Forbes’ 2015 “30 Under 30 in Education”
Forbes | http://onforb.es/1DgjUMh | January 5, 2015
Amelia Castaneda, 29
Center Director, Higher Achievement
Saluted by the White House as a 2014 Latino Educator Champions of Change, Castañeda is the Michigan-born daugher of migrant Mexican workers and the first in her family to graduate from high school and college (Virginia Tech). Now she’s boosts college-readiness outcomes for at-risk middle schoolers as Alexandria, Va., director at Higher Achievement, an after-school and summer program serving 1,000 kids in five cities.
At first glance, school appears pretty much the same as it did when your grandparents or parents learned the ‘New Math’ or headed off to college with a typewriter. Look harder, and what and how we learn and teach is markedly changing.
Some of the credit for this great transformation is due to the 30 young people on this list (not to mention our past 30 Under 30 honorees in education). These change-makers are ripe to ripple and quake the educational system as we know it, from grade school up through higher ed.
This revolution is largely made possible by three factors: digital disruption, a storming of the gated communities of quality education and a belief in DIY and life-long learning — not to mention all those dollars from venture capitalists and state and federal governments. Edtech funding alone hit $1.3 billion in 2014, topping 2013′s record of $1.2 billion.
There are serious people who believe that this massive upheaval is not completely unlike the American War of Independence. Among them, Michael Moe, cofounder of edtech investor GSV Capital GSVC -0.32%, who calls this shift the “Second American Revolution,” and asks the rest of us:
We can choose to accept the status quo of a failing education system or we can opt to embrace the transformative potential of technology, re-conceptualize traditional models and invest in building our nation’s education and knowledge capital. This is our call to arms. Which side of history will we be on?
Which brings up the obvious question: What are these millennial generals fighting for? With all due respect to the three Rs, this year’s directory of movers and makers in the education sector have declared this to be the era of the three Cs: code, college readiness and community impact. Here, a small sampling of each group.
Some think of code as a curriculum. Others as a means to capital and professional success. But the vast majority of people made this list for their innovative digital platforms that target schools, districts and teachers as their primary customer, or are directed at students themselves.
Alex Klein, 24, cofounder of Kano, has invented a computer kit for kids that’s as fun and easy to build and code as LEGOs. Lightbot, founded by 23-year-old Danny Yaroslavski, teaches children how to code through gaming and has been a first-step to computer science for over 5 million students worldwide.
Sarah Kunst, 28, is a VC by day but is honored here for her philanthropic work for groups such as Venture for America, Code2040 and the U.S. State Department’s Tech Women — her goal is to make tech funding more diverse and bridge the digital divide. Mattan Griffel, 26, is a self-taught developer who founded OneMonth, a Y Combinator-backed startup that’s shown 15,000 students how to build their own websites and apps from scratch.
College Abacus is known as the “Kayak for college financial aid.” The college net price aggregator that allows students to compare costs of nearly 4,000 institutions launched in 2012 and was acquired this year by ECMC. Cofounder Abigail Seldin, 26, stayed on with after the sale and is now VP of Innovation and Product Management. Developed by Benjamin Levy, 27 while a Teach For America fellow, eduCanon allows teachers to create their own Khan Academy, using videos as a learning tool. It’s a player in the flipped learning movement, and in 15 months has attracted 50,000 teachers and 300,000 registered students, all by word-of-mouth.
Of the large-scale management systems, Schoology, offers K-12 schools and universities tools for planning lessons, grading , communicating with parents and peer-to-peer collaboration. It closed a $15 million round in June, bringing total capital raised to $25 million. It was founded in 2009 by Jeremy Friedman, 27, Ryan Hwang, 28, Bill Kindler, 29, and Timothy Trinidad, 27.
Michael J. Carter, 26, founded Strive for College while a full scholarship freshman at Washington University in St. Louis in 2007. His idea was to pair his high-performing classmates with local low-income high school kids for free, one-on-one college prep mentoring. Fast forward, and today he leads a national virtual mentorship platform with 20 college chapters.
Saluted by the White House as a 2014 Latino Educator Champions of Change, Amelia Castañeda, 29, is the Michigan-born daughter of migrant Mexican workers and the first in her family to graduate from high school and college (Virginia Tech). Now she’s boosts college readiness outcomes for at-risk middle schoolers as a director at Higher Achievement, an after-school and summer program serving five cities.
There’s a shortage of college counselors — 1 for every 471 students at U.S. public schools. One fix is AdmitSee, a social media e-commerce hybrid that taps a community of verified undergrad and grad students who want to pay it forward (and get paid) by sharing their college application materials, including personal statements, test scores and high school resumes. Cofounders Stephanie Shyu, 26, and Lydia Fayal, 28, met at UPenn Law.
Twenty-three year old Karim Abouelnaga’s Practice Makes Perfect focuses on one critical but oft-overlooked issue: the summer slide. Research shows that some two-thirds of the academic achievement gap between lower and higher income youth can be explained by unequal access to summer learning. Its “near peer” mentorship model matches academically struggling K-8 students with older, higher-achievers from the same inner-city neighborhoods.
Out to disrupt the old-school idea of substitute teachers who just show movies or assign busywork (at a price of some $4 billion annually to U.S. school districts), 28-year-old Andre Feigler’s startup, Enriched Schools, offers New Orleans area K-12 schools a subscription service to a diverse, pre-screened group of “guest educators,” mostly creatives such as performers, musicians and poets plus professionals, stay-at-home parents, community leaders.
Two years ago, Sam Strasser, 29, joined Silicon Valley-based charter network Summit Public Schools to create a learning platform that puts personalized schooling in the hands of students, allowing them to set their own long-term academic goals, access their data and control content delivery. He now leads a group of Facebook developers to make this platform available for free to schools across the country.