South Fulton elementary school teacher Baiyina Jihad was searching for a way to encourage less violence in classrooms. The former Teach For America educator was playing with different ideas when she learned how much literacy is related to violence.
Millions of adults in the U.S. lack basic literacy skills, with drastic consequences — not only are they less likely to be employed and more likely to live below the poverty level, individuals who have committed a crime or are incarcerated have lower average literacy scores (after adjusting for race and socioeconomic status).
Jihad was a participant in Goodie Nation‘s Impact Pre-Accelerator program, which focuses on a different social issue — ranging from global health to gentrification — each year to find technology solutions to these far-reaching challenges. This particular program aimed to Hack the Violence.
She came up with the idea for what is now the tech startup Beyond the Classroom (BTC), a literacy coaching app that provides elementary school-aged kids with age-appropriate reading material, comprehension and fluency tests, and mentoring from a professional literacy coach.
“It allows students to receive a personalized literacy experience,” says Jihad. “For doing the tasks they’ll receive badges as rewards, and there will be some sort of parent engagement component as well, like read a book with your parent, take a selfie with your parent.”
Users will also be able to connect over video call while reading with an educational coach, who can provide real-time feedback on their performance. Jihad says they’ll include all types of reading materials — books, magazines, even comic books — to keep the young readers engaged.
The entrepreneur — who is still searching for a technical co-founder — has put together an MVP of the app and plans to begin running a pilot with students this fall. And, she was recently accepted into the education startup accelerator, 4.0 School, for their Tiny Fellowship program. Beyond The Classroom was chosen out of 550 applications for the program.
The virtual accelerator will provide Jihad with mentorship and business coaching while she runs her pilot, all on a virtual basis. She also receives a $10,000 non-dilutive grant.
While Jihad is still working out the exact pricing structure of her subscription-based platform and looking for additional technical help, she’s excited to begin testing the idea with real students.
“I’m excited to impact more than just my classroom and I’m so grateful to have such an amazing support system in Goodie Nation. This whole process has really changed my outlook on a lot,” says Jihad.