Zach Posner fast-tracks a company built for student success.
INTERVIEW | by Victor Rivero
Originally created as a web-based gradebook, Engrade makes it easier for teachers to input grades and other classroom data and report it back to students while improving instruction and learning outcomes. “Based on feedback from users and the districts we work with,” says Zach Posner (pictured left), CEO of Engrade, “it has since evolved into a district-level platform that unifies the data, curriculum, and tools teachers, school leaders, and administrators use every day by integrating all of a district’s software and systems, including third party applications and open education resources, into one fully secure and easy-to-use, cloud-based platform.” Since joining the company in 2010, Zach has fast-tracked their growth, expanding its product development, staff and partners while securing $8 million in investment capital. They now connect over 45,000 administrators, more than half a million teachers and 5 million students and parents. In addition to his role at Engrade, Zach is an enthusiastic lecturer at the Annenberg School of Communications at the University of Southern California.
Victor: What does the name mean?
Zach: We build software efficiently and intuitively. The name Engrade reflects this. Short and grade-related.
Victor: What is it? Who created it?
Engrade is a secure, single sign-on, cloud-based education platform that marries multiple systems and consolidates education data from all of the disparate sources across classrooms and schools and makes it not only more accessible and actionable, but available in conjunction with all of the district’s curriculum, content, assessment, and classroom management tools. Engrade’s extremely talented technical team developed the platform.
Victor: What does it do? What are the benefits?
Zach: Districts rely on Engrade to enhance district-wide communication, plan and evaluate curriculum, manage assessment, and monitor student progress in real time. Educators love Engrade because it simplifies their workflow, increases efficiency in the classroom, and empowers them to use the resources and strategies that work best to improve instruction and outcomes for each student.
Victor: How is it unique from other similar products/services? What companies do you see as in the same market?
Zach: Currently there are no other platforms on the market that unify all of a district’s systems and resources – SIS, attendance, reporting, gradebook, assessment, curriculum and content, etc. – in one secure, central, cloud-based platform. Further, Engrade is the only solution that streamlines the data collection process by communicating with the software students are using on their devices. As they complete assessments and other exercises, the data is directly inputted into Engrade, eliminating the need for teachers to upload the results manually. It works across operating systems and on any device.
Victor: When was it developed? What is something interesting or relevant about its development history?
Zach: In 2003, Bri Holt created Engrade’s first solution, a free gradebook for teachers, while he was still in high school. It was in direct response to a pain point he had as a student (the need for more timely feedback on his assignments and quicker turnaround on grades) and his teachers had as well (lack of a technology to help them keep track of that information in a way that could be more easily reported and acted on). Since its inception, Engrade has kept its ear to the ground, listening to teachers and now to district leaders, to offer solutions that meet the pain points its users are experiencing. We’re striving to streamline systems and increase efficiency and work with our users to solve for critical issues like data accessibility, common core implementation, and compliance reporting.
Victor: Where did it originate? Where can you get it now?
Zach: Teachers, school leaders, and districts interested in learning more about Engrade should visit www.engrade.com or email info at engrade.com.
Victor: How much does it cost? What are the options?
Zach: Our basic gradebook will always be free for teachers. Our school and district-level platform operates with a SAAS model (per student, per year annual license fee).
Victor: What are some examples of it in action?
Zach: Currently Engrade is in use in more than 40,000 schools worldwide. The platform is highly configurable and is being used in a wide variety of ways, depending on the needs of the customer. However, ultimately, it is the central platform that unifies all of the data, resources, tools, and technologies a school uses so that they can improve learning.
Victor: Who is it particularly tailored for? Who is it not for?
Zach: Engrade is open to all; we serve public schools, private schools, charter schools, home schools, universities, vocational schools, and more.
Victor: What are your thoughts on education these days?
Zach: It is overdue for innovation, which we are excited to be a part of. From a technology perspective there are too many complex systems that overwhelm teachers and other end users, which is discouraging the use of data in classrooms. Our goal is to change the way that software and content are delivered into the classroom. We encourage integrations in and out of Engrade (which is a permission based system) through easy to use APIs.
Victor: What sort of formative experiences in your own education helped to inform your approach to creating Engrade?
Zach: The team at Engrade is comprised of either technical talent or former educators. Everyone’s collective experience is consolidated to create an amazing platform for our end users.
Victor: How does Engrade address some of your concerns about education?
Zach: Engrade facilitates the flow of information in a real time basis to relevant parties and saves time. It allows educators to connect the right content with the right student at the right time to accelerate academic achievement. We are becoming an example of how educators can be empowered to use data to improve outcomes.
Victor: What is your outlook on the future of education?
Zach: Looking more and more like the traditional web applications that you find outside of education and demand as a consumer. More accessibility. Open framework. Students being able to reference learning materials outside the classroom.
Victor: What else can you tell educators and other leaders in and around education about the value of Engrade?
Zach: Engrade is a tremendous platform that can be used by anyone. I would encourage them to reach out and take a peek. Seeing is believing and most educators and administrators who have seen the platform instantly see the power it has to transform their schools and the way they deliver education and support student success.
Victor Rivero is the Editor in Chief of EdTech Digest. Are you an edtech leader, trendsetter, or the creator of a cool edtech tool? The 2014 EdTech Digest Awards extended entry period runs until October 18, 2013. There is still time to enter. For full details, write to: email@example.com
My district is going with and we expect it to gather data from Conceptua, Dreambox, Raz Kids, and I-Ready, Performance Matters, Power school attendance, Office referrals and benchmarks and massage those data points to easy to understand graphs that drive intervention strategies.
We are very happy users of the Engrade platform; The customization for our school system’s needs was relatively painless and we found them to be very responsive to our needs.
I wish Engrade were as “highly configurable” as stated. They are pretty fair about accommodating requests, but I don’t think that Engrade is designed to serve as a “custom-fit” platform for schools with more unique needs, speaking from experience. Overall though, I’m happy with the service and some customizations are implemented; also, the support team is both friendly and helpful.
He’d better have paid for the advertising, since the product is cookie cutter rigid, with assessments ONLY by teachers and ignoring the media the kids use for everything else.