In line with this mission, ConnectEDU recently received an innovation grant from the foundation as part of the Foundation’s Literacy Courseware Challenge for $500,000–the highest amount given—to develop a web-based teaching and learning platform that tracks student progress against literacy skills outlined in the Common Core.

The grant was awarded after a rigorous evaluation process that required ConnectEDU to submit a detailed technical proposal and execution plan, which will be refined in collaboration with the foundation during the early stages of the project.

ConnectEDU’s data tool will enable teachers to engage students with more personalized instruction and learning resources by using a recommendations engine that maps student achievement data to new content standards.

The company believes this data tool will be useful because it will be “using student achievement data to help students and educators identify digital learning resources that address specific skills/learning objectives where students need further assistance in order to reach the standards set by the Common Core,” said Nick Franco, senior director of Business Development for ConnectEDU. “Connecting student progression through Common Core standards to the college and career transition planning process more broadly,” is another practical application of the tool.

Franco explained that the company ultimately hopes to “help educators and students by making it easier to navigate new standards; identify relevant, high-quality digital learning resources; and create a personalized learning experience.”

As an example of how the tool might work, Franco said educators will be able to view a dashboard that indicates individual student or “cohort” performance against a specific Common Core standard for literacy (based on integrated formative and summative assessment data). Educators will then be able to view the suggested learning resources that address this standard from a “repository of curated digital content that has been tagged with meta data aligned to Common Core standards for literacy.”

ConnectEDU will serve as an aggregator for third party digital literacy courseware, explained Franco, to be developed by other companies participating in the challenge.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has already assembled a number of schools to pilot products developed as part of the Literacy Courseware Challenge and will pilot products in two waves. The first will be January 2014-May 2014; and the second wave will be January 2015-May 2015.

(Next page: District and state data initiatives)