Arizona State University Faculty Spinout Company Wins Major Grant from Department of Education

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Learning Ovations will receive $1.05 million to develop its cloud-based tool for enhancing literacy instruction

Carol Connor

Learning Ovations' technology platform is based on research by ASU's Carol Connor, a professor in the Department of Psychology and a senior learning scientist in the Learning Sciences Institute.

Our research has shown that if we take into account children’s individual differences in their language and reading skills, we can develop more effective individualized instruction for them.

Learning Ovations, a Scottsdale, Arizona-based education technology company, has received a $1.05 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to support the development of the company’s cloud-based tool for enhancing literacy instruction.

Learning Ovations is one of only two companies this year to win funding from the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences’ Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program. The SBIR grants are provided to entrepreneurial companies that use cutting-edge research to develop commercially viable technologies to solve tough problems in education.

Called A2i, Learning Ovations’ tool helps teachers provide individualized reading instruction to students from kindergarten through third grade. A2i gives teachers the professional development, tools and resources they need to manage their classrooms based on each individual student’s language and reading skills. It is built on a foundation of eight years of rigorous research led by Carol Connor, a professor in Arizona State University’s Department of Psychology in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and a senior learning scientist in ASU’s Learning Sciences Institute.

Connor worked with researchers at Florida State University and the University of Michigan to develop and test A2i. Results from several efficacy trials demonstrated that in classrooms using A2i, 94 percent of students learned how to read by the end of third grade, as compared to the national average of 66 percent.

“Our research has shown that if we take into account children’s individual differences in their language and reading skills, we can develop more effective individualized instruction for them,” Connor said.

The SBIR grant will allow Learning Ovations to strengthen A2i and prepare it to be disseminated and implemented on a large-scale basis. In this 2.5-year project, Connor and her colleagues will preserve the essential functionality of A2i while modernizing and optimizing the underlying structure. Key components will include assessment and data-based decision tools for teachers, including algorithm-based recommended reading instruction; planning and organizing literacy instruction tools; planning tools to help teachers deliver instruction; and professional development tools.

"This award is very significant," said Jay Connor, founder and CEO of Learning Ovations. "These resources will allow us to have meaningful social impact. The single best inoculation against poverty is grade-level reading by the end of third grade, which Learning Ovations can now deliver in school districts across the country."

Learning Ovations is one of a number of faculty spinouts at ASU that benefit from resources and services available to startup companies at SkySong, the ASU Scottsdale Innovation Center.    

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About Learning Ovations
Learning Ovations’ mission is to bring to schools evidence-based, rigorously tested interventions and instructional practices that are designed to significantly improve students’ achievement. The company offers a technology platform designed to support educators’ efforts to provide individualized literacy instruction to students from kindergarten through third grade. Using evidence-based algorithms, Learning Ovations links assessment results to recommendations for instructional strategies and activities. In third-grade classrooms where Learning Ovations is used, students are reading, on average, at a fifth-grade level.

About SkySong, the ASU Scottsdale Innovation Center
SkySong, the ASU Scottsdale Innovation Center, is home to a global business community that links technology, research, education and entrepreneurship to position ASU and Greater Phoenix as global leaders in the knowledge economy. Located on a 42-acre campus in Scottsdale, SkySong is at the heart of the redevelopment of the McDowell Road corridor. Organized around a central plaza with a signature shade structure, it is a mixed-use development with 1.2 million square feet of space. The development, a joint venture among Arizona State University, the ASU Foundation for a New American University, the City of Scottsdale, the Plaza Companies and the Holualoa Companies, is located three miles from ASU’s research-intensive Tempe campus and seven miles from Sky Harbor International Airport.

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