Middle School Literacy Watchlist

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It doesn't take much to find "top 10" lists of anything on the web. Most of those lists, however, are only best guesses.

Here's a list worth watching, however: the Gates Foundation is pouring $6 million in 29 organizations developing tools to help students in grades 4 through 8 to improve their reading and writing skills and--ideally--master the Common Core State Standards. Six received grants of $500K apiece.

Not all these programs will succeed. But winning financial support certainly gives them a leg up.

Evaluator teams picked the 29 projects from among 150 submissions. The judges looked particularly for:

  • potential for positive impact on student learning;
  • feasibility of use in school settings;
  • capability of the team to deliver and scale up their plans.

The products are not necessarily free but Gates did require that they offer an "affordable option" for low-income communities.

Ten projects are considered "minimum viable product awards." These are in the concept phase and address a subset of literary skills or academic content. These each received $25K in support.

Another 14 organizations with products that cover some set of literary skills received grants between $100K and $500K. And five grantees, offering systems or platforms that track student progress in building reading and writing skills also received between $200K and $500K in support.

The results are a fascinating watchlist of emerging literacy tools.

And beginning in January 2014, when the tools reach schools, we'll check back and see how teachers and students are faring.

The grantees (and their products) who received the top $500K grants were:

Supplemental & Comprehensive Literacy Courseware

Systems or platforms for measuring progress:

Now that's a list worth watching!

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