Adding a new block period to the school day, or introducing peer teaching in classrooms, requires plenty of planning. Re-arranging teaching schedules is no simple task—and one reason why, according to Adam Pisoni, it can take up to six months for schools to introduce new instructional approaches.
His startup, Abl Schools is building software to help administrators in traditional schools plan and manage staffing and scheduling changes. Now, fresh off a $4.5 million seed round, the San Francisco, CA-based startup is looking for partners to test drive and help refine its software.
“We want to build [our tools] with a collaboration of schools that want to change and re-allocate their resources as a big part of their aspirations,” Pisoni, the company’s CEO and founder, tells EdSurge.
Applications for the “Abl Accelerator” are now open to any school and district. The company will select six partners by June for the six-to-nine month program, which includes working with school design experts and beta testing the tools that Abl is building. Participation is free.
Two important criteria for selecting schools: a strong leadership team committed to innovation, and a student body that reflects the diverse needs and demographics of schools across the country.
“What we’re doing,” says Pisoni, “is building school operations software that makes scheduling and allocating staffing much easier and more visible.” He adds that the company is “model agnostic” in that it will not prescribe what changes a school or district should be making. Creating that vision and strategy, he says, remains in the hand of school leaders.
Pisoni does want to work closely with traditional schools that want to change—but don’t necessarily have the resources to do so. At a time when private schools such as AltSchool and Khan Lab School are taking the spotlight, he notes, “there is so much innovation happening in district schools that people ignore.” He adds: “We believe existing schools can be better. We want to bring those new approaches to traditional schools.”
Throughout the program, Abl’s team of designers, engineers and school design consultants will shadow teachers and administrators to understand what they hope to achieve. They’ll also learn about how the school manages its staffing schedules. Abl’s team will then tweak and offer its software to aid in the process. The immediate goal is to help schools plan and implement new instructional models more effectively.
Piloting with a small number of schools, of course, will also allow the company to work out kinks in its tools before selling them publicly. “My hope is that in 2017, we’ll be able to start selling [our product] in conjunction with support services,” Pisoni tells EdSurge.