Success Stories Out of the ED/IES SBIR Program:Learning Ovations
A2i supports students in Kindergarten to Grade 3 to read at or above grade level, by the end of Grade 3. In A2i,students take web-delivered assessments throughout the school year to track progress in a range of literacy skills, including vocabulary, decoding, word reading, spelling, sentence and paragraph writing, comprehension, and inferencing. The A2i algorithms analyze data and generate recommendations for how teachers can structure small groups and individual instruction tomaximize literacy for each student. A2i also provides a Literacy Outcomes Specialist for each school that use the intervention. This individual develops a customized implementation plan reflecting the unique circumstances of each school and to provide ongoing support to teachers. A2i also has the capability to integrate external assessments and curriculum that districts and schools use into its system, providing teachers data-driven insights on student performance in literacy while they continue using materials with which they are familiar.
Research and Development
Initial research, development of prototypes, and multiple evaluations were conducted in academic settings with the support of a progression of awards from IES in 2004, 2007, and 2013, and the National Institutes of Health/National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NIH/NICHD) in 2013. During these projects, the team conducted basic research to understand how the effects of different types of literacy instruction (e.g., instruction focused on phonics vs. meaning focused instruction) depend on children's constellations of language, phonological awareness, decoding and encoding, and comprehension skills. Findings informed the development of an initial prototype of a technology delivered assessment that generates results to inform instruction (the A2i) for 1stgraders and subsequent versions for 2nd and 3rd graders. Researchers then conducted a series of seven randomized controlled studies with results demonstrating that the A2iprototypes were effective for individualizing literacy instruction and led to literacy gains for K-3 students.
While the A2i was effective in controlled research studies, feedback from practitioners in the field demonstrated that implementation often required substantial amounts of researcher support and local district adaptation, and that the cost was not sustainable for most school district budgets. In 2014,Learning Ovations received an award from ED/IES SBIR to develop a commercially viable upgraded version of A2i to be used at scale in classrooms around the country. Development focused on redesigning the underlying data architecture to enable a high-capacity, cost-efficient,and a scalable version for teachers and educational leaders in a wide variety of settings. The redesign permitted the system to automatically update to optimize data flow while reducing human maintenance. The researchers also developed, tested, and integrated professional development modules within the overall system. Pilot testing at the end of Phase II with 20 teachers who had been familiar with the old version demonstrated that the updated system was more feasible to use and efficient across implementations. Results also demonstrated that overall student reading achievement improved after using A2i.
Path to Commercialization
With the support of a five-year Education Innovation and Research (EIR) expansion grant from the U.S. Department of Education totaling $14.65 million, A2i is now used in more than 110 schools across the country. The EIR grant provides funding to develop, expand, and evaluate innovative, evidence-based programs designed to improve student achievement and lower cost per student to help achieve scale. The EIR expansion grant was awarded to a consortium of researchers and developers, including researchers at UC Irvine, Learning Ovations, Digital Promise (a non-profit), and MDRC, a national evaluation firm. Over 300 schools and 100,000 students will eventually be served through the grant, which will also support a large-scale effectiveness trial to measure the impact of the project on student reading achievement.
Peer Review Publications
Findings from all publications on the A2i software and related professional development are posted on Learning Ovations website.