Rob and I discuss the evolution of personalized learning, skill gap analysis, curriculum design, and much more in this excellent interview.
Sramana Mitra: Let’s start by introducing our audience to yourself as well as to Curriculum Associates.
Rob Waldron: I’m the CEO of Curriculum Associates. We’re a K-12 ed tech company. We’ve actually been in business for a long time. We became a tech company five or six years ago but we continue to have a healthy print business as well. The pencil and paper still works in education, but increasingly a majority of our business comes from technology.
We have about 650 people. We’re based out of Boston. About half of those people are here with me. The other half are spread across the nation doing professional development and other projects. That’s a little bit about us. We have an online assessment system that pairs with online instruction. The product is called i-Ready. It further connects with a product called Ready, which is a print-based product in Math, English, and Language Arts from kindergarten to 8th grade.
Sramana Mitra: The ed tech part of this is your assessment tools?
Rob Waldron: It’s both assessment and instructions. One of the things we’ve done is try to determine why a child is where they are. We get deep into their skill set and provide what’s next. Some of our competitors are just assessment companies. Some of our competitors are just instruction companies. We definitely are focused on both.
Sramana Mitra: Since you bring up competitors, can you put some sort of a competitive ecosystem map for me. There’s all sorts of things going on in K-12 education on the content side. Khan Academy has really disrupted the online learning space in a very positive way. How do you view all that? How does that play in your ecosystem? How do you do what you do differently?
Rob Waldron: I’ll address the why first – why the child is behind. Right now, more than 10% of K-8 children in the United States use our software every week. In the beginning of the school year and along the way, they take a diagnostic assessment that could be about 45 minutes. If I give you a problem on area of circles, a lot of people think that’s just geometry. To us, it includes pi as the symbol. That could be the beginning of algebra. It includes multiplication and exponents. We’re tagging all of these things along the way.
Over time, we can say, “The truth is this child doesn’t have difficulty with geometry as much as he has difficulty with exponents.” We can pull out content or lessons on exponents. The difference is the sophistication with which we choose discrete moments of content for that child and keep track of that content and whether they have mastered it. What we do also is provide that information to teachers and administrators to find ways that they can use that data to change things in the classroom. It’s the curation, if you will. There’s a lot of content out there. If I just threw a bunch of content to the kid without curating it, it’s a little less useful.