Education has been the one sector that has undergone incredible transformation considering the influence of disruptive technologies such as artificial intelligence. This transformation was fueled by the changing preferences among learners and the educators’ necessity of adapting to those preferences.
The EdTech niche has evidently showcased that the delivery of quality education could only be possible if the traditional textbook methods consistently evolved and amalgamated with modern, technology-based approaches.
EdTech companies have been at the forefront of this transformation and have paved the way for educational institutions and learners alike. One prominent name among such pioneering companies is Project Education based in Plano, TX.
Founded in 2013, Project Education offers web-based software that adapts to schools’ existing programs for a seamless fit and minimal learning curve. The Project Education system is built on an architecture that blends user-friendly design, smart data management, thorough compliance and communications standards, connectivity with different platforms, and tracking of performance at all levels – district, campus, teacher, and student.
In the following interview, Steve Navarre the CEO and Mellony Deuel the Chief Academic Officer share with us a few insights about the EdTech niche and how Project Education has managed to stay competent within the market.
“We help schools, administrators and educators go beyond mere compliance with more comprehensive data management and the tools to help educators make more informed decisions and enact more effective action plans.”
Below are the highlights of the interview:
Please brief our audience about Project Education, its values, and its journey so far as a leading provider of education software solutions.
Project Education is devoted to providing software tools and consulting expertise that school districts need to help students succeed. Our total-solution approach is the only customizable data management platform that also offers professional development and consulting services.
Our original name was Project ELL because we got our start by focusing on the needs of students who were English Language Learners. The Project ELL customizable platform was an immediate success, which led school districts to ask us for similar software solutions for other student populations – such as Gifted and Talented, Special Education, students with truancy issues, or other behavioral or scholastic needs. The districts also needed expertise to better support those student populations.
Schools and districts are required to comply with State requirements and standards in many of these areas. We help schools, administrators and educators go beyond mere compliance with more comprehensive data management and the tools to help educators make more informed decisions and enact more effective action plans.
Being experienced leaders, share with us your opinion on why the adoption of modern technologies such as AI and Big Data is necessary in the EdTech industry and how you have leveraged these technologies to deliver comprehensive solutions?
Because more data is available than ever before, businesses and organizations must become masters of that data in order to survive and thrive.
That maxim holds true for schools and school districts. Gone are the days when schools could afford to be a little behind the curve when it came to technology or automation. Advances simply happen too fast – and honestly, the data quality is so good that it would be a disservice to not use it to its fullest potential.
This approach benefits students, who receive an approach to their education that is more personalized than ever before. It also empowers educators by giving them the information they need to make better teaching and class management decisions.
We expect teachers to be society’s saviors in overcoming student achievement challenges, but then we leave them under-resourced. Despite that, educators really do improve outcomes for many of their students. But today’s technology and data allow us to imagine the real jumps in student performance these gifted educators can achieve when they have tools that truly perform as they need them to.
To meet this need, we created web-based software that provides a database management and access solution that allows teachers and administrators instant access to information in a variety of ways – for decision making, to be alerted of specific student needs, and even to address tough behavioral challenges or disadvantages. Project Education’s tools also allow teachers to share information with administrators, other teachers, students, and parents, including translations in the parents’ home languages.
What makes our EdTech special is its capacity to unify and refine student data from multiple sources to help improve outcomes. It supports specific student populations by providing direct paths to school and district compliance and providing educators the tools needed to track progress for all student populations.
The Project Education platform resides on a layer (within a school district’s architecture) where it can access student databases like assessments, daily performance, and demographics. This data may have been compartmentalized before, but by ‘knitting’ it together, our programs deliver actionable, in-depth insights and easy-to-interpret reports – with no waiting. We give them instant, effective access.
No two school districts are alike, so customization is essential. What we find from this is that our system is constantly growing and evolving. Each module can be modified to a district’s specific requirements for compliance, procedures, action items and goals – and for the day-to-day needs of its students.
Taking into consideration the current pandemic and its impact on global economies, how are you driving your company to sustain operations and ensuring safety of your employees at the same time?
The pandemic overturned all conventions for students, parents, teachers, and districts. Almost overnight, they all had to become masters of dealing with distance learning. It has also put the Project Education system through a rigorous, real-world test.
The good news: the tools that make Project Education an easy, efficient, and productive solution also equip educators with the tools to function with seamless remote access, making working from home more viable for teachers and administrators.
The qualities that made this work for schools and districts also made it work for our own employees who could provide service to school districts no matter where they were as long as they had an internet connection. All people crave purpose in their work, and with the urgency of this forced distance learning, our employees doubled their efforts to help schools and districts operate as flawlessly as possible. We are very proud of the Project Education team.
Many industry sectors have realized that a hybrid blend of Work from Office/Work from Home will likely continue beyond the pandemic. That prediction holds true for education, too. New structures of combined in-person/remote teaching and learning provide benefits that should not be left behind. Districts should commit to building a data/technology infrastructure with reliable access and intuitive design.
What would be your advice to budding entrepreneurs who aspire to venture into the EdTech market?
Involve educators and parents. The reason that our solutions succeed is because they were engineered around real-world needs. Once you know and understand the needs, you can begin to apply your vision to developing solutions. Working in the opposite direction—developing solutions in search of a problem—requires a lot more luck.
How do you envision scaling your company’s operations and offerings in 2021?
Worldwide, organizations are thinking about how they will restore their infrastructures. There will be a tremendous focus of resources and attention on education – and on helping the system recover from a disruptive year.
Project Education is in a unique position to help schools and districts get their bearings, increase their productivity and improve student outcomes. We believe 2021 and 2022 can be breakthrough years for our company.
About the Leaders
Steve Navarre, Project Education’s CEO, co-founder, and co-owner built his career on technology and education. This results-oriented entrepreneur has nearly two decades of experience in developing companies and managing within national and international technology companies.
He began his career in the education technologies department of Texas Instruments. As a consultant, Navarre has lent his expertise to numerous well-known companies such as Pepsico, Chevron, Texaco, Merrill Lynch and others. Before starting Project Education, Navarre was the CEO of a regional educational software provider specializing in special education compliance.
Navarre’s inspiration for education comes in part from the fact that he is a father of a special needs child, and he also has a sibling with special needs. “I understand what it’s like for the families of those with learning differences, and I am determined to improve outcomes for students, families, teachers and schools,” says Navarre.
Mellony Deuel, Project Education’s Chief Academic Officer, co-founder, and co-owner, brings an educator’s awareness to help Project Education produce profoundly impactful software and service solutions.
Mellony’s experiences in education were as a general and special education teacher, and as the compliance officer across all special populations for one of the largest school districts in Texas. She has direct experience with the IDEA/504/ELL audit and OCR compliant process. This shaped her insights on and dedication to the importance producing meaningful, actionable data.
Before joining Steve to create Project Education, Mellony worked as a program manager for a special education software company, where she led development of several educational programs. This responsibility included gathering customer requirements, working with developers, marketing, sales, training, and product support – a perfect combination to help propel Project Education’s efforts.
Project Education’s Distinct Offerings
- Project ELL – English Language Learners
- Project RTI – Response to Intervention
- Project Truancy – Attendance Issues
- Project 504 – Learning Differences
- Project Behavior – Behavior Incidents
- Project Title I – Title I Accommodations
- Project CTE – Continuing Education
- Project SPED – Special Education
- Project GT – Gifted & Talented
- Project Grad – Graduation Track
- Project HeadStart – Early Education
- Data Anywhere/Data Everywhere – Interfaces for existing data systems
Exhibiting True Excellence
“We were fortunate to find Project Education because the other program we looked at was so cost prohibitive, that all of our educators who needed it would not have been allowed access, which isn’t a very feasible format for impacting student growth in the classroom.”
Federal Programs Instructional Coach – Rio Rancho (New Mexico) Public Schools
“Middle-of-Year LPACs (Language Proficiency Assessment Committees) were amazing! The LPAC representatives on the campuses were quite nervous, but now they’re so excited! This program has saved our reps so much time. I can’t wait for End-of-Year assessments!”
—Melissa Hernandez, Bilingual/ESL Director, Lubbock (Texas) ISD
(recently promoted to Principal)
“Project Education cares about the learner. It is evident in the program – student outcomes are greatly improved because our teachers had the information and time, they needed to foster critical conversations.”
—Melissa Hernandez, Bilingual/ESL Director, Lubbock (Texas) ISD
(recently promoted to Principal)
“The big plus for this online LPAC management program is the almost immediate response from the Project Education staff to customize the forms based on our district’s needs and/or questions. I have heard from a colleague at a nearby similar sized school district that the online program they are using is not as willing to make changes to accommodate their needs or requests.”
—Dr. Sheila Guzman
Director Bilingual/ESL Program – Elgin (Texas) ISD
“We’ve been working with Project Education since the start of the year. They’ve been really fast at seeking our data. We typically get most of our data from TXeis and Eduphoria and they have been very flexible both in getting that data and as well as customizing the program to our needs.”
Bilingual/ESL Coordinator – Krum (Texas) ISD
“I truly appreciate your expertise and customer service. You have done well surrounding yourself with quality staff.”
Bilingual/Migrant Program Coordinator – Amarillo (Texas) ISD
“Project Education is focused on the customer need and is built in such a way that it allows the district to tailor the program to mirror what you have in place.”
Director of Special Programs/Multi-Language – Harlingen (Texas) CISD
“Project Education made it so easy to implement Project ELL in our district. When we need assistance, we receive almost immediate response from their staff, even across different time zones. For example, one of our users was training on the system and needed help. Project Education staff responded with a solution in under two minutes.”
ESOL Compliance, Manatee County (Florida) School District