Brydge4Schools: Startup Encourages Parental Engagement

Brydge4Schools -- Innovate Mississippi clientBrydge4Schools, an education technology startup, plans to close the gap between teachers and parents by providing parents the tools to create meaningful educational conversations with their children.

Former Teach for America teacher Mehreen Butt began formulating the idea for the educational application while stationed in rural Mississippi schools.

“I have experienced many parents who want to help their kids but don’t always know how or have the resources,” Butt said. “With Brydge, our hope is to give them access to more daily academic materials as well as social and behavioral reports.”

Butt, along with fellow Teach for America alumni Richard Petty and David Wilson, noticed their concerns in the classroom were similar – a real disconnect existed between what happens at school and what happens at home.

Then they discovered their experiences are backed up by research. A study from the Michigan Department of Education shows parental engagement is twice as predictive of a student’s academic success as socioeconomic status.

These experiences were the catalyst behind creating a startup that gives both teachers and parents an opportunity to stay engaged, while further helping the children. The platform for Byrdge4Schools was formally built out at Innovative Mississippi’s Startup Weekend Jackson event in spring 2016. By the end of the event, the startup was formalized and launched as a functioning business.

Byrdge4Schools operates as both a web platform and a mobile application. Teachers access the web platform to post questions and topics of discussion they have used in the classroom that day.

Parents then access the content through the app and are provided up to three daily questions or examples from the day’s teaching to go over with their children. By equipping parent’s knowledge of in-classroom activities, Byrdge4Schools hopes to aid parents in further facilitating learning in the home.

Although still a relatively new company, by July of 2016, Byrdge4Schools was accepted into and attended two prestigious national accelerator programs focused on education startups. The 4.0 Schools Essentials program in New Orleans, Louisiana, is a three-day-long curriculum providing entrepreneurs valuable opportunities such as piloting and testing ideas with teachers and parents, individual coaching, peer-to-peer support and professional feedback.

The Lean Lab fellowship program in Kansas City, Missouri, is a nearly five-week-long program that also delivers a valuable set of learning resources for startups as well as an initial $10,000 in seed funding.

Currently, Brydge4Schools is successfully working with numerous schools from Kansas City to Washington, D.C. The app is also being tested for the pre-K market in Alabama through a partnership with Tuscaloosa City Schools.

As the company begins its first full year of operations in 2017, it expects to have its app fully implemented in five schools in Mississippi in addition to the early adopting schools.

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