School culture startup gains national attention

Lauren Williams's picture
Monday, September 9, 2013

Nashville-based software startup, LiveSchool, was a winner of Mayor Bloomberg’s New York City "Gap App" contest in May. Now, the company has been identified by Wall Street Journal as one of the top 20 startups in the United States and is the only education technology platform in the contest.

Led by former teacher Matt Rubinstein, the company aims to provide schools nationwide with a platform for improving school culture by tracking classroom behavior and creating a system for incentivizing and supporting positive student choices. The app is similar to ClassDojo, a behavior management app that has gained popularity in individual classrooms. LiveSchool distinguishes itself by offering tools for school-wide data collection, analysis, and communication with parents.

“We work with a very challenging population of students,” says Daniel Black, principal of New York City iZone school New Design Middle. “Knowing that, we came ready to build a really consistent culture because that’s the way middle schools work best.”

Like many schools, New Design Middle recognized the importance of tracking behavior — but prior to LiveSchool, teachers and administrators manually entered paper and pencil data into a time-consuming system. When Black saw LiveSchool’s simplifying potential, “a little tear came out of my eye,” he says. “Now it is a matter of tracking the data and following up with teachers.”

The company estimates that it saves teachers an average of two hours per week otherwise spent on paperwork to track behavior and manage a positive incentive system. "I’ve been with our school for 18 years and been through all our system changes over the years. LiveSchool has been by far the best. Our data collection is so in-depth,” says Monica Brantley, a veteran educator who works in Georgia. "LiveSchool has made a huge impact on that. It really streamlined our process and freed up so much time for teachers."

The tool is used by both public and charter schools, and automates popular systems like Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS), an observation that CEO Rubinstein is quick to make. "There are many education technology tools that are solving a problem that few educators actually have. I recognized that behavior management and building effective school culture is a common denominator."

The company has grown to serve thousands of teachers in little over a year. LiveSchool’s growth comes as growing numbers of schools and districts focus on improving student behavior, engagement and school culture.

LiveSchool helps schools maintain consistent behavioral expectations, which students need, says Dirk Bedford, Principal of Westside Achievement Middle School in Memphis.

“If kids experience different learning environments in different classrooms, what we teach them about working hard and being good students won’t take hold,” Bedford explains. “When our behavioral and academic expectations can be aligned and tracked in every classroom, we see multiplier effects that lead to great student achievement and help our students develop the healthy successful habits of life-long learners.”

LiveSchool’s web-based design allows teachers and administrators to easily record behavior in real time on a consistent school-wide rubric, using a tablet, laptop or personal computer. Teachers and school leaders can share, analyze and comment on the trends they see with students, parents, and each other. Students earn points for good behavior that they can redeem for incentive and privileges like pizza parties, field trips and school store items.

The web-based platform also offers a tool for tracking student hall passes in real-time. Teachers can issue hall passes from any web-enabled device, and the information is shared instantly with hall monitors. As students move from class to class throughout the day, teachers can reference a single record of their time out of class for restroom breaks, trips to the locker, nurse and other destinations.

LiveSchool provides school leaders with a platform that fosters a positive school culture.  At Westside, LiveSchool has been an important tool, Bedford says.

“It’s allowed us to have honest conversations about how to best support our students,” he says. “LiveSchool gives us real-time feedback on student performances and gives us the data we need to tailor our interventions to help our kids.” 

LiveSchool believes that its technology can help schools to automate the data collection required for a successful behavior management plan and thereby foster a positive overall school culture. Rubinstein notes, "From classroom teachers to state superintendents, there is a growing recognition that school culture is one of the best levers we have to improve achievement. We're excited to be building a platform that supports those efforts."

Visit whyliveschool.com for more information on LiveSchool.