Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan have been quietly amassing a portfolio of both philanthropic and venture investments in education, from a $120 million commitment to Bay Area schools to the funding they contributed to Altschool’s most recent $100 million round.
Now they’re adding another educational technology company to the group. They’re expanding a pre-existing Series B round for Salt Lake City-based MasteryConnect with a $5 million investment. It brings the company’s total funding to $29 million and will help grow its headcount beyond its current 140 employees.
MasteryConnect builds software for teachers to plan and measure individualized student progress. They’ve racked up 1,800 paying customers, which are usually individual schools or districts across the country. The company says it’s been used in 85 percent of school districts across the United States and has a reach of 2 million teachers.
“Teachers are using us to measure and see where students are at before and after they teach,” said CEO Cory Reid. “That way, they can assign the right practice materials or change how they’re teaching.”
Inside MasteryConnect is a system for teachers to track and rate how all of their students are doing either through individual ratings or through test scores. The startup focuses on formative assessments — a type of assessment that involves qualitative feedback (instead of relying on scores) and takes place during the learning process, with the goal of helping educators tweak their activities and approaches to teaching with the goal of helping students learn more effectively.
Chan, notably, was a teacher before she went to medical school. So the pair have a keen interest in supporting technological innovation in education. Zuckerberg has made a few splashy philanthropic commitments like a $100 million donation to the Newark school district — a failure that Dale Russakoff chronicled in the New Yorker and a new book that just came out last month. Since then, the pair have taken a much more low-key approach in their educational work.