From all of us at MasteryConnect, we want to say thank you for all that you do. We recognize the many challenges you face each day and admire your commitment and willingness to make a difference. We consider it an honor to support you and wish you a wonderful week!
“What great or better gift can we offer the Republic than to teach and instruct our young.” – Cicero
Keep on Trackin’
The MasteryConnect Team
February 14th, 2013
Before joining the MasteryConnect team last January, I discovered MasteryConnect for myself as a classroom teacher. While I loved teaching and the impact I was having with my students, I wanted to impact student achievement on a broader scale. Ultimately, I envisioned being able to share this powerful tool with educators nationwide and share its impact at the classroom level. Since joining the MasteryConnect team, I’ve had the opportunity to travel from state to state, presenting MasteryConnect to enthusiastic educators and engaging in truly meaningful discussions around mastery learning.
Just last week, Trenton Goble, our Chief Academic Officer, and I had the sincere pleasure of meeting with the passionate educators of the Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan School District in Minnesota. While it was really cold, the teachers we met made us feel warm and welcome!
We initially met district leaders from Apple Valley at the Solution Tree PLCs at Work Institute in Minneapolis. Our continued conversations led to this Professional Development opportunity centered around “The Model Mastery Approach” and a training session for Apple Valley’s middle and high school piloting teachers.
I can honestly say that my conversations with the teachers of Apple Valley were some of the most inspiring I’ve had in my time at MasteryConnect! I wanted to share just a few experiences that inspired me on this amazing trip:
- A high school physics teacher described how he gave his first assessment in MasteryConnect and invited students to scan their own bubble sheets. One student immediately asked if he could return to his seat to make the necessary corrections after receiving immediate feedback.
- A highly sophisticated middle school math team used Curriculum Mapping to unpack every standard into student-friendly “I can…”statements. Assessments filled their trackers and students in their classes were able to quickly identify their personal learning gaps.
- A teacher shared that she overheard a conversation between students as they waited in line in class to scan bubble sheets: rather than walking away saying “I got a C,” students are saying “I’m at mastery!”
- A middle school math teacher who previously spent her weekends tracking student mastery of every skill taught by hand on a paper-based mastery tracker (see the overwhelming image above) described how she now has a technology solution that allows her to communicate that information in real-time. She has her Saturdays back!
It’s stories like these that reinforce the importance of what we’re doing here at MasteryConnect for me. I’d like to take this opportunity to THANK YOU for being a part of this awesome journey into mastery learning; we’d love to hear your experiences with MasteryConnect as well!
Keep on Trackin’
January 19th, 2013
MasteryConnect is pleased to announce it has completed a Series A round of financing with an amazing group of investors. In an over-subscribed round of $4.125 million, Catamount Ventures led the round with a $2.125 million investment. Learn Capital, which invested in MasteryConnect in a seed round, participated again in the Series A financing, and the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation joined this latest round with a $1.5 million equity investment. We are also excited to welcome Deborah Quazzo of GSV Advisors to the team of investors joining this round. With this investment, both The Michael and Susan Dell Foundation and Catamount Ventures will be taking an active role in the company and serving on the board of directors. These investors join an already incredible group from our seed round which included NewSchools Venture Fund, ImagineK12, and an all-star group of silicon valley angel investors.
As a company in the education technology space, we feel that it is critical to bring together the right team internally as well as the right team of financial partners that can help us best serve the needs of students. With this round of financing, we have definitely accomplished this goal, bringing together both foundation support as well as fantastic group of venture capital firms that focus on mission-driven companies. As we first engaged these new partners in the finance process, we found a common alignment with them as we all believe that the best edtech ideas come from within the classroom - just as MasteryConnect began as an idea of a classroom teacher. We also found alignment in the idea that the ability to grow and scale the technology solution requires collaboration from the public and private sectors to impact not just thousands of students, but millions of students.
While the Dell family foundation has made many significant investments over the past six years in both non-profit and for-profit entities, this investment represents the first equity investment for the foundation in a U.S.based edtech company. This ‘first’ for the foundation is particularly exciting for MasteryConnect as it will not only make a significant impact for low-income students, but for students of all socio-economic categories.
So what does this mean for our incredible customers and users of MasteryConnect? It means we can continue to improve and build upon the great tools that started as an idea drawn up on a whiteboard by an experienced educator and two software developers. It means we can continue to work on new and exciting innovations that help students master critical concepts for college and career readiness, and it means we can continue to do what we love – serving students and educators!
January 18th, 2013
A few lucky MasteryConnect team members traveled to Honolulu, Hawaii this week to take part in Solution Tree’s PLCs at Work Conference. Our team was ecstatic to leave the smoggy Utah weather and head to sunny Hawaii to talk about mastery learning and PLC implementation!
This conference was an amazing way to kick off to the New Year! Rick DuFour and Bob Eaker led the event for the 150 attendees.
While it was attended by a smaller audience than most of the conferences in the continental U.S., it was an incredibly energetic crowd! Over 80% of the attendees, who hailed from places like Alaska, Australia and Canada, joined Trenton Goble for MasteryConnect’s lunch session. In addition, the MasteryConnect team had a chance to meet and get to know teachers from all over the world! It was a very rewarding conference and an invigorating preview for the upcoming season of Solution Tree summer conferences.
Aloha and keep on trackin’!
January 7th, 2013
We’re excited to announce our Share Your MasteryConnect Experience Video Contest! We’ll be giving away some great prizes, including an iPad Mini.
To enter, all you need to do is create a video that shares your tips, tricks and personal experiences using MasteryConnect. Click here to login to your account and find out details about submitting your video. The contest starts January 7th and runs until midnight on February 15th.
We’re excited to see all the unique ways you’ve been using MasteryConnect! If you have any questions about the contest or how to enter, please don’t hesitate to reach out to our support team.
December 28th, 2012
It’s been an amazing year here at MasteryConnect, so I thought I would take just a moment to reflect back on where MasteryConnect has been, and talk a little bit about our plans for 2013. As the CEO of an Edtech startup, it is an incredibly rewarding experience to be part of a team that took an idea from a teacher’s brain and built a technology solution that has a far reaching impact on students, educators, and parents across the country. As the year draws to a close, we are humbled and grateful to our customers and the raving fans and supporters of MasteryConnect.
We started 2012 off with a bang after receiving financial support and backing from some amazing organizations in Edtech such as NewSchools Venture Fund, Learn Capital, and ImagineK12. Their support jump-started our mission to help teachers across America share formative assessments and track mastery of state and Common Core standards.
At my desk in our offices, I have a close view of our “start-up dashboard,” which is a big TV screen that flashes the latest information and statistics about everything in the MasteryConnect community. As I sit here today, I’m blown away and humbled by the amazing educators in this country that are working to implement mastery learning in the classroom. A few highlights from the dashboard as of today:
- Teachers from 22,108 schools have now joined MasteryConnect (representing about 25% of schools in America)
- Teachers from 7,601 districts are now represented in the Learning Community (over 1/2 of districts in America)
- Teachers have scored 2,763,291 assessments for mastery learning
- Our Common Core app has been downloaded over 500,000 times and standards within the app have been viewed over 39 million times
2012 saw an incredible amount of feature development including tools such as curriculum maps, benchmark assessment features, and simple SIS integrations and API’s. We’re excited to be working with some amazing new partners such as Solution Tree, Edmodo, and Clever. 2013 looks like another incredible year. We’ll be announcing more financial supporters in early January, a new book in the early spring, and some Common Core features that we’re sure will knock your socks off! Cheers to an amazing 2012 and wishing you a happy new year!
Keep on Trackin’
Mick Hewitt, CEO
December 21st, 2012
As the snow keeps falling in the beautiful rocky mountains of Utah and the temperatures continue to plummet, the MasteryConnect team wanted to quickly take a break from creating new features and talking about tracking mastery to wish you a happy holiday season!
We can’t wait to spend a little bit of time celebrating with our families and friends. But what we really want for the holidays is to continue having more and more teachers and schools join MasteryConnect and become part of the Mastery Movement! Don’t forget to download the Common Core app on your new mobile device you find under the tree!
We know how dedicated teachers are, so if you end up working over the holidays and have a question, we are happy to assist you. Our support team will be available as usual, except on Monday December 24 and Tuesday December 25.
The “voice” of MasteryConnect videos and an awesome business development manager, Christie Jennings, sadly missing from our team photo Todd Resudek joined us from Skype to be in the picture! We’ll be growing by leaps and bounds in 2013, if you’re interested in joining our team, please check out our jobs page.
June 29th, 2012
Every year schools are faced with the financial challenges of updating old materials, textbooks and technology. Due to the incredible expense of purchasing new textbooks, it is common practice for schools to offset the adoption years by subject. With the adoption of the Common Core State Standards, schools are facing the challenge of purchasing new textbooks, materials and technology for math and language arts in a much tighter timeline. Factor in the additional cost of orienting teachers to the new standards and providing professional development on the new materials, and the implementation of the Common Core starts to become a very expensive proposition for schools.
Exactly how much this is going to cost is a subject for debate, but a recent study from The Pioneer Institute estimates the costs of implementation over a seven-year period to be approximately $15.8 billion. Conversely, a recent study released by the Fordham Institute estimates the cost of implementation using three different scenarios:
- Business As Usual: This “traditional” approach to implementation is defined as buying hard-copy textbooks, administering annual student assessments on paper, and delivering in-person professional development to all teachers. It is not a cheap approach though, and the prices tags associated with it are quite familiar. Cost: $12.1 Billion
- Bare Bones: This is the lowest-cost alternative, employing open-source materials, annual computer-administered assessments, and online professional development via webinars and modules. Cost: $2.9 Billion
- Balanced Implementation: This is a blend of approaches, some of which may be more effective than others while also reducing costs. It uses a mix of instructional materials (e.g. teacher self-published texts and/or district-produced materials), interim and summative assessments, and a hybrid system of professional development (e.g. train-the-trainers). Cost: $5 Billion
So who is right? I suppose only time will tell, but I suspect the actual implementation cost at each school will be as varied as the estimations. Schools will need to select from a growing menu of “Common Core Aligned” materials, texts, programs, resources and professional development opportunities. Some schools will have money to buy the latest and greatest offerings while others will be forced to modify existing materials. I think this quote from the Fordham study addresses the issue best:
Some states are busily attending to their implementation checklists while others amble at a turtle’s pace. But generally lost amid the discussions of curriculum maps, computer-administered assessments, how to get teachers up to snuff, and so on, are fundamental questions: How much will all this cost? And are there innovative ways to contain costs—including the thoughtful use of technology—that could make implementation more affordable and perhaps more productive, if not necessarily easier?
A perfect example of this is the amazing amount of money being spent on orienting teachers to the Common Core. Whether the professional development is provided through the school district or a third party vendor, the cost of developing and printing materials and paying teachers to attend adds up quickly.
To help make the implementation more affordable and perhaps more productive, if not easier, we developed the Common Core App that provides teachers easy and immediate access to the standards. Additionally, MasteryConnect has developed the largest online community of teachers collaborating and sharing formative assessments aligned to the Common Core State Standards. Within MasteryConnect, teachers can easily monitor student performance relative to the standards with our innovative mastery-based, core-aligned MasteryTracker. All of the above resources are available to teachers for FREE.
Time will eventually provide us with a much closer estimate to the actual costs associated with the implementation of the Common Core State Standards. My guess is that in the end, most experts will come to a similar conclusion: implementing the Common Core was incredibly expensive. At MasteryConnect, we are doing our best to help schools make it a little less expensive and a whole lot easier for teachers to implement the Common Core State Standards.
Keep on Trackin,
Chief Academic Officer
We were honored to be invited to present at the PLC at Work Insitutes in New Orleans and St. Louis. It was incredible to be with such a dynamic group of teachers and administrators engaging and learning more about becoming a successful Professional Learning Community. Indeed, Dr. Rick DuFour helped everyone in the audience gain a more clear picture of where the PLC movement is and how a PLC attitude is cultivated. MasteryConnect’s own Trenton Goble presented and discussed PLC implementation strategies using MasteryConnect.
The MasteryConnect team had an amazing experience, and would like to thank the Solution Tree staff for putting on such an incredible event. It was really exciting to hear Dr. DuFour talk about the four essential questions of a PLC, which MasteryConnect is dedicated to helping teachers answer. We strive to provide solutions that focus on the big ideas of PLCs, so it was inspiring to hear Rebecca DuFour discuss creating a collaborative culture, focusing on learning and emphasizing results.
In addition to presenting to and gaining valuable insight from attendees, our staff also learned about the variety of PLC implementation efforts going on around the country. It was invigorating to see so many teachers who care about their students and want to work as teams. We felt ecstatic to be able to share our tools and watch the relief on teachers’ faces when they realized that implementing a PLC can happen in days, not years.
MasteryConnect will be presenting at the PLC at Work Institute in Las Vegas this week in another special lunch session after Dr. Rick DuFour’s keynote. We’re excited to engage with the audience in our interactive presentation and we’ll even be giving away another iPad during the session! The Las Vegas Institute is all sold out, so if you were lucky enough to have a ticket to the event, we’ll see you there!
We were a bit surprised this week by a post in Edweek written by Catherine Gewertz that articulated the lack of resources out there for Common Core, but failed to mention the tools that are gaining traction quickly. A quick Google search of ”Common Core” shows the MasteryConnect app on the first page of results, and the same search shows the app is #1 in both app stores…we’re just sayin’ . Catherine is really right though, resources are pretty sparse and teachers are struggling to keep up. We’re trying to change that quickly. MasteryConnect is now the largest network of teachers sharing and collaborating around the Common Core. We’re working to integrate more resources like Khan and LearnZillion that help teachers make the transition to the new core. We can’t wait to show you what we have up our sleeve for next Fall as more states roll out full k-12 adoptions of the Common Core standards.
The Khan videos in MasteryConnect are available to both free and premium users and can be found by clicking the “view standard” links throughout the Learning Community and MasteryTracking tools. A couple things to keep in mind as you explore this new resource in MasteryConnect…Khan didn’t make a video for every math standard, so videos in the K-3 grades are pretty sparse. Also, if your district blocks YouTube, you won’t be able to watch the videos at school , but you can watch them anywhere else! A shout out to Khan to put the videos up on one of the new video platforms that districts are allowing behind the firewall, might help the adoption inside traditional public schools. We’re excited about bringing more and more Common Core resources to MasteryConnect, and thanks again for being part of our great Learning Community.
Keep on Trackin’…The MasteryConnect Team