Goalbook Nabs $915K From NewSchools & More To Help Teachers Transform Special Education

Lauren Williams's picture
Wednesday, October 24, 2012

When it graduated from Imagine K12′s edtech accelerator last year, Goalbook was tapping into the excitement over technology’s ability to personalize learning by embarking on a mission to give every student a single, shared lesson plan.

The idea was to have students become part of a connected network of educators, administrators and parents through creating a database of goals, strategies and milestones — rather than their educational identities simply sitting in a manilla folder in a file cabinet. After piloting in a group of Bay Area schools, co-founders and engineers Justin Su and Daniel Yoo discovered that their model might, in fact, work better if it were applied to special education, where a support network of educators, administrators and parents already lives around students — even if predominantly offline. Prior to founding Goalbook, Yoo himself left work at Oracle and Google to become a special education teacher in Palo Alto.

The Imagine K12 grad is announcing that it has raised $915,000 in seed funding — led by NewSchools Venture Fund, with contributions from Rethink Education, Ed-Mentor, Patient Capital Collaborative, Wireless Generation co-founder Greg Gunn, former Magellan Health CEO Steve Shulman, Facebook VP of Advertising and Global Operations and Joe Gleberman — to fuel this transition and help it create the first social and mobile platform for special education teachers.

With the new infusion of capital, the startup plans to develop a “Goal Bank,” or a repository of individual goals (aligned with Common Core State Standards) that will include assessments, instructional resources and videos, that is designed specifically for special education teachers.

The word “disruptive” is overused in the description of new technologies, especially in regard to technology’s affect on education, as it’s begun to qualify anything with an API, dashboard and a mobile app. But perhaps the most significant “disruptive” effect technology can have on education is its ability to help the system move from a compliant culture to an outcome-oriented culture.

Bringing better learning analytics and tools that measure inputs and help teachers, administrators and parents communicate and collaborate effectively in realtime has the potential to transform education for the better.

This is true for education in general, but has even more application for students with learning disabilities and developmental problems. By creating the first special education management solution, Goalbook addresses a huge market, considering thirteen percent of students at public schools in the U.S. receive special ed services.

Federal regulations mandate that schools must provide these students with a signed “Individual Education Plan (IEP)” that must be reviewed annually to help determine how well district programs are meeting student needs. As part of these learning plans, teachers, special educators, administrators and parents form teams to assist students in meeting their individual goals.

However, as has been the case with the educational system, IEPs, while helpful, are generally static documents that are only updated a couple of times every year and many of those who work with students don’t even have access to these documents.

Goalbook aims to solve this problem for special education by helping educators and administrators to create a profile for special needs students and provide them with easy access to IEP summaries, more effective communication channels, less paper work and higher compliance rates.

What’s more, federal regulations for special education require schools to meet 814 compliance requirements, so it’s no wonder that schools struggle to meet these benchmarks nor is it surprising that it’s created a compliance-oriented culture in public schools. Instead of focusing on teaching their students, teachers have to spend an inordinate amount of time filing paperwork and worrying about meeting these standards.