SAC RAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond today announced that more than 350 elementary schools have been selected for the prestigious 2023 California Distinguished Schools Program. The award program is celebrating its return this year after the COVID-19 pandemic temporarily suspended reporting of state and local student data. Since its inception in 1985, the California Distinguished Schools Award remains one of the important ways to celebrate exceptional schools, districts, teachers, and classified employees for their innovation, talent, and success in supporting students.
The exceptional elementary schools recognized this year are illustrative of the hard work, dedication, and resilience shown by educators and schools across the state after communities struggled for multiple years with urgent effects to physical and mental health and unprecedented challenges to delivering education. To select California Distinguished Schools, the California Department of Education (CDE) uses multiple measures to identify eligible schools based on their performance on the state indicators as specified on the California School Dashboard (Dashboard). Specifically, schools were selected by analyzing data reported through the 2022 Dashboard, including assessment results, chronic absenteeism, suspension rates, and socioeconomic data. Information regarding the 2022 Dashboard is provided on the CDE California School Dashboard and System of Support web page.
“It is my pleasure to honor and recognize these 357 elementary schools for providing outstanding public education and opportunities to students. Their innovation and hard work have helped to ensure their students can heal, recover, and thrive—even in the toughest times,” Thurmond said. “California Distinguished Schools represent examples of not just excellent teaching, learning, and collaboration, but also highly successful, data-driven school efforts ranging from professional development for educators to mental health and social-emotional wellness strategies to address the needs of students and families.”
The California Distinguished Schools program recognizes schools for their excellent work in one of two categories: closing the achievement gap and achieving exceptional student performance. Elementary schools and middle and high schools are recognized in alternate years; therefore, awardees hold the title for two years. Each year, two of California’s Distinguished Schools awardees are eligible to become a National Association of Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) Distinguished Schools Awardee. Information about California’s National ESEA Distinguished Schools can be found on the CDE National ESEA Distinguished Schools Program web page.
The list of 357 recognized schools for 2023 is below. For more information, please visit
Amid the AI hype, don’t forget about no-code
No-code startup Softr, which allows its customers to build apps from their existing data, announced Tuesday that it has added Google Sheets to its integration list.
Previously, Softr focused on Airtable databases. Its move to support data from Google’s spreadsheet product likely expands its potential customer pool. Even before that expansion, CEO Mariam Hakobyan told TechCrunch+ that her company grew its annual recurring revenue 3x from December 2021 to December 2022.
Softr’s quick revenue expansion is a good reminder that while the tech world seems completely consumed by all things AI, there’s quite a lot of work going on in other areas that are worth keeping an eye on.
That said, there is an interesting connection between AI and no-code worth writing down: Both are potentially great expanders of human capability. AI tooling could operate as a second brain of sorts for the digitally busy, and no-code services may allow nondevelopers to build the tools they need to complete their work. In both cases, the genres of new tech development have a shot at helping regular folks do a lot more, more quickly and often at a low cost.
Something else that modern AI tooling and no-code share is accessibility. Softr, for example, grew its base of signed-up users from 35,000 to 150,000 in 2022. That’s really quite a lot for a service that was, until recently, Airtable-specific. On the AI side, I don’t need to reiterate just how much market demand there is for modern LLM tooling.
Let’s dig into Softr’s progress since we last covered the company and chat about what we can learn about no-code progress as a method of building more accessible software.
Softr, no-code and empowering the regulars
Ask anyone who works at a company that builds software and isn’t part of the engineering or product orgs how long it will take them to get something built for their own needs. Without even making Jira ticket jokes, we all know what the answer will be. And to a degree, the standard situation makes sense: What nondeveloper employees need is often pretty basic software, and expensive engineers need to focus on the company’s core offering not internal tooling.
Twitter’s legacy blue checkmark era is officially over
Twitter appears to have officially killed off its legacy blue checkmarks, one of the last remaining vestiges of the pre-Elon Musk owner era.
The legacy blue checks, which Twitter doled out to journalists, celebrities and other public officials for free to help curb impersonations and spam, were supposed to end April 1.
Musk took to Twitter on April 11 — days after the legacy checkmarks should have disappeared — to shift the end date to April 20 or 4/20. Yes, that’s the day when folks honor weed because Twitter is now owned by a middle schooler.
With the legacy checkmarks gone, Twitter will have verification marks only for paid users and businesses as well as government entities and officials. Now, if a user sees a blue checkmark and clicks on it, the label reads: “This account is verified because they are subscribed to Twitter Blue and verified their phone number.”
Autotech Ventures’ new $230M mobility fund adds fintech, circular economy to its investment strategy
Autotech Ventures will use its newly closed $230 million fund to expand beyond its foundation of early-stage ground transportation startups and invest in what the firm believes are the next big opportunities in automotive and mobility.
Fintech, logistics, supply chain and the circular economy are at the top of the list.
The $230 million fund, its third since launching in 2017, will be used to invest in seed through Series C mobility-related startups, according to the company. A mixture of financial and corporate LPs, including Allison Transmission, American Axle, Iochpe-Maxion and Shell participated in the fund.
“We’re still a ground transportation-focused firm and we have a very similar strategy [with this fund],” Alexei Andreev, Autotech Ventures managing director told TechCrunch. “On a high-level, it’s same as Fund 1 and Fund 2. However, one of the fastest areas of growth is SaaS-enabled fintech. Auto commerce is inefficient and there are large pockets of profit to capture.”
The firm is particularly interested in transportation-related fintech ventures that are poised to grow during a recession.
“We made a prediction that sooner or later there will be a recession and we identified areas that benefit when the economy softens, Andreev said, noting that this latest fund invested in Yendo, a Dallas-based startup (formerly known as Otto) that lets customers borrow against their vehicles at the same interest rate as standard credit cards.
Autotech Ventures’ previous fintech investments include U.K.-based buy now, pay later startup Bumper and Carpay, a buy here, pay here loan servicing SaaS platform for car dealers.
Andreev said the firm is also investigating investment opportunities in the circular economy, a nascent industry focused on finding ways to reuse materials and products. Circular economy startups have garnered an increasing amount of attention and investment as automakers transition away from gas-powered vehicles and towards EVs.
Autotech Ventures is also cautiously wading into generative AI, although Andreev was quick to note that the company has not made any investments in that area.
Autotech has more than $500 million under management and has invested in more than 40 companies.
Some of the firm’s investments include computer vision startup DeepScale (which was acquired by Tesla), Lyft, used vehicle marketplace operator Frontier Car Group, Drover, Outdoorsy, Swvl, parking app SpotHero and Xnor.ai, which Apple acquired in January 2020. Five of those startups have gone public, including indie Semiconductor and Volta Charging.
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