Local education technology firm eyes national growth with higher-ed offering

Standard for Success, a Cloverdale-based educational software company, through 2019 has been growing at a strong double-digit clip and earlier this year launched a new service line company officials are confident will help the firm expand further by signing deals with colleges and universities nationwide.

From 2011—when it was founded—to 2019, Standard for Success has grown its customer base and revenue each year. Now, nearly half of Indiana K-12 districts use Standard for Success’ software for teacher evaluations and feedback.

Among the firm’s customers are Indianapolis Public Schools, Fort Wayne Community Schools, Hamilton Southeastern, South Bend Community Schools, MSD Perry Township, MSD Wayne Township, Carmel Clay, MSD Lawrence Township and Vincennes Community Schools.

Standard for Success’ footprint spreads far beyond Indiana. The company serves 400 school districts in 20 U.S. states and Canada.

And the firm is expecting even broader growth with its new higher education offering.

Standard for Success in March launched Accreditation, a higher ed platform that allows colleges and universities to track the progress of college students pursuing a degree and teaching license. It also collects program data for accreditation reporting.

Already, Hanover College and Kentucky Wesleyan College have signed on to use the new platform, and company officials said they have four more potential deals in the works.

“Standard for Success has streamlined our evaluation and data gathering process from a cumbersome, disconnected system to a fine-tuned machine,” said Dustin Bailey, chair of Hanover College’s education department.

While there are a handful of products like Accreditation on the market, Bailey told IBJ none are as user friendly as the platform produced and sold by Standard for Success.

“It’s also a lot less expensive” than other platforms, Bailey said.

Before transitioning to Standard for Success’ Accreditation platform this summer, Bailey said Hanover “tracked this the old-fashioned way—with spreadsheets and other manual methods.”

“It was very time consuming and was a process that required multiple individuals,” he said. “Using Standard for Success has allowed us to better use our time to assist our students.”

Having grown 105% from 2016 to 2019, Standard for Success was recently named to the Inc. 5000 list of fastest-growing companies in America.

Todd Whitlock

“We’ve grown every year since our inception and we’re retained more than 90% of our customers,” said Todd Whitlock, a former North Daviess school administrator who is co-founder and CEO of Standard for Success.

Due to the pandemic, the company’s growth is projected to be flat this year, but in 2021, the firm is projecting near 30% year-over-year revenue growth. Company officials declined to divulge the firm’s revenue.

Standard for Success expects to have up to 25 colleges and universities using its higher ed platform within a year and 150 within five years.

“We believe the pandemic has slowed our growth for one year,” Todd Whitlock said. “But we think we’ve set up to explode in the 2021 calendar year and beyond.”

Standard for Success made one small acquisition—educational technology firm Michigan-based Stages Software—in 2017, but the vast majority of its growth has been organic, Whitlock said.

“In the last few years, we’ve expanded offerings, and that’s fueled growth,” Whitlock said. “Over time, we found out there were a number of challenges and problems schools had that we had the ability to solve.”

The company started off by offering a teacher evaluation and feedback tool for K-12 teachers. That is still the firm’s biggest revenue generator.

In 2016, Standard for Success also started supplying people to help schools with the teacher evaluations.

In 2017, the company launched Graduation Pathways, a digitized platform that helps school administrators track the academic status of its students, including making sure they have achieved what they need to graduate and meet post-secondary requirements. Whitlock said Pathways is the fastest growing segment of the company, due in part to mandates in 35 states for this type of tracking.

In March, Standard for Success released another platform, Analyze, an early learning programming assessment tool aimed primarily at pre-schools.

“Early learning programs are often started without much research into programming,” Whitlock said. “Our program assessment tools help look beyond merely meeting the minimum standards for state accreditation.”

At around the same time, the company also launched its new higher ed offering, Accreditation.

Dianna Whitlock

“One of the things we’re hearing about Accreditation is its ease of use,” said Dianna Whitlock, vice president of higher education solutions at Standard for Success. “There’s not a big learning curve to using it. It’s very intuitive.”

She added that it serves multiple purposes.

“Not only does Accreditation satisfy the need for the accreditation process and gives valuable feedback, it also helps in programming development. It helps [schools] drive programming decisions,” said Dianna Whitlock, Todd’s wife and a veteran educator with experience at the K-12 and higher education levels.

While the Accreditation platform will have appeal among smaller and mid-sized colleges and universities that may lack the manpower to handle these functions through their own personnel, the Whitlocks said the platform also has the capabilities to work for larger schools.

The pandemic slowed the company’s growth earlier this year, but Todd Whitlock said things are picking up.

“With the pandemic and everyone leaving their [physical] locations, data that K-12 schools and colleges once had access to is no longer at their fingertips,” Todd Whitlock said. “We curate the information for the schools and they have access to that information in the cloud. That’s proven very valuable to schools at this time.”

Standard for Success has several competitors—some national—in several of its areas, but Todd Whitlock said his firm is set apart by its staff and customer service. All the company’s products are developed in-house, he noted.

“Our chief technology officer is a teacher by trade,” Whitlock said. “He has worked in K-12 for a number of years. When people call in, they’re talking to educators. We [produce our products] in-house and we’re pleased we do it in-house. That helps us meet customers’ needs quickly. And that sets us apart.”

Before co-founding Standard for Success, Todd Whitlock was in public education for 20 years, 16 as an administrator. Dianna Whitlock spent 12 years as an elementary school teacher and another 12 years as an elementary school administrator. She’s also been an adjunct college instructor.

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