Endangered Report Cards

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Endangered Report Cards

MasteryConnect, Instructure separately aim to reinvent reporting grades

By Betsy Corcoran (Columnist)     Mar 19, 2014

Endangered Report Cards

MasteryConnect founder and CEO Mick Hewitt has been clear from day one: He had an idea about how to create a technology tool that teachers would find useful and he wanted his company to stand on its own two feet by selling that product.

Three years later, Hewitt has proven right on both scores: MasteryConnect, based outside of Salt Lake City in Sandy, UT, offers teachers a gradebook in the cloud: a way to track students’ progress on any standards, including Common Core. The goal isn’t just grades but to get a sense of how much and when students are learning.

“We’re reinventing the report card,” declares Hewitt, “and redefining it around whether students are mastering learning—not just showing that they’re proficient.”

"What does a 'B' mean"? asks Kent Medlin, superintendent of the Willard School district in Missouri. "It means one thing for one teacher, and another for another teacher, and those weren't the same thing." When MasteryConnect breaks down grades into specific areas--such as Common Core standards--parents and teachers can look at students' skills and come to the same conclusions about where they need more (or less) help.

MasteryConnect now has registered users in 36,000 schools (and 10,000 school districts), across 50 states. Teachers have used MasteryConnect to record 21 million student scores—up from 1 million in October 2012. The company is growing, too. Thanks to a recent $3.425 million funding round, Hewitt says that he expects his staff of 32 to grow to more than 50 by July.

Another sign that MasteryConnect is onto something: Growing competition. Not far away is Salt Lake City edtech powerhouse, Instructure. Founded in 2008, Instructure got its start by offering a learning management system (LMS) it calls Canvas, originally targeting colleges and universities. More recently Instructure has begun to work in the K-12 environment as well.

And today just as MasteryConnect is unveiling its latest mastery-based grade book, so, too, is Instructure.

Instructure says it has added a “mastery grade book…embedded alongside the traditional grade book” into Canvas. In a press release, Instructure vice president Jared Stein said: "This new view into student learning will give millions of educators who use Canvas the ability to more seamlessly incorporate reporting on formative, authentic assessments using either model."

Instructure has heft. Its LMS is used by more than 3 million K-12 teachers and students in 150 school districts to track students’ mastery of concepts. Investors have poured more than $50 million into the company, which is widely expected to head into an initial public offering at some point in the next year or so. Instructure is adding what it calls the “Learning Mastery Gradebook” to its Canvas LMS, a kind of "dashboard" to track how students are doing.

Both can reflect whatever grades or standards a school or educator choose to represent.

Surely the days of the "same old report card" are numbered!

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