BUZZ: Pearson Foundation Pays $7.7M in Common Core Settlement

photo credit: sam howzit // Flickr

This week, Pearson Charitable Foundation and educational publisher Pearson, Inc. has agreed to pay a $7.7M settlement on an investigation in New York State.

Here are the basics:

  • New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman determined in an investigation that the Foundation had helped Pearson, Inc. develop Common Core products, and had found that the foundation also paid for prospective Pearson clients to attend educational conferences featuring Pearson, Inc.
  • To settle these accusations from the State of New York, Pearson Foundation will pay $7.7 million.
  • The money from the settlement will be directed to 100Kin10, a national effort for STEM and high-needs teacher training led by the Carnegie Corporation.
  • The PDF of settlement can be found here (12 pages).

Now, the buzz:

From Attorney General Schneiderman’s statement on Thursday:

“The law on this is clear: Non-profit foundations cannot misuse charitable assets to benefit their affiliated for-profit corporations.  Moving forward,  funds for Pearson Charitable Foundation will be used exclusively for legitimate charitable purposes, beginning with millions of dollars to help ensure that every public school student has a great teacher in the classroom.”

From Pearson Foundation’s statement:

Pearson and the Foundation maintain we have always acted with the best intentions and complied with the law. However, we recognize there were times when the governance of the Foundation and its relationship with Pearson could have been clearer and more transparent. Over the past two years, the Foundation has taken several steps to strengthen its governance, beginning with the addition of independent directors to the board and the adoption of stronger operational systems. Under the settlement, these efforts will be further enhanced by the creation of a three-person audit committee.

The Foundation will also pay $7.5 million into a fund managed by the Attorney General that will support the work of 100Kin10, an organization committed to placing 100,000 science and math teachers into U.S. schools in the next ten years. The work of 100Kin10 aligns with the charitable mission of the Foundation—supporting non-profits working to expand access to great teaching and learning in the United States and around the world.”

Commenters on news sites were rabid with criticism.  On’s blog, reader Cooper JC Zale had this to say:

“These connections between corporate educational foundations and their for-profit businesses come to light in this situation. The non-profits are pushing policies that will improve the market for their for-profit arm. The education-industrial complex at work!”

Huffington Post’s Jason Stanford pushes further, asking for an investigation in Texas as well, saying:

“There’s a “you get what you pay for” quality to academic research that dovetails with the corporate interests that fund it, creating the appearance of a conflict of interest. If the former had anything to do with the latter, the Pearson Foundation may have broken the law and is why the Texas Attorney General needs to take a close look at Pearson…there’s ample evidence that state officials have put the lazy in laissez faire when it comes to providing effective oversight of Pearson’s massive contract.”

There is a lot of chatter on social media, with tweets such as this one from edtech leader, Gary Stager:

Mercedes Schneider’s blog post lays out the issues surrounding the funding swirl around Common Core, and the role of Pearson’s for-profit and non-profit arms, ending with this stark statement about these education initiatives:

Forget the kids. It really isn’t about them, anyway.

Erin Osborne of sums up all the sides of the conversation with her key issue about Common Core and the funding swirl around the problem—one that is not focused on the businesses, but instead focuses on the students caught in the middle:

“Here is the key issue. These companies see success in terms of dollars and profit, not academic success and achievement. Education start-ups fail all the time, including ones backed by the giants like Pearson. Once investors start to see diminishing returns or trouble on the horizon they will pull the plug regardless of how well students may be performing with their product. Vetting new teaching methods for success takes years of research, observation and review. Plenty of businesspeople, big and small, will have profited from Common Core even if all the states move onto the next education reform in five years’ time, but at what cost to students in school today?”

BUZZ: The Common App’s Woeful Week

This article is cross-posted from, where I currently serve as editor-in-chief.

photo credit: quinn.anya // Flickr, appears in Kicker article.

This week was a tumultuous one for the nonprofit organization, Common App, which allows students to complete a single college application and apply to any number of partner colleges and universities in the organization. According to their site, the Common App serves over 1 million students and school officials annually, provides online First-Year and Transfer applications, and is connected to over 500 public and private colleges and universities in the US and overseas.

The basics:

  • On Monday afternoon, 10/14, the Common App website was either inaccessible or exceedingly slow for most of its users.
  • The website crashed in the days before the first round of Early Action and Early Decision deadlines hit — typically October 15.
  • 2013-14 is the first year that the Common App has completely retired paper applications and moved the process entirely online
  • In addition to an inaccessible website, glitches included mis-formatted essays, payment processing, and lost applications.
  • As of 7:30AM October 15, the site was returned to full functionality.  There are still reports of fixes being implemented, according to their Facebook page.
  • Some colleges have extended their deadlines to November 1, or made arrangements for alternate application pathways or students.

Now, the BUZZ:

Prior to the crash, the New York Times had already published an article citing the problems that the Common App had been battling since the beginning of this college application season, noting:

Colleges around the country have posted notices on their admissions Web sites, warning of potential problems in processing applications….For the nonprofit company…that creates the form, it has been a summer and fall of frantic repair work, cataloged on its Web site, and frequent mea culpas.

NPR spoke with a number of stakeholders in the college admissions process for their article, who had the following to say:

Irena Smith, a college admissions consultant based in the San Francisco area, says the problems are adding more stress for her student clients. “It’s starting to look like application Armageddon,” she says. And an official with the National Association for College Admission Counseling says, “There is a bit of panic in the community.”

The Minneapolis Star Tribune spoke to a local college about their troubles:

For schools like St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minn., which relies entirely on the Common App, the glitches have delayed the first wave of applicants and left admissions staffers “sitting on their hands,” said Jeff McLaughlin, dean of admissions. …“It’s an ongoing roller coaster,” McLaughlin said Wednesday. In September, the admissions office sent a test application to itself to see if it got through. It took a month, he said. But he insists he’s optimistic all will be fixed before St. Olaf hits its first deadline, Nov. 15, for applications for early admission.

Forbes was quick to link the Common App to other nationwide IT problems, asking:

Has the Common App caught the IT flu plaguing Obamacare?

Kicker, a news site whose goal is “to make news digestible, engaging, and empowering” through their reporting format, captures the angst of college-hopefuls bemoaning the failures of the system.  Writer Susannah Griffee began her article with a picture of a Common App protest, and tweets from disgruntled high school seniors, including this one:

Dr. Nancy Berk, writing for the Huffington Post, points the finger back at the students/families in her article, saying:

Not all last minute Common App victims were procrastinators. Senior year is action-packed and students and parents are scrambling to cover all of the bases. Still, the stressful circumstance was the same, and I suspect there were more than a few raised voices across America asking, “Why didn’t I/you do this last week?”

David Marcus, writing for CNN, had this “silver lining” answer for those who are plagued by Common App issues:

There might be an upside to this storm. It’s forcing parents and students to have a conversation about the pressure to get into the “right” college, and even the more basic pressure to get into college…

I’m secretly hoping for more delays with the Common App.

If kids can’t apply to college now, they can’t go next year. And that means they’ll be forced to take a gap year, which likely will be the best preparation for college of which anyone can dream.

From my own personal experiences as an Early Admission applicant, I suspect that students applying for Early Admission to colleges may not have the personality traits and emotional tools to re-evaluate this setback and use this moment to focus on the merits of a gap year.   Let’s just hope that the Common App sorts itself out by the regular admissions cycle deadline—and that high school seniors will have learned the lesson that you might have to pay for your procrastination.

Amazon Makes EdTech Play with TenMarks Acquisition

This article is cross-posted from, where I currently serve as editor-in-chief.

Boston-based TenMarks had a big announcement to make on “TenMarks day” (10/10)—an agreement for Amazon to acquire TenMarks, with the acquisition scheduled to complete later this month.

TenMarks offers personalized online math instruction and practice for K-12 students, engaging students with helpful hints, video lessons, and real-time results.   By acquiring TenMarks, Amazon makes a move into the edtech space, focusing on adaptive learning and personalization, and potentially leveraging their hardware products as a learning delivery platform.  With the backing of Amazon, TenMarks will be able to significantly extend their ability to broaden their content offerings, potentially expanding beyond math to language arts and other curriculums.

Amazon’s statement, from the press release:

“Amazon and TenMarks share the same passion for student learning. TenMarks’s award-winning math programs have been used by tens of thousands of schools and Amazon engages with millions of students around the world through our Kindle ecosystem,” said Dave Limp, Vice President, Amazon Kindle. “Together, Amazon and TenMarks intend to develop rich educational content and applications, across multiple platforms, that we think teachers, parents and students will love.”

TenMarks statement, from the press release:

“Amazon and TenMarks share a commitment to developing easy-to-implement solutions for schools and families,” said Rohit Agarwal, TenMarks co-founder. “We currently offer teachers, students and parents access to effective resources to foster the vision of the Common Core curriculum in math, including scalable professional development and tools for connecting with parents. We back this belief with our business model, where teachers can register and access our product for free, while being able to opt in for premium features, if needed. Going forward, we believe Amazon and TenMarks will create significant innovations in the K-12 arena.”

Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed. Subject to various closing conditions, the acquisition is expected to close in the fourth quarter of 2013.

Prior to the grand announcement on TenMarks “day”, EdTech Times had the opportunity to sit down with TenMarks’ co-founder Andrew Joseph.  Stay tuned for an EdTech Times video interview with Andrew about the TenMarks product.

BUZZ: Amplify’s Tablet Program Has a Safety Setback

This article is cross-posted from, where I currently serve as editor-in-chief.

Amplify, a division of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, is facing a setback of their tablet program that was introduced earlier this year.

The basics, from various news sources:

  • Guilford County, NC, home to Amplify’s biggest deployment, is announcing a suspension of their program.
    • Amplify has deployed 20,000 laptops to the school district
    • The program is said to have cost $30 million to the district.
  • Hardware and safety issues are the root of the program suspension.
    • The most serious concerns are reports of a few students’ chargers had melted and become disfigured while charging at home.
    • Other issues include a high rate of cracked hardware despite the purchase of protective cases.

Now, the buzz:

EdTech Times reached out to Amplify for a statement from spokesperson Justin Hamilton, Senior Vice President of Corporate Communications:

“One of the several districts using our tablet, Guilford County, North Carolina, recently reported to us that several tablet chargers, which were manufactured by ASUS, partially melted while plugged in.

Out of an abundance of caution, we proactively asked Guilford and all Amplify tablet users across the country to stop using the ASUS charger until we could determine what caused it to melt. Nothing comes before the safety of our students, teachers and their families.

We’re working with the school district and the charger’s manufacturer, ASUS, to determine whether it was an electrical issue in the students home or a manufacturing defect.

Guilford also said it was concerned because they reported around 10 percent of their students tablet screens had broken, which is much higher than we are seeing at any of the other school districts we work in nationwide.

We’re working very closely with the district to more deeply understand the breakage issue. And we hope to have things resolved and the program back up and running very soon.”

Guilford County Superintendent Maurice “Mo” Green released a statement to parents:

“While a certain amount of technology issues are expected during major roll-outs, I felt the safety concern required immediate attention. Suspending the use of the devices and chargers will give Amplify and its suppliers an opportunity to properly investigate and work on the issues.

We recognize that suspending the program on short notice is going to be disruptive to students, staff and parents.  My decision was made out of an abundance of caution, and I decided to err on the side of safety.”

GigaOM raised the following concerns about the overall program:

“Since its launch, skeptics have wondered how schools would respond to the price ($299 for the device when purchased with a 2-year subscription at $99 per year), privacy questions it raises and the prospect of doing business with Amplify’s parent company News Corp. (given its phone-hacking scandal). This suspension could give schools additional reason for pause when it comes to embracing the new technology.”

In their coverage, TechCrunch  points out that the Amplify tablet program isn’t the only tablet program experiencing glitches right now:

“Amplify and Guilford County aren’t the only ones experiencing hiccups with tablets. Los Angeles Unified suspended it’s 1-for-1 iPad program after students hacked through the filters, granting them full-fledged access to the bountiful wonders of the Internet.”

Nate Hoffelder from The Digital Reader has written an extensive blog post about the context of these tablet failures, and in particular he highlights an example of  breakage stats when Kindles were first introduced in classrooms in by WorldReader:

On a related note, I have also been told that Worldreader, the nonprofit that distributes Kindles to remote schools in Africa, saw a 30% breakage rate when they first distributed Kindles in Ghana in 2011. Susan Moody Pietro, a spokesperson for Worldreader, told me that in order to fix the durability issue:

So we did a couple of things.  We did in class exercises to teach the students that e-readers are delicate devices (one example is that we had the kids drop an egg and we showed them that the screens were breakable, like an eggshell.  And we sent the broken Kindles to Lab 126 and they got to see that the screen needed reinforcement, which came out in the next launch of Kindles.  I should mention that the breakage rates we were seeing at the time matched a similar school program in Clearwater Florida, so it wasn’t a developing world vs. developed world issue.

Highlighting the positive about the tablet program, High Point Enterprise spoke with Jake Henry, Guilford County’s executive director of instructional technology, regarding the tablets in the district:

“Teachers and students have worked very hard,” Henry said. “We’ve seen teachers all over the spectrum with how comfortable they are with the technology. We’ve seen them use the quick poll features all the way up to using QR codes to scan assignments. In addition, we saw how quickly students adapted to the technology.”

Losing learning time in an educational setting is one of the great concerns of many edtech companies, so here’s to hoping Amplify gets these issues resolved quickly so that learning in affected districts can return to what is quickly becoming “the new normal”.

Interview with Sebastian Vos, Managing Director of Education at Elsevier

This article is cross-posted from, where I currently serve as editor-in-chief.

EdTech Times had the opportunity to speak with Sebastian Vos, Managing Director of Education at Elsevier.  Mr. Vos has spent the last decade helping Elsevier build their education technology portfolio as VP of e-Education and Senior VP of eSolutions before serving in his current role as Managing Director. We talked to Mr. Vos about the growing interest in education technology today, and how the traditional publishing market is making the transition to digital services.

ETT: What are the main drivers behind innovation in education technology today?

SV: We have the technology to look at data and move beyond just providing content or basic performance information to see whether students demonstrate competency. This is really driving us as a publisher to move from a model of providing content to a model where we look at outcomes.

At the same time, institutions are also struggling with how to teach to the same large cohort of students with fewer resources. The efficiency driver and effectiveness driver is something that can be balanced with data and adaptive learning.  Adaptive learning is a big change – it’s no longer ok to have “one size fits all” education, as everyone has a different style and speed of learning. These days, we need to look at how a program can adapt to meet a student’s method of learning.

Mobile and social media are also massive influencers in how students and teachers interact with content and with each other. Social media has created a more interactive learning environment, as the willingness of 18 to 22 year olds to share personal information has changed from the older generation.

ETT: How is the pace of innovation impacting the education publishing companies and market, in general, and how is Elsevier responding to this innovation?

SV: Right now, the big question is: how do you get the print-media mix right? It’s easy to say “go digital”, but we need to realize that print still has a tremendous amount of value. To make these decisions, we have to be closer to our customer base—not just our buyers, but also the person actually using the product. We understand professional workflows fairly well, but are learning more about student workflows, making sure we understand where content and tools will fit into a typical day.

We’re also spending more time looking at different devices and figuring out what their best uses are. For example, is it a “best use” to put together a 4-color human anatomy atlas for an iPhone?  We’re looking at our full portfolio and how to reshape it, moving away from product-specific and book-specific solutions and towards providing a more comprehensive solution, transforming us into a learning or education solutions company.

ETT: How does Elsevier support innovation in EdTech?

SV: We spend a lot of time with our customers to make sure we know what they’re doing and where we fit in. There are lots of cool little startups in the field as well, and we try to work with the companies doing innovative things when it makes business sense. There are new companies with new product models, some using a quasi-distro, quasi-content play—a very different model than a traditional competitor.  In medicine, we’re the biggest guys, so if you’re doing something in medicine, you will talk to us at some point. It’s harder to make a big company turn, so we are trying to find a balance of working with small nimble companies to make the changes. We want to own the medicine channel, but we really like what some of these companies are about. In the end, we have to ask ourselves; are we making our content more accessible and more useable?

Most of the innovation is happening in the US for lots of reasons, but the biggest reason is that the education system is the most open.  In Europe, the biggest challenge is nationally-based curriculum—it only changes every three to five years, which is a pretty slow process. Also, each country in Europe is adopting technology at differing rates.  Countries like Finland, Sweden and Norway are very digitally savvy—they want everything digital, and nothing in print anymore. While Northern Europe has adopted faster than Southern Europe, everyone is now trying to leverage technology for maximum benefit.

ETT: What are you most excited about in EdTech in the next few years?

SV: The main thing is that publishers have been far removed from the teaching and learning process for a long time. We dropped in a bunch of materials and the schools did what they wanted to do. We had no way of really helping teachers move students from novice to expert. As we move toward digital content and delivery, and as we get more data on time spent reading, taking quizzes and performance, we can take an active role in supporting how they are traveling that path in a way that we could never do before. We can look at particular scores, and we have the ability to take the analysis to the next level, such as knowing whether students are or reading assets or watching videos or other metrics to support score data.

Also exciting is the ability to provide learning nuggets when and where people want them, such as on the tablet or smartphone, as opposed to being structured and formal about delivery. The mobile modality is what people are going to learn from in the future.

ETT: Where do you see the biggest gaps in the education technology today?

SV: There is so much happening—look at how much VC money is being dumped into education! I think the most opportunity exists in high-involvement analytics.  Analytics that make it easy enough that faculty would want to use them,  Analytics that are useable and approachable to a student and doesn’t feel like “Big Brother”—even with their social sharing, they are not sure that they want everyone to know that they’re struggling in their classes!

There’s also got to be an option for personalized adaptive learning that is data-supported, data-driven, and safe for both student and instructor.

And, publishers get a bad rap—we do a lot of it to ourselves. But we can drive lots more innovation in education; we just have to be a little brave, in smart ways. By that I mean we have to be able to build upon what we do best.  The content we provide is invaluable, and now we need to look at the services we could provide to support it.  For example, let’s imagine the uses of education technology in a professional setting, like, how are doctors going to use information?  Maybe mobile access to a database, with information linked to a patient’s record—and then on top of that, a layer providing up-to-date research from journal, drug alerts, notifications from specialists, and so on. These use cases are really knowable, and we just have to get to know our users even better.

The endstate for education technology is unknown, because there isn’t just one answer. It’s about doing a lot of little things and learning.

EdTech Times would like to thank Sebastian Vos for his time and his thoughts!

Griff Resch contributed to the writing of this interview.

Q&A with Monica Brady-Myerov, Founder and CEO of Listen Edition

This article is cross-posted from, where I currently serve as editor-in-chief.

EdTech Times is running a series of Q&As this week on the companies of LearnLaunchX, which has their first public Demo Day today, Thursday, October 3rd at’s October Meetup in Boston. Companies will present for 5 minutes and then followed up by 5 minutes of Q&A.  This is a great opportunity for local ed-tech aficionados, educators, and entrepreneurs to come meet the companies of LearnLaunchX’s first cohort.

More on these companies at their investor demo day, September 18th:

Monica Brady-Myerov, Founder and CEO of Listen Edition

Monica Brady-Myerov, Founder and CEO of Listen Edition

Company at a Glance:Website:                              

Founders: Monica Brady-Myerov

Founded: January 2013

Category: Content

Product stage: Market

Facebook: Listen Edition

LinkedIn company page:

Company twitter: @ListenEdition

Other social media:

ETT: What’s your elevator pitch?

MBM: Your Mom always told you to listen….your boss expects you to listen.  So it’s not surprising that educators have added listening to the new Common Core standards adopted by 46 states.

We are bringing compelling up-to-date stories out of the public radio system and other sources to engage students.  Listen Edition builds proprietary curriculum around the stories, which include objectives, lesson plans and assessment tools all linked to states standards as well.  In the future we will engage students with tools to design and record great stories and help teachers improve methods for teaching a true 21st century skill—listening.

How to Use from Listen Edition on Vimeo.

ETT: What is your company’s core value proposition? What problem are you solving?      

MBM: We are engaging students through listening.   Real world public radio stories make subject areas come alive for students.  In addition, we are solving the problem that the Common Core now mandates the teaching and testing of listening.   There are few tools that help a teacher focus on building critical listening skills.  Listen Edition helps students become better critical listeners.

ETT: Why did you get into this? What drove you to start this?       

MBM: I spent my career as a public radio reporter.  I knew how much adults learn everyday from public radio because they would often tell me.  As my children got older I saw how much they learned as well, just by listening.  They were engaged by the stories.  I thought, why aren’t teachers using this in the classroom?   I asked my daughters’ teachers and learned it was too time consuming and difficult to find the right stories and build lessons around them.  I thought:  I want my daughters to learn from public radio in their school, so I created Listen Edition so that any teacher, anywhere can teach using a public radio story.

ETT: What is the biggest need for your startup? 

MBM: We are growing quickly so our biggest need now is funding so that we can build a larger team to increase content and create more sales channels.

ETT: What should we expect to see from you in the next twelve months?

MBM: Right now we are focused on middle school science and social studies content.  In the next year we will grow our subject areas to cover more content and write curriculum for high school students.  We are also developing an on online listening assessment tool so that teachers using Listen Edition can assess their students’ critical listening skills as part of the program.  By next year we will introduce the Listen Edition Studio, a project based tool that guides teachers on how to help students write, record and edit their own “public radio-style” stories. 

ETT: Which three startups/educators/entrepreneurs do you follow and find interesting?              

MBM: I think is very cool.  Real time assessment is so valuable.  That’s why Listen Edition has added pre-made Socrative quizzes to almost all of our content.  Also I love Benjamin Berte’s mellow approach to the crazy life of an entrepreneur!

I follow StudySync because they are a new way to teach Common Core literacy skills. They meet students where they are – on their devices watching exciting videos.  And they are using some Listen Edition content because they believe in the importance of listening!  Founder and CEO Robert Romano is a visionary in how to engage kids.

I use Balefire Labs at home because I have two middle school students who are addicted to the iPad.  As a parent, I am constantly questioning whether the apps they are using have any educational value.  With Balefire Labs, now I know!

ETT: If you could provide students nationwide with one education technology product, what would it be?           

MBM: Besides Listen Edition… maybe it would be a fitbit for health and nutrition education.  We have an obesity problem in this country so maybe if kids had a better idea of their exercise level and calorie intake, we could solve the problem.

ETT: What do you think are the biggest obstacles in adopting your product/service in the education space?

MBM: The sales channel into schools is long and slow.  I wish that as schools speed forward adopting computers and iPads in the classroom that they give teachers a budget to buy cool new edtech products like Listen Edition!

Thanks to Monica for checking in with us at ETT about her product!  Find out more about Listen Edition at their website:


LearnLaunchX’s Cohort Debuts at Inaugural Demo Day

This article is cross-posted from, where I currently serve as editor-in-chief.

Yesterday, seven startups from the LearnLaunchX accelerator made their mark on the education technology community at their inaugural demo day.  Held at the nearly-completed District Hall at the center of Boston’s Innovation District, the startup companies spoke to a packed house of investors, educators, and other ed-tech stakeholders, including Massachusetts’ Governor Deval Patrick, who stopped by to meet the companies individually.

The LearnLaunchX founders pose together for a picture with Governor Deval Patrick.  From L to R: Mark Miller, Eileen Rudden, Jean Hammond, Governor Patrick, Hakan Satiroglu, Vinit Nijhawan

The LearnLaunchX founders pose together for a picture with Governor Deval Patrick. From L to R: Mark Miller, Eileen Rudden, Jean Hammond, Governor Patrick, Hakan Satiroglu, Vinit Nijhawan

The founders at LearnLaunchX were excited about the crowd that gathered to see these companies’ debut.  Founder Eileen Rudden was “pleased to see such broad support from the investment community for emerging ed tech companies.”

Founder Mark Miller invoked Boston’s roots in education, noting that “if there is anything that Boston should lead the way on it is the education and publishing companies of the future.”

“After a few years of planning for the creation of LearnLaunchX, we now see the progress of the first cohort of learning companies,” added Miller.  “This event draws on the investor community in Boston and beyond to support and retain ed tech talent and innovation in Boston.”

Other founders praised the hard work that the companies have put in during their months at the accelerator.  Founder Hakan Satiroglu said, “We are very excited to have had the opportunity to work with such talented entrepreneurs to build our ecosystem together.”

Founder Jean Hammond spoke about the collaboration at LearnLaunchX, saying, “Working hand-in-hand with ed-tech startups everyday gives us here at LearnLaunchX a perfect view to watch the growth and evolution of the education field. We think that innovation such as we see in these companies offers a once in a generation opportunity to revolutionize the way that people learn and make education more effective and available. ”

Monica Brady-Myerov of Listen Edition describes her product to Governor Deval Patrick

Monica Brady-Myerov of Listen Edition describes her product to Governor Deval Patrick

Governor Patrick’s attendance created a palpable buzz at the event, with many eager people awaiting a turn to greet the governor. The LearnLaunchX companies each connected with Governor Patrick at their tables, getting an opportunity to speak with him personally and answer his questions about their products and their progress.  The governor also sat in the main room to catch the pitch for Monica Brady-Myerov’s Listen Edition, a company that curates and creates lesson plans from public radio stories.

LearnLaunchX’s Director of Operations Asad Butt, was appreciative of the individual conversations that Patrick had with the companies, saying, “we were thrilled that the governor was not only able to attend our event but also spent quality time with each of our companies.”

To hear more about the companies, check out this article, and also stay tuned for new Q&As.

To hear from Demo Day attendees, check out this article.

To get a better look, check out our picture gallery.  (Click on an individual photo to enlarge and open the gallery.)

MA Governor Deval Patrick to Attend LearnLaunchX Demo Day, September 18

This article is cross-posted from, where I currently serve as editor-in-chief.


Earlier this month, Boston-based ed-tech accelerator, LearnLaunchX, announced their inaugural demo day to be held on September 18th.  At tomorrow’s event, Massachusetts’ Governor Deval Patrick will join investors, entrepreneurs and educators in a first look at the seven early stage companies that make up LearnLaunchX’s first cohort.

LearnLaunchX’s website talks about Patrick’s record for supporting innovation, saying:

“Investing in innovation to create jobs and opportunity in the state has been a key part of [Governor] Patrick’s growth strategy. By making meaningful, targeted investments in education, innovation and infrastructure, the state has seen job numbers return to pre-recession levels, and unemployment remain below the national average. These investments, especially in the innovation sector, have positioned Massachusetts as a global leader in the life sciences, biotech, bio pharmaceuticals and IT, as a national leader in clean energy and Massachusetts students lead the nation in achievement.”

Monica Brady-Myerov, founder of Listen Edition and one of the LearnLaunchX cohort members slated to pitch tomorrow, is excited to demo her product to the governor. “This really shows his commitment to support ed tech in the state, and his overall committment to education,” says Brady-Myerov.

Companies in LearnLaunchX received $18,000 in seed funding, an intensive three month mentoring program which began in June, and office space for six months.  The seven companies were chosen for their exceptional potential to make education more effective, impactful, accessible and affordable across the education continuum.

The following companies are lined up for tomorrow’s demo day at District Hall in the Innovation District on Boston’s waterfront:

  • Listen Edition: Public radio stories, lesson plans and activities that enliven STEM and social studies curriculum, foster critical thinking and listening skills, and align with Common Core State Standards (CCSS), led by respected public radio reporter Monica Brady-Myerov.
  • Gradeable: A new assessment and feedback tool that helps teachers give students smarter, faster feedback and reduces their overall workload. Developed by a team from MIT and Harvard, it uses optical character recognition to handle paper inputs in both written answer and multiple choices formats, and provides simple, visually appealing reports.
  • Cognii: Using powerful natural language processing technology, Cognii enables automatic assessment of students’ essay answers. Cognii helps learning service providers create personalized and engaging learning environments which can measure students’ content mastery.
  • Empow Studios: Bringing technology, arts, and learning together, Empow Studios helps young learners discover and build talents that will prepare them to navigate, master, and thrive in their future careers and lives. Empow Studios programs teach exciting robotics, video game design, animation, and other creative skills for the 21st century to kids 4 through 15 years old through after-school, holiday, and summer programs. Opening in Lexington Town Center this fall, the company is poised to grow to new communities and regions through franchising.
  • Countdown: A planning tool for creating Common Core-aligned instruction that allows teachers and districts to map standards by day across the school year, link curricular resources, share calendars, manage changes and create a record of what is taught. Countdown improves pacing, increases the effectiveness of co-teaching and supports standards-based teaching and learning.
  • EduCanon: Powerful, easy-to-use video tools for teachers to create highly engaging and interactive video instruction. EduCanon adds formative assessments into videos, and empowers teachers to quickly identify and track students’ grasp of concepts. Created by teachers, for teachers.
  • Intellify Learning: Provides a standards-based instrumentation framework for online course developers and schools, curriculum and learning designers, and Ed tech application developers. Led by LearnLaunchX entrepreneur-in-residence Chris Vento, former CTO of Blackboard, WebCT and Cengage, Intellify’s cloud-delivered data and analytics drive the progressive refinement of on-line learning experiences.

Read the press release from LearnLaunchX.

EdTech Times will be there covering tomorrow’s demo day event and will be featuring the companies in the cohort.

EdTech Accelerator LearnLaunchX Announces Inaugural Demo Day, September 18

This article is cross-posted from, where I currently serve as editor-in-chief.

LLX_Logo_NoShadowBoston-based ed tech accelerator LearnLaunchX has announced their inaugural Demo Day, to be held on Wednesday, September 18, 2013.  The first cohort of LearnLaunchX companies are set to pitch their companies to investors and members of the ed tech community—the culmination of 3 months of formal mentorship  and collaboration through the accelerator program.

LearnLaunchX co-founder Jean Hammond describes Demo Day as a new beginning rather than an ending.  “On Demo Day our graduates will get to explain to a room full of potential investors why they have unique and exciting products to support teachers, help administrators, and enable parents all in the support of better learning,” says Hammond.  “And the investment crowd will get to be in on the dawning of a new era … one in which the power of innovation is unleashed on the learning and education industries.”

LearnLaunchX’s Demo Day is being held in Boston’s District Hall, a new building in Boston’s Innovation District that serves as part social hub, part meeting and event space for Boston’s startup community.

Interested investors and edtech community members should email Operations Director Asad Butt for more information.

CourseHorse to Offer Last-Minute Deals for Students, Yield Management Tools for Providers

This article is cross-posted from, where I currently serve as editor-in-chief.

CourseHorselogoCourseHorse, a New York-based startup connecting learners to local public education courses in NYC and Los Angeles, announces a new feature that provides last-minute discounts for students through yield-management tools for course providers to ensure that their seats are filled.

Co-founder Katie Kapler notes the parallels between the education market and yield management concerns with airlines, hotels, and restaurants.  “The education market has lots of similarities, in terms of seats to sell with sell by date,” says Kapler.  “[Unfilled seats] become perishable inventory. Until now, we haven’t been able to take advantage of [the tools of] other industries who stand on two legs solely for this.”

CourseHorse is introducing dynamic pricing for courses based on their demand.  Using system analytics and market econometrics, course providers will receive a report of classes at risk of having empty seats, and a recommended discount price for the course.  If accepted, the discounted price will be pushed live to prospective students through the CourseHorse site.

Also, CourseHorse’s expansion into Los Angeles will officially ramp-up this fall, with increased marketing and outreach efforts in the area. Kapler cites existing class inventory from schools with both New York and LA campuses as a reason for expansion into the Los Angeles market.   “In New York, we’ve learned the sweet spot for types of classes and number of classes offered for students,” says Kapler.

For more about CourseHorse, check out EdTech Times’ coverage of CourseHorse’s initial funding, and also our Q&A with co-founder Nihal Parthasarathi.

Read the full press release below:


New York, NY…COURSEHORSE, the leading discovery engine for local education, announced today that it has launched “Last Minute Deals”, the first-ever yield management tool for the education market.

The new last-minute tool suggests to educators which classes they should discount based on upcoming availability, trending user behavior and market seasonality. Discounted classes are then broadcasted to the COURSEHORSE community and a media network including 3M visitors monthly and large publishers like Time Out, NY Mag, Brooklyn Magazine, Serious Eats, NY Press and others.

“Great educators shouldn’t have to struggle to market their classes,” said Katie Kapler, co-founder of CourseHorse. “Class providers – including universities, non-profits, technical training providers and small- scale educators – will now have the ability to price their classes based on demand principles that have defined the airline, hotel, restaurant and other industries for years. ”

Founded in 2011, CourseHorse now features over 25,000 classes in NY and LA from 750 educators, including Columbia University, CUNY, The Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT), The Institute of Culinary Education, General Assembly and hundreds more. Classes range from single session workshops, to semester long courses and cover topics ranging from art, cooking, and tech, to marketing, design and more.


About CourseHorse

CourseHorse is the discovery engine for local education. The site makes it easy to find, compare and enroll in thousands of vetted, high-quality classes from leading universities, technical training schools, non-profits and smaller-scale educators. Topics range from art, cooking and language, to technology, design and marketing and range from single-session workshops to semester long courses.