We are missing 80% of the talent in our potential future workforce because of the number of students in K-12 who are disenfranchised by our current education systems, specifically an averages-based grading and reporting system that serves only to rank and sort children, not to motivate them to develop their potential. Mastery Portfolio's mission is to make the path of learning clear and motivating for kids, teachers, administrators, and parents, and thereby put truly prepared young adults into the companies of the future.
Dr Sundardas: Hello, welcome to another Life by Ddesign episode today and it gives me great pleasure to introduce Constance Borro, who is a veteran educator turned entrepreneur. She and a co founders have built a mastery portfolio or company that offers the tools for uncovering and following a mastery path, showing where the team is doing and how they will get there. She has a big vision for changes to education, especially in the United States, but globally as well and accompanies an inaugural app and how are you doing today?
Constance Borro is co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Mastery Portfolio, LLC, Mastery Portfolio isn’t Constance’s first foray into entrepreneurship; she founded and operates a successful tutoring company called Ivy Tutor Connection, LLC., which specialises in serving students with unique academic profiles through a holistic whole-child approach. Constance is a veteran educator, having earned a B.A. from Yale University in 2008 and her Masters in the Science of Education in Secondary Mathematics from City University of New York, Lehman College in 2010. Mastery Portfolio is a Saas company with high-growth potential in not only education but in any industry or organization that seeks to develop human talent in the 21st century through principled practices and clear expectations. Mastery Portfolio is a development technique that uncovers a mastery path to show where a team is going and how they will get there.
Constance: Thank you. Thanks so much for having me. I'm doing great. And it's a pleasure to be here.
Dr Sundardas: Yeah. You know why don't you share with our listeners your journey and how you got passionate about doing what you're currently doing? Because education is a topic dear to my heart and the impact of changing lives and families and the future is really, really significant. On the other hand, there is also a huge challenge of bringing gains the established status co. So how do you navigate that?
Constance: Yeah, great question. Well, one of the things that's been really fascinating about my career path is that all of us have experienced the education system as students at some time, whether we were in public schools, private schools, no matter what country we're in. Hopefully we we've all been educated to a degree and, and we've all had different experiences, so everyone can really relate to this work you know, on a personal level. And so I started teaching in New York city public schools right out of college and did two years in the South Bronx in a small middle school kind of get my feet wet and then transitioned to a charter school to see what that was like. And then my last book, SUNY New York city, I landed at an all girls public middle and high school in Bushwick, which is a neighborhood in Brooklyn.
All low-income kind of high needs communities where I, I really got excellent training and worked with passionate colleagues wonderful families. But, but who had, who we're up against a lot in life and, and sort of were hoping that their student's education would be that ticket out of some of the struggles that they dealt with on a daily basis. So I, then we then had my husband and I had two kids in our, a one bedroom apartment in Brooklyn and we wanted a little more space. So we moved out to Columbus, Ohio where I became a instructional coach and math specialist at a private school out here. So kind of dabbling in that private school space at the elementary level. So at that point I taught K through high school at public charter and private school.
So kind of just wanting to see how it worked, you know, in every different context and had wonderful experience there, but realize that the, the common thread throughout all my different teaching posts over the past 14 years or whatever it is has been that there is, I haven't found that best way to share progress and feedback on skills with families. So they can really see a clear picture of how their student is doing and what they need to work on. I've used a number of online grade books. I've used my own sort of glorified Google sheet to try to organize the data, but it's just a massive amount of data. And you want to be able to kind of easily print and go with a report for families. So they know exactly where their students stands. And so realizing that I, I, one day sort of decided that, you know, I wanted to be the change I wanted to see in the world. Right. I wanted to provide that tool. I wanted to you know, know, no one's gonna do it except me with my experience.
Dr Sundardas: So you identify a need and you go after it. Yeah.
Constance: And not just to, you know, to start a company and do the fancy entrepreneur thing, but just because no one else had done it yet. And it was just driving me nuts.
Dr Sundardas: That’s one of the best ways to do it actually, because it's called an unmet need. That's like that that's a niche, that's an unmet need. And there are enough people frustrated about it.
Constance: That's exactly what we saw. And we've had a lot of traction with all the teachers we've spoken to, to get feedback along the way so far. So that's kind of how mashy portfolio was born. I conscripted the help of a colleague of mine, Amanda Smallwood. She's one of my business partners. And she was the one who developed our initial prototype through Google sheets for what these mastery reports and, and how we could house this data what that could look like. And then I also asked a friend of mine from my New York city educator network who had left the classroom a few years previously to start building his own ed tech apps. And his name is Benjamin Knuckles and he's our chief technology officer. So he's our other co-founder who is building our app, the mastery book. And so we're excited that right now, we're out in kind of 3 pilot schools at this point for this academic year.
And then we have a number of other schools who are interested in working with us for next year. And right now, you know, we've gotten that teacher validation. We've, we've gotten a lot of positive feedback. So now we're trying to build out you know, how can this help administrators and the progress they're trying to make to, to help their whole school and their whole community come along. And we're trying to validate that and just come up with, you know, some of the more businessy pieces, what's the right price point, what can we offer you know, kind of
Dr Sundardas: Actually try to build that ecosystem. Yeah. Yeah. And that's one of the best ways of making sure that your business has traction and longevity speaking as a business consultant in different facets and making sure that they're all being looked after and they're all having their needs met. And each time you do that, you're going to get more traction and you have the possibility of growing a business and you will get more people interested in what you have.
Constance: Yeah, we're trying for sure. Especially because at the end of the day, this is just going to help teachers, teachers are they're incredible. I mean, the amount of information they learn about a student so quickly is, is really inspiring. And so having a way to organize that information, pass it on from year to year allow parent input and really kind of build the whole team for a student. I mean, it really is very powerful. You know, teachers have said you know, by using the mastery book, I uncover some of my own biases. I thought, you know, Sally was doing really well in my class because she sits there and participates does all the work. But when I looked at her mastery, there are some things she's really not understanding. And I wouldn't have include into that. And if there hadn't been using the mastery book, so, so at every level it's, it's been really a powerful tool.
Dr Sundardas: Yeah. Building some really new tools that can used for the teachers to get real feedback and supposed to, I think this is good. And I think this is working and it's really not. Yeah.
Constance: Yeah. That's, that's the key. I mean, we don't want to build something that at the end of the day, isn't the thing that's useful to schools and teachers and families. So we're, you know, we're excited with some of the feedback we've gotten from students to students see that their grades change as they learn new skills. So, you know, if I had I don't know, an D back in September, because I didn't know how to solve equations yet. And by December, I'm a pro at equation solving that 80 doesn't matter. It doesn't get average. Didn't my current mastery, which could be 99 or a hundred is what goes on my report card because that's truly the reflection of my current level of skills. And so the ability to work hard and then see that pay off because you've mastered, it is really motivating for students. So instead of saying I'm a B student, they say, I can turn my B into an, a, I just have to study it and work harder and ask questions with my teacher, and then I'll be good to go.
Dr Sundardas: Yeah. Not only did they see a direct improvement in their grades and also has a significant impact on their self-esteem and their sense of identity and who they are. I remember, when I was a private tutor, like 30 over years ago working with this young man really funny because when I was much younger, I used to be a lot skinnier. And so I wasn't mad. I was about 23, 24. And this young man was about 16, where he was a very well fed 16, the skinny little guy next to him, and his made actually thought, but that we were class mates. That was really funny. Right. So we had a lot of expatriates. So he was in Indonesia and he was in Singapore and he didn't really understand his maths. So anyway, used to just barely passing. And I remember the very first session where I refused to let him get away with it, that after I insisted, he solved the problem after I explained. And he actually cried three months. Yeah. It was tough love three months later. And he was acing, his class, he was getting all A's. He was so appreciative. And that was when I decided to end my career as a teacher to begin practicing as a physician. So I had to say goodbye. And the look on his face was like, Oh my God, why are you doing this to me?
Constance: Yeah, I've always I've done some tutoring as well. I have another business called Ivy tutor connection where, you know, I'm connecting families who need tutors and doing that work as well. But I always tell my families, you know, I know I've done my job when I put myself out of business and your kid doesn't need a tutor
Dr Sundardas: Anymore. Right. It's about…
Constance: …Building that, self-sufficiency that growth mindset. Like if I don't know it right now, it's okay because I have the tools and resources to figure it out. You know, we're in an information world right now. I mean, you can Google almost anything. And so it, it makes some of the more technical pieces of math and chemistry and things like that easier because you can teach a student how to look that up and they can internalize it and feel in control of, of teaching themselves and building their skills.
Dr Sundardas: Yeah. I mean, that's really what this is about too, is building that, would you say, yep. You teach them how to learn. You teach them how to become totally not sufficient and figure things out on your own. Maybe our reflection on the Singapore education system. When I finished my degree in physics, I was one of the very rare students who actually did my own homework, right. So I would actually spend my weekends solving the problems. About 60% of my class, just copy the answers and they will prepare for the exam by memorizing everything. Right. So fast forward when we finished the degree and I'd been taught to do other degrees, it was a capacity to be totally self-sufficient that allowed me to do things. And the funny point, really something funny that occurred was I was still keeping in touch with my teachers from college, which is in the U S colleges university.
But in Singapore, college is pre-university. So for pre-university, I was doing double maths and physics and all of that, my like one of those rare students who was also involved in drama and literature, extracurricular. So there was this teacher who was involved with me and I knew in drama and she had a son who needed help with his maths and physics. So when we graduated, we had another colleague of mine who came from the same college, finished a degree with me, and he was actually teaching in a school. So I asked her how about asking him? And she looked at me and shook her head. He could only teach he couldn't solve problems. That is the education system in Singapore then. And I think it's been very much even more acute right now because I see the new graduates. So, you know, you talked about how Singapore has good match rates. Yes, they do. But yeah.
Constance: Well, I I've used Singapore methods in my math instruction for several years now, and I'm a huge fan, but it's sort of a tool to get students to decompose and recomposed numbers and to get them to do that critical thinking to have a path for solving a problem, right. It's that
Dr Sundardas: You have a cultural framework that allow us other kind of interactions and interactions and other patterns. And I think that's really great. Yeah. So that you appreciate what's already happening.
Constance: Yeah. Well, one of the best things about my role right now, and I was talking to so many teachers and students and families at different schools and seeing what resonates or what, you know, their pain points are and what problems that they're trying to solve for their students. So I know when, you know, one question you asked me earlier today was, you know, what's one piece of advice that you might have for, for any family going through the education system. And I really think that the most important thing is to know your kid and make the best decision for your kid be that, you know, maybe changing schools, maybe the school that all your other children have gone to, isn't the right one for, for your kid or bringing in some extra support or letting you know, making it so that your kid gets to go outside three times a day, because that's what he or she needs.
Just knowing your kid and finding a school that helps develop your student into the best version of themselves. Not sort of the mould of what maybe the ideal student is. Right? So and, and any school that has a mastery based system is going to be attuned to, to those individual needs of a student. And I really think that that's preparing them better for the real world because you know, in a lot of jobs, if you're, if you're hired for the job, it's because your employer thinks you can help them solve problems and figure out whatever the sticking points are. Not because you're sort of like a pre-molded, you know, automaton, right. Who they can just get fill into the spot. That's what automation is for frankly. So, so it's like what you said earlier. We have to teach students to know themselves, know their brains, know how to learn school.
Isn't really about the stuff that you learn. It's about the skills that you pick up for how to learn new things. I saw a statistic recently that said 80% of today's college graduates in 11 years will have jobs for which the job description hasn't even been written yet. I mean, job titles we've never even heard of yet. So how can an education system prepare them for specific jobs? We really can't. We can only prepare them to figure out how to do that job well when they land it. And that means learning how to learn.
Dr Sundardas: And that's a really powerful comment. And I'm just gonna suggest that you may want to actually educate parents on how to recognize what's unique about the children, right? Because it's not something that you can take for granted. As an educator yourself, as an educator myself, we get, it might when you're dealing with a parent and they are only going to be exposed to mass media ideas about what's appropriate, what's inappropriate.
And I've often done presentations to parents. And I've talked about how, with the advent of AI, you're probably going to replace number crunching , standard lawyers, standard doctors, but what you can’t replace is creative thinking and the capacity for human communication and the boutique type of services.
So if you're deciding somebody decides to become a technical professional, like a dental lawyer, or a physician or a doctor, you're going to have to take it to a few steps beyond just doing the standard degree. Isn't going to cut it because a machine could probably do a better job where the machine is get inside. Somebody said me, creative and marketing, or connecting with another human being. So my suggestion to the parents was that you knew a technical degree, then you will learn something about marketing and PR and spent time connecting with the environment.
Constance: I think that's good advice. And I especially think the marketing and PR piece is interesting because like you said, a lot of us do go into priests, scribed careers, such as teacher, lawyer, doctor. And depending on the program, you're in some programs do a better job than others, but typically you're not taught to run your own business as well. You know, you might take one business course in over the course of your doctorate so that you can open a practice one day, but really it's, there's so much, it's a whole other world that you need to then kind of be savvy. And this is something I'm learning now as a business owner but having been an educator, right. I was, it's a learning curve for me, but exciting as well. So I think for parents, you know, anytime you expose your kids to a totally new experience such as, you know, take your kids skiing if they've never been, and just use that learning moment, for example, or like help them ride a bike so they can see, they can train their body to do something totally new and bouldering and with a little practice they can do it.
I also think you know, to tell for a parent, if they want to know how their kid thinks or how their kid learns, when you're helping your child with their homework, for example don't be as interested in whether or not they get the right answer, be interested in how they reason through to land at that answer. So ask open ended questions. My favorite question is how do you know that's right? The reason I like that question is I ask it when the question's wrong and for the kid it gives them the confidence to not think, Oh, she's asking me about it. It must be wrong. They, they still think they're right. But in the course of talking through their re thing, they often will find their mistake and self-correct, and then I praise them for that and, and say, look at how powerful that is, that you can reason through that yourself. And you don't need me to tell you if you're right or wrong. So just listening to your child, listening to how they think helping develop their thinking rather than kind of focusing on the answer or the score or the end result is going to take you a long way and getting to know your child.
Dr Sundardas: That's a great point, Constance. So when you tell our listeners how they can get in touch with you, if they want to take advantage of your service or they want to engage with you or your companies.
I can also you can find us on masteryportfolio.com, which is our website. It, you know, and I'm happy to speak about, you know, more of my education experience working with students or kind of bigger picture systems wise, working with schools districts, you know, we're, we're really excited to be able to help schools and districts see the progress excuse me, the student growth really paint a picture of that mastery. So everyone in the community is kind of on the same journey together. That's, that's what we do. That's what we specialize in. So I'd love to hear from any and all folks who might have a connection, or, you know, if you're thinking, Oh, my cousin does that or, Oh, my sister should talk to Constance, please be in touch. I love to help educators. And even we've even had some interest from small business owners who are trying to help their team get some clarity on the direction they're going you know, writing core values for their, you know, burgeoning company and, and sort of tracking how folks are doing with those. So our platform and our software is, and our services are compatible to a team kind of in any field who, who resonates with this message for progress.
Dr Sundardas: Thank you very much. And.
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