For special ed teachers, a tool to get them back in the classroom

LiftEd tracks special education students’ progress through machine learning

Special education teachers say that tracking the progress of their students can be so time consuming that it takes them away from the place where they can do the most good: the classroom.

So three years ago a brother-sister duo decided that together they had the knowledge to tackle the problem head-on. Andrew Hill was studying for his MBA at the University of California at Berkeley, while Joanne Hill-Powell was working as a behavioral analyst in New Jersey.

Being on opposite coasts didn’t stop them from creating LiftEd, an app that uses applied behavioral analysis to help special education professionals track, measure, and report a student’s classroom experiences and progress accurately and efficiently. The tool makes it easier for teachers, therapists, and behavioral analysts to refine instruction, accelerate progress, and develop intervention strategies.

LiftEd is an app that uses applied behavioral analysis to help special education professionals track, measure, and report a student’s progress.

“It’s about how you contextualize the conversation around data,” says Hill, named one of Forbes’s 30 under 30 this year. “You can build data around particular grade levels, disabilities, age, culture, or ethnicity, and it tells a story. You can see, using machine learning, what they’re actually retaining.”

The app also provides insights on learning trends and shares outcomes in real time with school districts and parents.

“This can help improve teaching efficacy,” Hill says. “You can see if instructional strategy is working and intervene as needed.”

After an eight-week study last year, the LiftEd team found that the app saved teachers an average of 20 hours a week. What’s more, they saw a 30 percent increase in meeting their classroom goals.

The team was a finalist this year at WeWork’s Creator Awards San Francisco, held on May 10.

Since the company started in 2015, LiftEd has received more than $500,000 in funding. For the current school year, LiftEd surpassed 2,000 clients, serving 10 school districts and one autism therapy center. The five-person team is looking to hire more staffers this year, adding to its engineering team, product team, and deployment operation in the hopes of serving 40 new school districts by the next academic year.

The youngest of five siblings, Hill started his first company by age 14, taking apart MacBook computers and putting them back together.

“I always felt like a hustler, you know, with scrappiness and grit,” he says.

After moving from Jamaica to Long Island, his parents owned a convenience store. From a young age, Hill was tasked with everything from sweeping the floors to stocking shelves. He says that work ethic instilled in a young age still fuels him.

“Entrepreneurship will take you to the brink,” he says. “You don’t know how you’re going to pay rent next month, you have a responsibility to take care of your employees. It becomes bigger than you.”

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