Let’s Talk: Why We’re Doubling Down on TeachFX
and incredibly excited to lead its $10M Series A!
by Tony Wan, Head of Investor Content
Since we first invested in TeachFX in 2017, the team has expanded its reach to teachers in every state across the country, capturing classroom conversations, providing personalized feedback on their instruction, and surfacing opportunities to improve and learn with their peers.
Along the way, the team has conducted rigorous efficacy studies and analyzed hundreds of thousands of hours of classroom audio. Of all the rich analyses and insights TeachFX has surfaced, the most startling finding may be this: the average student spoke just seven seconds per hour of instruction. Perhaps no other stat captures as succinctly the magnitude of the student disengagement crisis.
There’s a flawed, conventional “wisdom” that kids should talk less and listen more. But what research says could not be further from that notion. Decades of studies have shown that speaking is an essential ingredient to learning and understanding. It’s how we express ourselves, engage with others and build our identity.
TeachFX sits at the nexus of improving student engagement and professional development. And we’re proud to lead its $10 million Series A round, and to be joined by others including Osage Venture Partners, Brighteye Ventures, Pearson Ventures and Ulu Ventures.
In education, there’s plenty of talk about the need to move from “sage on the stage” instruction (where someone is lecturing to a docile audience) to a more interactive, participating and engaging environment. Yet the reality is that teachers talk upwards of 80 percent of class time. Whatever remaining time is left for student talk is often distributed inequitably: TeachFX found that Black and Latino students speak less than half as much as their peers.
Quantifying the imbalance of student-teacher talk, and among student subgroups, is just the tip of the iceberg for TeachFX. Its voice AI goes much deeper to analyze specific styles of questions and dialogue, and offer actionable feedback and reflection prompts, that are rooted in research on effective instructional practices: waiting a little longer after asking a question; building on student responses to reframe or ask follow-up questions, for instance.
And it works. Over the past school year, teachers using TeachFX increased their student talk by an average of 40 percent. A study from Stanford, Harvard and University of Maryland researchers found that teachers who received TeachFX feedback increased their uptake of student ideas, and students reported higher course satisfaction and academic achievement.
By showing teachers the conversational dynamics in their classroom, the specific practices that get students talking, and how that changes as they try new things, TeachFX delivers actionable data that helps teachers improve, create more engaging classrooms, and enjoy their work. It’s changing how teachers get feedback and collaborate. As Anthony Reid, a math teacher Howard High School of Technology shared:
“Using TeachFX has really allowed me to look critically at my own classroom… and also create this network of friends among my colleagues where we can look at our lessons together and have hard conversations around things we can improve on, and also have healthy celebrations together.”
In Detroit Public Schools Community District, where TeachFX helped teachers increase student talk time by three-fold, Felecia Branch says using the app consistently “fosters and ignites classroom conversations with students, their peers at their table groups, elbow partners… and deeper classroom conversations overall. What we want is for students to guide their learning. We want them to guide the discussing. And as teachers, we don’t want to spend all the time talking.”
TeachFX is led by CEO Jamie Poskin, a former teacher whose own classroom experiences seeded the idea behind the app. As a student, he started a website development company that earned him enough to pay his Stanford tuition. His eclectic journey included a stop at an experimental theater company, and back to Stanford for his MBA and MA in education, before he joined us at Reach in 2016, first as an intern and then as an entrepreneur in residence. It has been a joy and privilege to watch as he and his co-founder, Berk Coker, took TeachFX from idea to reality.
Jamie shares his personal story and captures the scope of his work and impact eloquently in this blog post.
If you’re inspired by this mission, TeachFX is hiring across engineering, finance, operations, sales and other positions. You can also help spread the word by asking your local school or district about TeachFX!