In an effort to improve the quality of K-12 public education, schools across the country have begun to adopt the Common Core State Standards, which are designed to align the diversity of state curricula under one consistent, standardized guidebook of what students are expected to learn — and teachers are expected to teach. Formally adopted by 46 states, which will be making the transition over the next two years, the Common Core is becoming essential to the educational system, but it can also be overwhelming.
Founded in 2011 by a former principal and a former teacher, LearnZillion is developing a platform to help teachers, schools and districts implement the Common Core State Standards by providing a digital curriculum with lessons from teachers across the country. To help it scale and continue to add content to its free resource, the startup is announcing today that it has raised $7 million in Series A financing.
The round was led by DCM, with participation from O’Reilly Alpha Tech Ventures, Calvert Social Investment Fund, NewSchools Venture Fund and D.C. Community Ventures — among others. The round brings the startup’s total investment to $9.4 million, which it will use to ramp up hiring and scale more quickly.
The startup is looking to create a web-based, professional development platform for teachers, schools and districts, which offers Common Core-aligned lessons, assessments and activities developed by teachers themselves. The service aims to assist teachers both in understanding the new standards and planning lessons based on the Common core, as well as to distribute assignments and homework directly to their students. Currently LearnZillion has 120,000 teachers registered for its platform and reaches 1.4 million students.
To ensure quality, the startup hand-picks a team of teachers to help curate and develop lesson plans and curricula. The team currently consists of 200 teachers from 41 states, which work in tandem over the summer to create lessons, resources for the platform to help teachers adopt Common Core-aligned curricula.
Teachers and parents can get access to the LearnZillion platform for free, while schools and districts are required to subscribe to a paid, enterprise-level plan, which gives them access to premium professional development content, teaching insights and analytics, among other things.
While the Common Core has become one of the more significant educational initiatives to emerge in recent memory, it also puts a lot of pressure on schools — particularly teachers. To use the Common Core most effectively, teachers not only need to familiarize themselves with the standards, but understand the thinking behind them, what connects them and be able to create more challenging and dynamic lessons and curricula based on the new standards. This can be a tall order for any teacher, especially given the demands that most teachers already have to deal with on a daily basis.
To streamline this adoption and help it go more smoothly, teachers need a platform that operates as a resource to help make the standards more accessible and make alignment easier to manage, but also one that integrates with what they’ve already been doing. LearnZillion offers teachers and parents access to the best examples of lessons created for particular subjects and allows them to share it with others.
While the LearnZillion concept has plenty of appeal for teachers, the startup isn’t the only one trying to make it easier for teachers to share the best lesson plans and curricula — TeachersPayTeachers and BetterLesson are two examples of startups that are already doing something similar and, in the case of the former, helping to mint teacher-millionnaires while doing it.
All in all, however, it’s easy to make the argument that the more resources that exist on the Web to help teachers more easily and effectively adopt the Common Core, the better.