I often find myself deeply humbled by the entrepreneurs I have the great fortune to engage with day to day here at NewSchools, all of whom are tackling important and difficult challenges within our education system. Nationwide, innovative entrepreneurs are addressing many facets of the K-12 system but there is one subgroup of education that gets little attention and focus among entrepreneurs: special education (SPED). Yet across the country, the achievement gap for special education students continues to widen. Each year, the number of students identified as special needs is increasing—in the last decade, the number of U.S. students enrolled in special education programs has risen 30 percent. Many of these students are enrolled in schools districts that are least equipped to support their needs.
In January, the NewSchools Seed Fund made its first investment in a company addressing this exact need. Goalbook is building a robust technology platform that allows educators, students, specialists, and parents to collaborate and communicate around a student’s learning goals. Specifically, Goalbook is focused on improving learning outcomes for special education students by addressing the many challenges educators face around communication, instruction and compliance-driven requirements that make the entire SPED management process quite complex and overly convoluted.
The company is just over a year old and founders Daniel Yoo (an engineer turned SPED educator) and Justin Su have made great progress in building a beautifully designed and user-focused product for educators. The tool is currently being used (and paid for) by districts and schools across the country. This Fall, Goalbook launched two important features to better improve the cumbersome reporting process for special educators. The first is a “Service Delivery” module, which tracks service minutes online for SPED teachers, therapists and specialists; a time intensive and manual process for most schools. The second is a “Timelines & Tasks” module which tracks the multiple Individual Education Program (IEPs) dates and deadlines educators must meet throughout the year. Importantly, Goalbook is currently creating a high quality IEP goal bank, which will be aligned to Common Core, a much needed resource for special educators. The team is laser focused on continuing to improve the quality of SPED instruction and day-to-day work flow process for all educators.
Another important achievement has been the growth of Goalbook’s technical team over the last three months. In a market where recruiting strong engineers is the biggest challenge for technology startups, Goalbook brought on two high-caliber engineers, Dhiren Bhatia (formerly with Nvidia) and Hain-Lee Hsueh (formerly with Oracle), to continue to help build out the infrastructure of the platform and design of the product—an important milestone for the company in this incredibly competitive environment.
Goalbook is clearly tackling one of the most challenging efforts in education today, with much hard work ahead and many lessons to continue to learn, I want to take this moment to celebrate and support the work of Daniel, Justin, Dhiren and Hain-Lee as entrepreneurs who continue to push the envelope on what is possible in education technology today.