$6 million Literacy Courseware Challenge

From Stacy Childress at Gates:

Math courseware is a bright spot in the (ed tech software) segment. Products such as Reasoning Mind, Dreambox, and ST Math are producing demonstrable learning gains for students. Mathalicious is also a great resource. Khan Academy, a free resource originally built for self-directed learning, burst into the public consciousness and into classrooms. Dan Meyer, a great math teacher, also has a library of free lessons which include instructional videos for math topics like Algebra and Geometry.

New entrants and new products from existing players in the literacy space have been pale by comparison.

And few literacy products can provide even moderate evidence that they positively impact student learning. Scholastic’s terrific Read180 is a notable exception. Based on our analysis of the market, which was corroborated in conversations with educators and investors, this gap presents a major challenge to implementing the Common Core and advancing personalized learning.

So Gates created a $6 million competition for software developers. Who can create something good?

1. Prediction

Gates should have a little smack talk competition, with a tiny $60 prize, on who can predict the winner of their Literacy Challenge.

I'll go ahead and do it. Jason Singer and the folks at Gobstopper. Boom. Done. Not to be cocky, but I'm already allocating that $60 prediction prize for lunch at India Quality, plus a movie at Kendall with their top-notch popcorn. I think I can squeeze in a lemonade but not the Junior Mints.

2. Math v English

The best charters generate higher math gains than English gains. Ours included.

A while back, I posed the question -- is math easier to teach than English?

There's a case for yes, a case for no, and a qualified yes (easier to get test score gains).

I returned to the question here.

It is indeed unfortunate that demand for effective software is most needed to improve reading and writing skills, but supply is weakest in that area. I'm glad Gates is trying to juice the marketplace here.