If the recent SPAC, funding, and IPO news is any indication, the international EdTech scene is on the rise.
While the pandemic has certainly changed physical classroom spaces, Ian Cohen, founder of Atlanta-based TARA Education Technologies, has seen firsthand that it has only “exacerbated existing inequities” in the overall education system. And his early-stage startup is looking to help teachers and administrators provide a better classroom experience one lesson plan at a time.
TARA is a “digital workspace for K-12 schools” that streamlines the lesson planning and coaching process. Individual teachers can use TARA’s flexible platform to build out each lesson. Administrators, in turn, can easily collect data, provide feedback, and report on important observations.
TARA also has a virtual bank of activities that teachers can pull from to spark inspiration during the lesson planning process.
Cohen joined Teach For America in Metro Atlanta after graduating from Emory University. Though he left the classroom, he stayed close to the education space with the start of the non-profit Next Generation Men & Women, which is working to close the opportunity gap for high school students. He later joined Atlanta’s Center for Civic Innovation as a fellowships co-director, where he helped social entrepreneurs in the city grow their ventures.
Ultimately, Cohen told Hypepotamus that he started to explore how technology could help both teachers and school administrators. Typically, teachers were relying on Word or Google Docs to send in lesson plans. “It’s really hard to pull any data or develop a workflow from that, from that,” Cohen added.
COVID’s Impact on Education
April 2021 marks TARA’s two-year anniversary. The team has grown to include Liz Rary and Laura Jackson, who run customer success and marketing/operations respectively.
The platform first launched with a beta test at the South Fulton school where Cohen used to teach. Then, of course, COVID shifted just about every aspect of education. “COVID came about right in the middle of the budgeting and sales cycle for schools. Schools typically set their budgets by April for the following year,” meaning most of TARA’s calls with potential users came to a halt quickly.
But COVID also opened up a wider conversation about how technology could best support new teachers. Upwards of 3,000 incoming Teach For America teachers ultimately joined the platform after the TARA team landed a partnership with the national organization last summer.
The TFA partnership helped TARA find areas of improvement, but Cohen said it also “validated the impact that TARA has on new teachers and on teacher support programs.”
The Future of EdTech in Atlanta
Atlanta’s diverse tech talent pool has pulled international teams like Airbnb and Microsoft over the last several months. Despite the focus on Atlanta’s strong university systems, Cohen points out that the city’s EdTech scene has remained small. “But we have districts here [in Atlanta] that are very open to trying new things. We have teachers here who are extremely innovative and creative.”
The TARA team believes Atlanta can be a regional hub for EdTech talent and just launched EducationATL.com in order to bring together innovators in the space.
“We need more tech minds looking at [education] because we see an unlimited number of challenges that need to be solved,” added Cohen. “There’s so much value here.”
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