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Classrooms As Startup: How Our CEO Used Data to Teach

It’s back-to-school season. But what do startups and schools have in common? According to Parse.ly’s CEO, Sachin Kamdar, more than you would think.

And he would know. After getting his Masters in Education from Pace University, Sachin started his career as a teacher at Brownsville Academy in Brooklyn, New York.

Brownsville Academy High School is alternative transfer school designed for students who have been unsuccessful at traditional schools. BAHS uses nontraditional methods to foster community, support and ultimately a path towards graduation with a population that is faced with several external challenges that traditional students don’t experience.

As a teacher, Sachin saw potential in his students, but he also saw a very practical challenge as an educator: “How do you teach a classroom full of students different lessons simultaneously with a single teacher?” He saw technology as a solution to this challenge.

Sachin built a web interface that assessed each student’s needs, and used the data to cater to the different abilities present in his classroom. “I knew that if I could understand each student’s capabilities out of the gate then I could build a personalized curriculum automatically out of it.”

Throughout the semester, Sachin continued to use the online interface as a way of tracking the students’ progression. “If I could continue to assess the students, I could get more and more personalized for each student.”

And Sachin’s students saw results. Despite the challenges his students faced, many succeeded in passing the state’s exams. Said Kamdar, “In the end my class had one of the highest pass rates in math in the state’s regent exam in the school.”

Parse.ly CEO, Sachin Kamdar, with his students.

Parse.ly CEO, Sachin Kamdar, with his students.

Beyond educating his students, Sachin sees this early experience with individualized technology in the classroom as analogous to the startup world and digital media environment that Parse.ly works in today.

“Publishers are expected to know their audience at a detailed level. But much like me at Brownsville, the task looks too big of a mountain to climb,” Kamdar explained. “The opportunity that digital affords us is that each person that visits our sites telling us about themselves.”

See Sachin speak about the experience, and how it relates to his experience today in this video.