Meeting District Needs

Startups See inBloom as Appealing Partner

By Benjamin Herold — November 05, 2013 1 min read

The biggest integration opportunity for many ed-tech startups may be with Atlanta-based inBloom. The nonprofit was recently started with $100 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation of New York, and has become a target for critics concerned about the privacy of student data. (Both philanthropies also help support Education Week‘s coverage of business and K-12 innovation.)

InBloom is working with three states—Colorado, Illinois, and New York—on a system to collect and store massive amounts of student data, as well as to create a registry of instructional material aligned with the Common Core State Standards.

In addition to being fed back to educators via user-friendly interfaces, the information will also be made accessible via “application programming interfaces,” or APIs, to third-party vendors approved by participating school districts. The idea is to facilitate the creation of a wide variety of apps and tools for educators without requiring either vendors or districts to spend months building costly, duplicative interfaces each time a particular database is being accessed.

See Also

To see how some startups are merging resources in order to scale up, see “Tech Platforms, Publishers Join Forces to Sell Content,” November 6, 2013.

Daniel Jhin Yoo is the founder of Palo Alto, Calif.-based Goalbook, an ed-tech startup that helps educators collaboratively develop and track personalized learning plans for students with disabilities. Once his company’s API-enabled connection with inBloom’s common-core content repository is made, Mr. Yoo said, Goalbook will be able to offer tens of thousands of special educators quick, easy access to lessons that are both aligned to a particular content standard and demonstrated to have been effective with other students who have specific special needs.

“That’s a big win for busy special educators who are already working at 110 percent,” Mr. Yoo said.

Sharren Bates, the chief product officer for inBloom, said she understands the privacy concerns stemming from the increased sharing of sometimes-sensitive data between software applications, but she argued that it’s important to put such worries in context. For decades, she said, districts have stored the same data in unlocked filing cabinets, or relied on educators to email spreadsheets to each other.

“What we are doing now is many times more secure than the ways districts are used to sharing data,” Ms. Bates said.

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A version of this article appeared in the November 07, 2013 edition of Education Week as Startups Seek to Integrate With inBloom

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