Panorama Education, a startup specializing in education data, has grown fast since its founding in 2012. As more schools show a stronger interest in collecting and using data to improve education, Panorama's founders are attracting funding from major companies — most notably, from Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg.
According to Christina Farr of VB/Education, Panorama Education was started by Aaron Feuer, who picked up computer programming skills at Yale University after he thought that school districts needed a better way to poll students and teachers and incorporate the results.
"I realized that the problem wasn't the law," Feuer recalled. Even as a teenager, he worked with school district chiefs and government agencies as the president of the California Association of Student Councils.
"Schools needed a new product — and I decided I could build it using my coding skills," he added.
According to Tony Wan of edSurge, the idea to start Panorama grew when Feuer was still in high school. In 2008 during his senior year at North Hollywood High School, Feuer served as president of the California Association of Student Councils. He traveled throughout the state asking students and teachers about how to improve schools, and nearly everyone said that feedback was paramount. He helped draft a California state bill, SB1422, which authorized schools to "establish a committee of pupils and teachers to develop a survey by which pupils may provide feedback to teachers." The bill passed in 2010, but Feuer wasn't done.
"That's not how you make a difference in education, unfortunately. A few years later, when I was a junior [at Yale], I realized that nothing had happened," he said.
That's when he and three of his classmates decided to develop a product that could put his idea directly into practice. They founded Panorama Education in April 2012 and within a year, Feuer says, 1,100 schools signed up. Currently, Panorama boasts more than 4,000 schools in over 250 districts, which includes the Los Angeles Unified School District and Aspire Public Schools. The company also has state-level contracts with Kentucky, Colorado, Massachusetts and Connecticut.
"We went from focusing on student surveys to giving a voice to students, parents and teachers," says Feuer. "Administrators and teachers really want this feedback. We've never had a district turn us down because it was too expensive."
The company charges an annual fee based on district size and requested features, which, despite being a high-tech offering, also includes handling paper surveys and snail mail. Currently, Feuer says the smallest contract is for just $200.
Panorama isn't a vastly complex piece of technology by design. Feuer has found that analog, paper-based systems still work best with students, parents, and teachers.
Panorama's system offers banks of surveys and questions designed to solicit feedback on all areas of school performance including campus culture, academic expectations, student safety and parent engagement.
Results are aggregated into customizable online reports that allow users to filter and drill down by different criteria. Sample reports from schools and districts are currently available on the company website, some of which includes less-than-flattering, but useful, feedback.