The following is a letter written for the President Of The United States, regarding Curveu’s background, the Student Privacy Data Act, and the future of where Curveu can go.
My name is Daniel Brooks; I am 21 and have a few questions for you regarding education and the rumored Student Privacy Act. My friend, Douglas Bolm, and myself dropped out of school and ironically created an education website and iOS application to help students understand their school data.
First, I would like to present a little background on us. My senior year of high school, my school switched Student Information Systems to one called Infinite Campus. This created a lot of outrage because the school paid a lot of money for a system that was overly complicated. Unlike our old system, this new one did not show the students’ grades on one screen for a quick glance or clearly provide the student with their exact grade. So instead of complaining, I took a Silicon Valley approach and created an iOS app called SJ PIV. This app effectively acted as a web browser that grabbed the data that the students cared about. The app worked with great success and even got me front page in the San Jose Mercury News.
After about a week in college, and due to some other issues I had at college, I dropped out and decided to start a business with my best friend Douglas Bolm who also felt the same way I did about education. We felt that education is fundamentally flawed because it does not hold the teachers fully accountable. For instance, if I failed a test in my high school chemistry class, there was no way to tell, unless the teacher decided to tell us, how many students got each grade. This made it hard to determine whether I was the only one who did poorly or if the rest of class did as well, meaning it was the way the teacher taught. And then there was no way to even begin to get this point across to our parents.
So we decided to start our own business called DABSquared, LLC. Our first product started out as a new type of Student Information System with the students and teachers in mind as a first priority instead of all the reporting that is required by state and federal governments. After various meetings with the San Jose School District Technical Administrator, and then the founder of Google AdWords, we pivoted to create a wrapper or shell for the existing Student Information Systems. This would allow us to create a great interface for students without having to worry about all the reporting data. Henceforth, http://www.curveu.com was born.
Curveu’s ideology is simple, built by students for students. Once setup, the first items students see are their grades for the most recent semester or quarter. To a student and parent, that is the most important information and what should be the front of any Student Information System. Not only does Curveu provide student grades, we go a step further and auto link your class with other student classes based on the data we receive from our data grab methods. This allows us to provide the students with data that they have not had access to before. For instance, if you can get your whole class to sign up for Curveu (In order for our features to work completely other students in your class have to sign up so we can grab their data and link you together) you will see graphs on overall grades and on individual assignments. Like the example above, students can now explain to their parents that the entire class failed a specific test and that it was the way the material was taught or the way the test was designed, instead of the student not studying or some other reason.
Also, unlike most systems your school data is kept so you can always access each year from the moment you start using Curveu. This allows us to eventually do items like compare your class average to a previous year, or keep track of a specific teacher’s class average throughout their teaching career. While those two specific features are not completed due to DABSquared’s resources, this is just a very small fraction of what you can do with student data. Imagine using Curveu in a college and comparing the science dorm GPA versus the English dorm GPA. The possibilities are endless with the student data.
Which comes to why I am writing you. Curveu deals with lots of student data given to us with consent given by signing up to our site and providing their student credentials. Will the Student Data Privacy Act prevent us from doing these comparisons? Will it also prevent us from anonymously releasing data on teachers, schools, and districts? And then there is also a way we can make it a standard to provide first class data like this to parents and schools. The data all exists, but Student Information System vendors that are looking just for the million-dollar check from each district and nothing more lock it down. Currently, Curveu is limited because we have to get students and parents to signup and understand why we need their username and password, but if we had a way into the data from the School Administrator side, the type of user-friendly data that we could generate would be incredible. This would have the possibility to change how we judge our teachers as teachers and how students are classified. Why hold a student responsible for an F grade when a majority of all the teachers’ students are receiving low grades. Doesn’t that typically mean something is wrong with the teacher?
Mr. President, I hope this email finds your desk and that one day we may be able to talk and discuss how we can facilitate change in our education system through user-friendly data and systems.
Daniel Brooks and Douglas Bolm
Update 1/12/2015 7:40 pm: I also forgot to note that Curveu.com is a free service. While we do charge $1.99 for a premium version of our app to manipulate your grades and view statistics on the go, the site and all of it’s features is free on the web for the foreseeable future.