Teachers focus on (this is going to be a shock, wait for it)…teaching. They themselves attend continuing education each year to learn the latest in educational theory and practice. They strive to achieve the best learning outcomes for their students.
But how can they be sure about the impact their programs are having with students? The science of measuring educational impact is different from the practice of teaching.
The question of impact is, of course, vital to answer. But teachers aren’t data scientists. And too often, in well-intentioned but poorly designed efforts to measure their impact, teachers are forced to extend their already long workdays by pouring over data dashboards, which don’t really answer the most important questions.
Currently when schools and school districts want to figure out which of their programs are having the desired effects on students (e.g. “Is this after school tutoring program increasing students’ reading test scores?”) they have to hire external consultants to come in and do a sort of research study called an “evaluation.”
This can be expensive and take a few months. As a result, the vast majority of programs and interventions being used by educators have not been evaluated and do not have solid evidence to back them up.
Parsimony has been doing this sort of work for several years now and through its efficiencies and expertise in research methodology and statistical programming has developed a process for delivering an affordable, concise, and accurate report that tells educators whether a program is having the desired impact on students.
Furthermore, the company can deliver this report within seven days. The goal is to help create a future in which educators can focus on maximizing their impact on students without adding to their workload.
Year founded: 2012
Funding rounds: Bootstrapped
Current size: To date, the company has two full-time employees/co-founders, Amanuel Medhanie and Jordan Baker, and 35 customers (these tend to be medium to large organizations such as school districts, large non-profit or for-profit organizations, etc.) with nearly all of them using Parsimony’s services multiple times.
Webbiquity: What inspired you to work on a solution to this particular problem?
Amanuel Medhanie: After getting my Ph.D. in educational psychology at the University of Minnesota, I began working as an evaluation and testing specialist in the Research, Evaluation, and Assessment department of Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS).
There I used my training in research methods and statistics to evaluate programs and observed first hand the value educators gain from knowing whether programs are having their desired impact. But the vast majority of districts in the U.S. don’t have the in-house resources to evaluate their programs. So I joined forces with Jordan Baker to bring this service to more districts.
Webbiquity: What were the most effective channels or methods for you to get the word out to prospective customers when you first launched your services?
Amanuel Medhanie: To date most of our work has been with custom evaluations of educational programs, and this has all been communicated through word of mouth by our biggest advocates, our customers. We’re currently piloting our service within Hopkins Public Schools, and after piloting we’ll be working on getting the word out about our new service through our existing customers.
Webbiquity: Finish this sentence: “Knowing what I know now, if I were starting over today, what I would do differently is…”
Amanuel Medhanie: I would have become a full-time entrepreneur earlier. For years I was nervous about leaving a full-time job to start my own business. Luckily my wonderful wife pushed me to pursue my passion.
Webbiquity: What’s the most important advice you could offer to an entrepreneur starting out today?
Amanuel Medhanie: Focus, focus, focus. Focus on one service/product, for one particular type of customer, preferably in an area in which you already have expertise. The path to a successful business becomes much clearer when you’ve developed this focus.