Ontract Launching to Help Close the Data Gap Between Educators, Students and Parents

Today OnTract launched in closed beta to provide analytics for K-12 teachers in the U.S., with a goal of helping them identify trends among their students, and communicate issues to students and parents. The tool is currently in closed beta and is testing its solution through a partnership with Strive, which serves schools in and near Cincinnati. Right now schools in the closed beta are measuring data for over 80,000 students, with other partnerships in the pipeline.

Co-founder Julian Miller said he got the idea for OnTract during his stint as a teacher. He said after four years he burned out, and the reason was that it was too difficult to get the data that he needed to service his students effectively, since he was dealing with different learning management systems for student contacts, class schedules, and grades and homework. He start OnTract to help centralize all that data, while also helping teachers identify patterns among their students. “What OnTract does is it connects all of those data silos, and it’s a real-time analytics engine that essentially notices emerging trends, and has the capability to push out notifications to teachers as those trends emerge,” Miller said. “After that the teacher can attach resources, request a meeting, and all that is handled by our system.”

OnTract uses LearnSprout’s set of APIs to pull in data from different learning management systems. The goal is to not only provide data to teachers on their own class, but to leverage data across all the classrooms in a school so teachers get a holistic view of a student’s progress. The platform could identify when a student misses homework, and let them message parents to let them know about revised due dates, or it could recognize that a student has good grades in all their classes except reading, which may indicate they need glasses.  “One thing that the system does is it looks for trends across all the classes, which sometimes teachers and educators can’t do,” Miller said.

Teachers can keep track of parents’ contact details, see success rates in their classrooms, track standardized test progress, and compile reports on any aspect of the classroom. Eventually Miller envisions giving districts a way to share data with each other, so that there’s more transparency around grading structures and other issues. “So many districts are siloed,” Miller said. “I think that national data is really, really important, and people should have access to it. This is really a big data play at its core, and we want to be able to access any of the K-12 in the funnel, from national data down to the individual student.”

Rather than take a bottom-up sales approach similar to education platforms like Top Hat Monocle, which sells to teachers and then encourages school- or district-wide adoption, OnTract is selling its platform to school districts at a base rate of $1 per student per month. Miller said right now it’s available as a web and mobile web platform, but they’ll be looking to build out native apps in the next year.

OnTract was part of startup accelerator The Brandery’s latest class, and Miller says right now they’re focused on seeing how pilot schools are using the platform, and then they’ll open it up to any school. With several startups trying to close the data gap for schools, from Learnsprout’s API to learning management systems like Chalkable, convincing school districts that its solution is best, while also getting teachers to adopt it in the classroom, will be a challenge, but one that Miller is readily accepting.

Erin Bury

Erin Bury

Erin Bury is the Managing Director at 88 Creative, a creative communications agency based in Toronto. She was formerly the Managing Editor at BetaKit, and currently writes a monthly column for the Financial Post. Follow her on Twitter at @erinbury.

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