Skoodat wins bid in school software

"Disruptive in a good way" is how Skoodat co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Ken McElrath describes his education software, which brings access to student information into the 21st century.

McElrath is a former educator who believes he's found a better way to organize student data. Instead of the different "silos" where information is organized and available to a select few, logging into his cloud service allows parents to see how their students did on their last test as soon as the teacher uploads the score.

He scored his first big victory this month with a deal to supply the Children's Aid Society with software to track the educational development of children in its Carrera adolescent pregnancy prevention program.

McElrath's software will help school officials, teachers, parents and students from New York to Florida work from the same data, and enable them to track student progress using the same criteria.

"We have to capture that data in such a way that we are able to meet milestones, and Skoodat is going to do that," said Michael Carrera, founder of the pregnancy prevention program.

Carrera will be able to compare individual students, classes, teachers, schools and school districts, tracking student progress in areas from grade-point average to absences.

"We also use it as a performance management tool, so when we're looking at all of the schools and all of the young people, we're able to see where the soft points are and where the deficits are," he said.

The program in each high-risk school begins in the sixth grade, and follows those students through to graduation.

The reaction to these types of programs traditionally has been mixed, McElrath has said, because not all schools want their effectiveness measured quite so accurately and made easily available to parents and state education officials.

But at a time when the political winds are blowing against the educational status quo, he has found a receptive ear among reformers.

"If you think about what's going on with [Harlem Success Academy], it's very similar to that," McElrath said. "They've got people from all over the country calling them and asking them to start a program in their school."

He's still hoping to have his software adopted by Hamilton County schools so that local parents can keep real-time track of their child's learning progress.

"I could definitely see some very direct application of what we've built for them also being made use of here in Hamilton County," he said, but so far it hasn't happened.

"It's not that there are people in the district that don't want to use what we've got, but there have been some roadblocks to making that happen," he said.

In the meantime, scoring a nationwide success has put a smile on his face overnight, and created a buzz around the product. But he doesn't want to declare victory yet until the results come in from his Carrera partnership.

"This is a major success," he said. "But, the way we do it is, we sign big deals, we perform on those deals, and when our customers are successful, that's when we announce something."

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