Otus first day of school

3 Ways to Use Otus on the First Day of School

As you begin to plan for the 2019-20 school year, we wanted to share a few ideas on how you could use Otus on the first day of school:

Idea #1: Have students complete the Thrively Strengths Assessment

Instead of having students complete a traditional "get-to-know-you" survey, get to know your students by having them complete the Thrively self-assessment so that you see each student's strengths and interests in the Student Profile in Otus.

Learn about Thrively here.

Idea #2: Create positive/negative recognitions with your class

As a class, decide what 3-5 positive and negative behaviors you want to track throughout the year. Then, add them to Otus so that you can monitor more than just academic performance within Otus.

Be sure to download the mobile app for Apple or Android!

Idea #3: Have students set a BIG goal for the year using the Blog

Use the blog feature to have your students set a goal for the coming school year.

Learn how the Otus blog works here.

Otus Traverse Bay ISD

Otus Partners with Traverse Bay Area Intermediate School District to Empower K-12 Educators with Data

CHICAGO, IL —July 16, 2019— Otus, a fast-growing K-12 edtech company that provides the Otus Student Performance Platform, today announced a partnership with Traverse Bay Area Intermediate School District (TBAISD),  one of 56 education service agencies in Michigan that provides support to school districts in the counties of Antrim, Benzie, Grand Traverse, Kalkaska, and Leelanau.

The partnership means that all schools served by TBAISD will have access to Otus for common formative assessments, teacher-created formative and summative assessments, data warehousing and analytics, and the entire suite of learning and classroom management features that exist within the Otus platform.

TBAISD conducted a thorough RFP process during the spring of 2019 and received many responses from companies throughout the country. The biggest challenge that was faced by TBAISD was finding a way to empower district, building, and classroom level educators with data so that instructional decisions could be made in order to provide every student with the most appropriate learning experiences.

“The TBAISD Instructional Services Team uses a deep evaluation process, anchored in research, to guide decision-making and execute the best practices relative to instruction, student assessments and using data to drive performance improvement,” said TBAISD Instructional Services Director Paul Bauer. “Our partnership with Otus is founded on a common understanding of the power of data dialogue and efficient use and visualization of student performance. We see this as a benefit to students, parents, and educators to work together through the Otus platform to track results and target areas of development or needed support any given day.”

“We are very excited to begin our journey with TBAISD,” said Chris Hull, Co-Founder and Chief Product Officer of Otus. “From our first meeting, we realized that the team at TBAISD not only had a vision for where they wanted to go with how data is used in their schools, they had the team and plan in place to make it happen. This is our ideal partner.”

The onboarding and implementation team at Otus has already started meeting with TBAISD staff and district stakeholders in preparation for the start of the 2019-20 school year.

Less Technology, More Efficiency

K-12 Educators Need Less Technology and More Efficiency

According to a June 2019 report by the LEARN Platform, U.S. school districts used an average of 703 different edtech products every month in the 2018-19 school year, which, according to the study, “represents a 28% increase from the 2017-18 school year, a dramatic rise that likely reflects the expanded number of tools available to learners, increased connectivity, and an increase in point solutions and supplementary tools.”

In general, the 703 different edtech products that teachers use fall into one of five different categories. The categories are: learning management, classroom management, assessment management, data management, and content.

An insider's view of edtech

“Overwhelmed." That's how most classroom teachers say they feel, according to Christopher Hull, Co-Founder and Chief Product Officer for Otus, a Chicago-based edtech company. Hull should know. He's also a 7th Grade Social Studies teacher.

The edtech community has given teachers many important tools and at some point, Hull says, we have to ask if we are helping or doing more harm.

At some point, the edtech community will need to take a look around and say to themselves. “Is what we are doing helping teachers become less overwhelmed. Or are we just adding more to the current state of edtech chaos?”

chris hull co founder of otus
Christopher Hull teaching his students in Highland Park, Il.

Hull co-founded Otus in 2014 with a teaching colleague, Pete Helfers, is currently a district-level administrator in the Chicago area. Helfers knew first-hand how experienced how the number of different and disconnected edtech tools available to them impacted their efficiency as teachers. A colleague connected them to Andy Bluhm, a Chicago-based investor. Bluhm also saw the disconnectedness of technology in K-12, as the father of three boys. 

Their goal was to create an edtech platform that would address a very simple need for K-12 educators: help them be more efficient completing all of the tasks associated with teaching in today’s classrooms.

While many school districts turn to traditional learning management systems to create efficiencies for teachers who are overwhelmed by the number of edtech tools given to them, Otus sees things differently.

“A traditional LMS is not designed for K-12 educators who are face-to-face with their students every day,” Hull said. “Most of the tasks that teachers need to complete each day can’t be done in a traditional LMS so we knew we needed to be much more than that.”

The cause of teacher inefficiencies

Many professions where an employee has a known “to do” list that they are able to work through on a given day. Teachers are faced with hundreds of tasks each day that can often times come at them on a moment’s notice. They need to review assessment results for a student and discuss them with a colleague. Additionally they need to document work habits that students are exhibiting, send text messages to families about field trips, and provide feedback to dozens of students on an assignment.

The edtech community has responded to the needs of K-12 educators by providing single-solutions: one tool to grade assignments, another to communicate with families, another to look at data...the list goes on.

When teachers need to bounce around from system to system in order to complete these tasks, their efficiency plummets. And, where technology improves efficiencies in many industries, it can have the opposite effect on educators.

Not Just Another Edtech Tool

“When I was first told that our district was using Otus, I immediately thought, ‘Oh boy! Yet another edtech tool that I need to use,’" said Jon Szychlinski, a middle school PE teacher in suburban Chicago. "I quickly realized that Otus was not only helping me see students much more holistically than I could before... everything was in one place, but it was saving me time that I was able to reinvest in my face-to-face interactions with my students.”

Otus is available to all teachers, their students, and their students’ families for free. Unlike many edtech companies, Otus has a proven business model that is allowing them to generate revenue. School districts who wish to have their entire systems use Otus as a common teaching and learning platform pay an annual fee. This includes includes integrating Otus with their legacy systems such as their SIS. Additionally, it includes the ability to aggregate data into meaningful visualizations that can help guide organizational decisions. Lastly it includes the ability for administrators to create district-wide settings (i.e. grading scales, grading periods, common assessments, etc.).

“We designed Otus to be that single place where teachers can complete all of the tasks associated with being an educator so that more time can be spent focusing on the human part of teaching. Why we all became teachers in the first place,” said Hull.

Looking Ahead

In looking ahead to the 2019-20 school year, Otus has a packed product roadmap. Driven by the needs of teachers, administrators, families, and students. Amongst other things, Otus will introduce integrations with GradeCam and Desmos, offering a refresh on its standards-based gradebook. Additionally, this releases enhanced data analytics and reporting tools for school and district administrators.



Otus Chicago Edtech Team

Client Success Specialist

The Job

Do you have a passion for providing a world-class customer onboarding experience? Furthermore, do you see yourself as a trusted partner to your customers? Otus, a fast-growing EdTech company based at 1K Fulton in the West Loop of Chicago, is looking to expand our team!

As a Client Services Specialist, you will provide product onboarding, training and guidance to our customers to ensure their initial and continued adoption and success of Otus. Additionally, as an early member of a growing team, you must possess a strong work ethic and be upbeat, driven, intelligent, well-organized, articulate, share a passion for making people smile, learning new technology and thrive in a fun, fast-paced environment.

E-mail your resume and introduction to Phil Collins, Chief Learning Officer, at phil@otus.com.

Essential Functions

  • Work with customers and sales team to identify and understand customer requirements that need to be addressed in both onboarding and ongoing training- Handle customer technical cases during the onboarding process, managing any questions, issues, and other items for follow-up
  • Help improve customers’ product knowledge and offer guidance on best practices to ensure adoption and success
  • As well as, create, deliver and maintain onboarding material- Possess an in-depth understanding of Otus
  • Additionally, develop and maintain clients relationships with new users
  • Other job-related duties as assigned

Desired Skills & Experience

  • Strong technical skills and ability to quickly learn and become a subject matter expert on a new – product and ongoing product changes
  • Previous professional experience with the creation and delivery of technical software training
  • Additionally, Exceptional customer service skills and customer-facing onboarding/training experience
  • Excellent presentation and facilitation skills and the ability to lead a positive, productive session either in person or via webinar
  • Solid experience in project management
  • Knowledge and experience with SaaS services/cloud technologies
  • Ability to work independently as well as collaboratively within the team and across various departments
  • Strong analytical skills, detail oriented and ability to prioritize, effectively multi-task and meet deadlines
  • A willingness and ability to “dive right in”, be effective, and make a difference
  • Furthermore, curiosity about “how things work” and “how to make them better”


  • Laptop of your choice and dual monitors
  • Stock options in a growth-stage company
  • Competitive salary
  • Flexible hours so you can be at your most productive
  • Paid time off (20 days per year)
  • Flexible work from Home policy
  • Medical, dental, and vision insurance
  • Life insurance and disability benefits
  • 401(k) with an employer match (up to 4%)
  • Pre-tax commuter benefits
  • Flexible PTO policy, generous parental leave, and great work/life balance
  • Fun perks like snacks, catered lunches, happy hours, wellness programs, and Otus swag
  • The opportunity to collaborate with fun, innovative, and passionate people in a casual, yet highly productive atmosphere.
  • Really smart colleagues who work hard and play well
  • Meanwhile, Working in arguably the best neighborhood in the city with the best food, drinks, coffee and donuts all within walking distance
  • Finally, working in an amazing office building with gym, rooftop deck, frequent social events, shuttle to and from train stations

Otus is an Equal Opportunity Employer and embraces diversity of every kind. However, you must be legally authorized to work in the US.  Unfortunately, the company is unable to support sponsorships at this time.

Illinois HB 3606 and Otus

Otus and Illinois HB 3606

The following information details many of the ways in which Otus helps schools comply with Illinois HB 3606

Since Otus allows Illinois K-12 school systems to consolidate the number of duplicative and disconnected edtech tools that are used in their schools, there is an additional benefit of Otus in that there is only one platform for many pieces of student data that are traditionally stored across different platforms and vendors.

Quick Facts:

  • Otus clients own their data, not Otus.
  • Otus does not sell any data that is managed on the platform.
  • Otus employees sign a Data Privacy Pledge upon being hired into our company.
  • Otus will notify school districts within the five-day mandated window in the unlikely event of a data breach. In all likelihood, school districts will be notified within 24 hours.
  • Otus offers both student and family rights with regard to how data is stored within the system.
  • Data is stored with Otus only as needed for educational purposes by an authorized user. 
  • Data is then deleted once the data is no longer needed for the student within the context of school.

How can students, parents/guardians, and other access our Privacy Policy?

Our privacy policy is available on our company home page and may be viewed by anyone by visiting  https://otus.com/privacy-policy/

How does Otus manage information provided to Otus by a school organization?

We receive and store any information you knowingly enter through Otus. This information may include, but is not limited to, the following:

  • Registration information, including your name, username, email address, profile picture, and school affiliation
  • The grade level and names of classes that you teach or attend
  • Any documents that you upload, create, or complete using Otus, such as items added to your bookshelf, as well as notes, groups, and assessments (including tests, quizzes, assignments, and papers) that you create or complete
  • Information that Educators provide about Students, including evaluations, grades and test results, attendance, notes and feedback, and any other information provided by the Educator about a Student
  • Information about parents/guardians provided by Educators or Students, including name, relationship to Students, email address, and phone number
  • Any other information uploaded to or entered into Otus
  • If you use our referral service to tell someone about Otus, we will collect that person’s name and email address

How does Otus manage information collected automatically through the appropriate use of the system?

We receive and store certain types of usage information whenever you use Otus. When you access or use an Otus mobile application, navigate to our websites or use the browser provided in an Otus mobile application, we automatically receive and record information on our server logs, including your IP address, cookie information and the page you requested. We also record the details of your activity and the number and frequency of visitors to Otus, including your location when accessing Otus. For example, we receive and store information about whether you access Otus from a school, home, or other location. We use various technologies to collect web browsing information, and this may include sending cookies to your computer or tablet. Cookies are small data files stored on your hard drive or in device memory that help us to improve Otus and your experience, understand which areas and features of Otus are popular, and count visits. We may also collect information using web beacons (also known as “tracking pixels”). Web beacons are electronic images that may be used in Otus or emails and that help deliver cookies, count visits, understand usage and campaign effectiveness, and determine whether an email has been opened and acted upon. For more information about cookies, and how to disable them, please see “Your Choices” below. When you download an Otus mobile application, we automatically collect information about the type of device, name and version of the operating system, name and version of the application, the unique device ID, as well as actions performed by the user in accessing the application. We also use analytics software to allow us to better understand the functionality of our application and Services. This software may record information such as how often you use Otus, what you do using Otus, and performance data.

How does Otus use information that is managed on the platform?

We use the information we collect to provide, maintain, personalize, and improve Otus; to respond to your comments, questions, and requests; to provide customer services, including technical support; and for any other purpose for which the information was collected. If you are an Educator, we may use the information we collect to send you marketing and product communications to the email address you provide or by other means. If you are a Student, we may use your email address to send you product updates, such as information about new features or functionalities. We use automatically-collected information to enable us to figure out how often users use parts of Otus, so that we can make Otus appealing and relevant to as many users as possible, and customize and improve those Services.

How does Otus share information managed on the platform?

We may share information about you as described in this section below or as otherwise described in this Privacy Policy. Our Services are designed to facilitate the sharing of certain information among Educators, Students, and parents and guardians. For example, Educators may use Otus to share information with Students or with parents and guardians or with other Educators within their school or school district. Such information includes, but is not limited to, Students’ grades, notes about Students, assessments (including blank assignments, quizzes, and tests as well as those that have been completed by students), and flags. In addition, certain material posted to Otus by Educators may be shared with the broader Otus community, which includes Educators outside of your school district. This information includes, but is not limited to, bookshelf documents (including online resources and original material prepared by you) and assessments (including tests, quizzes, and assignments, but not Student information). When sharing these documents, your user profile, including your screen name and email address, may also be shared with the Otus community. If you are a Student, your Educator may use the Service to facilitate the sharing of information you provide with others in your class or with your parent or guardian.

How does Otus protect information managed on the platform?

We may release personal information if we believe the disclosure is in accordance with any applicable law, regulation or legal process, or as otherwise required by any applicable law, rule or regulation, or if we believe your actions are inconsistent with our user agreements or policies, or to protect the rights, property and safety of Otus users or others.

We reserve the right to share aggregated information gathered from our user base (without personally-identifiable information about individual users) or de-personalized individual information (with names and other personally identifying characteristics removed) with our affiliates and partners. Given the nature of this information, there are no restrictions under this Privacy Policy upon the right of Otus to aggregate or de-personalize your personal information

How does Otus protect the information that is managed on the platform?

Otus takes reasonable measures to help protect information about you from loss, theft, misuse and unauthorized access, disclosure, alteration, and destruction. Your Otus account uses the same login as your Google or Google for Education account and is protected by a password for your privacy and security. You may help protect against unauthorized access to your account and personal information or your Student’s personal information by selecting and protecting the password associated with the account appropriately.

Additionally, Otus maintains internal Data Security Protocols and Procedures which includes penetration and vulnerability testing by a highly qualified and impartial third-party.

What choices regarding data and information managed on Otus are available to students and parents/guardians?

Account Information
You may update, correct or delete personal information about you at any time by editing your profile information. Changes to your Google account information must be made through Google; Otus has no ability to make modifications to your Google account information. Note that if the Google account tied to your Otus account is deactivated, or if you revoke Otus’s access rights within your Google account, you will not be able to access your Otus account or any of the content stored with Otus. We may retain cached or archived copies of personal information about you and content stored with Otus only as needed for educational purposes by an authorized user. This information is then deleted once the data is no longer needed for the student within the context of school.

Children’s Information
If you are the parent or guardian of a child under 13 and would like to request that personal information regarding your child be updated or deleted, or if you’d like to refuse further contact of your child by Otus, please contact us at support@otus.com.We will respond to a request made pursuant to this section within 30 days of our receipt of such request.

Most web browsers are set to accept cookies by default. If you prefer, you can usually choose to set your browser to remove or reject browser cookies.

For more information on how Otus helps your school organization comply with Illinois HB 3606, please email support@otus.com.

How a DataWise PLC Can Transform Your School Community

Join Andrea Kayne, a graduate of the Harvard Graduate School of Education and an Associate Professor and the Director of Educational Leadership Doctoral Program at DePaul University, for an introductory webinar on the DataWise, a project originated at Harvard University that exists to support educators in using collaborative data inquiry to drive continuous improvement of teaching and learning for all students.

Podcast (audio only)

Full webinar (audio and video)

New Professorship in Education and Data Sciences Announced at Harvard Graduate School of Education

This press release originally appeared here.
The chair will be an opportunity to further explore lingering questions in education through data science.

Dean Bridget Long has announced the creation of the Bluhm Family Assistant/Associate Professorship in Education and Data Science — an exciting new endowed chair focused on transforming K–12 education at scale through effective and efficient use of data.

“Thanks to the generosity of Andy Bluhm, HGSE will now have increased capacity to answer some of the most pressing questions in the field using cutting-edge data science methods,” Long said. “I am thrilled that the Bluhm Professorship, once filled, will not only provide leadership in education data science for HGSE, but also for Harvard University and for educators across the country.”

Andrew Bluhm is a 1993 graduate of Harvard Business School and the founder and principal of Delaware Street Capital, as well as a co-founder of Otus, an educational technology company that centralizes data collection for educators in one platform. A passionate advocate for improving education through strategic data and analytics, Bluhm has long recognized the need for better use and management of data to truly make change in the classroom for every student.

“We all know how important education is and how at the end of the day it is a great equalizer in society. It’s also terribly important for this country, but how do we make it better?” Bluhm said, citing the creation of this chair as not only an opportunity to further explore lingering questions in education through data science — including matters of personalized learning, student motivation, school funding, and parent involvement — but also as the impetus for Otus, his Chicago-based edtech company. “We want education to be driven by facts of what works and what doesn’t work, and not by fads or gut-feelings. This is also the part of education to me where we can work together, through this position, to speed up that process.”

While the market for educational apps and technologies grows daily, and there’s an increased call for the use of data in education, Bluhm cited challenges with the broad collection of data and how to bring it together in useful ways for educators. “What was out there was really making [educators] inefficient and interfering with learning,” he said, which inspired him to launch Otus in 2011. When Bluhm observed his own children’s teachers and administrators struggle as they incorporated more individualized technologies like iPads into the classroom, he recognized how some business management practices, especially the utilization of data science, could benefit education.  “It’s so important that all of these worlds start to come together,” he stressed. “I think education and business can be married together in ways that are powerful and can make a difference, which inspired me about this professorship — particularly how it will make research easier and affordable, leading to new insights in the field. Students are not widgets, and we need to look at student data much more holistically than we do now if we want to effect sustainable change in education.”

Bluhm saw Harvard as the premier place to explore how to better join these different field practices, especially considering the Ed School’s strong support of the use of data in projects like Data Wise, and Harvard Business School’s standing as a leader in management. The new chair position will represent cross-disciplinary work in data science, economics, management, learning sciences, and learning technologies, motivated by actual questions that teachers, students, and school leaders are asking.

Long anticipates the Bluhm Professor will produce groundbreaking research and also prepare the next generation of outstanding scholars and leaders in data science. “I am delighted that Andy’s gift will help us to grow our faculty in exciting new ways,” she said. “I look forward to seeing the impact the Bluhm Professor will have on educational access and opportunity for countless students.”

what is standards based grading for k-12 schools

What is standards-based grading?

Standards-based grading is a shift many K-12 school systems are implementing to measure student performance based on the mastery of learning standards. This is different than traditional grading where student performance is measured based on an average of all of the work a student has done within a given period of time.

Standards-Based Grading vs. Traditional Grading: Riding a unicycle

Consider an adult who is learning how to ride a unicycle. The ultimate goal is for the adult to ride the unicycle 50 feet without falling off. In standards-based learning, we know the adult has "mastered" the skill of riding a unicycle if the adult is able to ride a unicycle 50 feet.

While the adult is learning to ride the unicycle, he is practicing (a formative assessment). On the first day of our two-week unit on learning to ride a unicycle, he can't even sit on the unicycle without falling over. Slowly but surely, he begins to get better. Pretty soon, he is riding the unicycle ten feet before he needs to put his feet on the ground. After two weeks of practice, he is finally able to ride the unicycle 50 feet without falling. He has mastered the skill!

In traditional grading, this man would be graded on each attempt to ride the unicycle. Using a points grading scale, each foot covered is one point out of a total of fifty points for covering the desired distance. In the beginning, he would receive Fs for each time that he tried to ride the unicycle but couldn't. As he got closer to being able to ride the unicycle 50 feet, his grade on each attempt would go up. He would earn a C for going 35 feet. Then, a B for going 40 feet.

If we were to give him a final grade, we would average all of his attempts to ride a unicycle 50 feet and give him a grade. In this case, a B-. But, is this right? The goal was to ride a unicycle 50 feet. And, he did it! Does a B- accurately describe the fact that this person successfully rode a unicycle 50 feet without falling over?

To be able to say that he Mastered the skill of unicycle riding is a much more accurate way to describe his ability than taking the average of each of his attempts and giving a final grade.

But what about high school and college?

Just because your K-8 student is in a school that uses standards-based grading does not mean that your child will be unprepared for high school or college. As a matter of fact, it may allow your child to be better prepared. To read some of this research, click here.

When a student receives a B+ in Math, it tells parents that 87% of the time the student was assessed in Math, the student answered correctly. This grade tells you nothing about what was assessed. It also assumes that the 13% of Math content that the student didn't get right isn't important- a B+ is pretty good!

When standards-based grading is used, students and parents know the specific skills that a student has mastered. This allows the student to focus their practice so that they know exactly what to work on in order to master the skill.

When the student gets to high school where a traditional grading scale is used, that student will have a seamless experience because, so long as a skill has been mastered, they should get an A on the assessment of that skill.

In closing

To say that standards-based grading doesn't prepare students for the real world is an easy way to reject a well-researched and proven instructional methodology.

Is your school using standards-based grading? Share your experiences with us on Twitter at @OtusK12.


Otus Bolsters Sales Team with Three Key Additions

New hires bring over 50 combined years of education and edtech experience to the company

CHICAGO -- Otus, a Chicago-based education technology provider for K-12 school communities, today announced the appointments of three new salespeople: Tim Jarotkiewicz, Brad Hytrek, and Ben Allston. The three new additions grow the Otus sales team by nearly 50%, and combined bring with them more than a half-century of edtech experience. All three will report to Chief Sales Officer Seth Gurss, who joined Otus over the summer.

Tim Jarotkiewicz has spent 15 years working in K-12 schools and served as both a high school teacher and an assistant principal at Notre Dame High School in Niles, Illinois. He was an early employee at TeachScape, a widely-used teacher evaluation platform that was acquired by Frontline Education, and has been a top performer at Frontline since the acquisition. He’ll be covering the Midwest and Upper Northwest regions of the country.

Ben Allston was another top performing sales representative at Frontline Education and has over 10 years of experience working with school systems throughout the United States. Ben was an early employee of Frontline, and has a great deal of experience in growing new territories and products from scratch. He will be working in the Southeast region.

Brad Hytrek joins Otus from education, and has over two decades of experience selling technology solutions to school systems. Brad was an early employee of Illuminate and is also an alumnus of Apple, where he sold PowerSchool for five years, including the time period after Apple sold PowerSchool to Pearson. He will cover the Eastern Midwest and Northeast regions for Otus.

“Tim, Brad, and Ben have all proven themselves as exceptional salespeople, and more importantly, they have clear expertise and a passion for education,” said Gurss. “Otus is a national platform now, supporting communities and learners in nearly 30 states, and these three will ensure we’re offering the best possible solution to schools and the best possible outcomes for kids in every part of the country.”

Otus combines learning & classroom management, data management, and assessment management all in one tool, which entirely free for students, teachers, and families. The company also recently announced its new student profile feature, which highlights student performance across a variety of metrics and timeframes and allows students to build their own portfolios that represent their learning and growth.

About @OtusK12
Otus is a Chicago-based education technology company that has developed an innovative school operating system for K-12 classrooms, schools, and districts. Otus provides an all-in-one technology platform for the entire school community and allows users to easily view student engagement, performance, and progress. Designed and built by teachers and school administrators, Otus empowers teachers in the classroom, informs school leaders, keeps students engaged and organized, and helps parents stay better connected. Otus features three primary components: a Classroom and Learning Management System, an Assessment Platform, and a Data Management system. Otus received EdTech Digest’s 2018 award for “Best Learning Analytics Solution” and was a finalist for “Best Emerging Edtech Solution,” and the company has been recognized by District Administration magazine in its “Top 100 Products” ranking. For more information, visit www.otus.com and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.