdSurge has received support from NewSchools Venture Fund

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