LearnZillion, One of the Scrappy Startups Making DC a Hotspot

Eric Westendorf

A new Washington D.C. incubator, The Fort, debuted its first cohort of startups today.  TechCruch notes, “The program, which gives founders anywhere from $25,000 to $100,000 in seed capital, was lured to the area from nearby Arlington thanks to a $100,000 grant from D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray”.
The DC metro area is home to many of the first gen eLearning giants: Blackboard, Connections, Discovery, Kaplan, and K12.  Later this month Mayor Grey will visit a new edu-innovation hotspot—the New Schools Venture Fund office at 17th and R, home of LearnZillion.
The first wave of entrepreneurship in education started twenty years ago with Teach for America and great charter schools.  That wave drew McKinsey consultants like Jim Shelton and Shivam Shah in to education to help plan reforms in New York City, found the E.L. Haynes Public Charter School in Washington DC, and join Kim Smith’s New School Venture Fund.
E.L. Haynes principal Eric Westendorf applied an entrepreneur’s drive by applying six week improvement cycles.  Frequent assessment helped the talented teachers gain insights drive achievement gains.   However, the identified needs raised teacher anxiety.  Teachers realized that they needed to differentiate instruction but they didn’t have the tools to do what needed to be done.
Eric pieced together some standards-aligned resources including video lessons.  Teachers began sharing lessons that worked. That was the big idea behind LearnZillion: teacher-created Common Core-aligned learning resources. A few months ago Eric left E.L. Haines and called his buddy Alix Guerrier from McKinsey and they launched the company.  They won a grant from Next Generation Learning Challenges.  With seed funding from New Schools and Learn Capital (where I’m a partner), LearnZillion was launched and is serving 4,000 teachers in dozens of schools.
LearnZillion is recruiting a Dream Team of 150 teachers to spend a few weeks this summer creating more resources for grades 3-8.  If you’re interested, see the announcement below and send them a note!
Along with the Bay Area, New York City, Boston, Austin, and Seattle, DC is edtech hotspot with a rich mixture of great universities, incubators, venture capital, and talent.  Companies like LearnZillion are improving schools and cities.
For more, see NPR Marketplace story.

Scale your impact while participating in Common Core professional development this summer!  Apply to become part of LearnZillion’s Dream Team of Math and Literacy Teachers.
LearnZillion is a learning platform that helps teachers and parents meet the educational needs of every student.  We are selecting 75-150 teachers to join the Dream Team this summer. We’re looking for teachers who want to have a broader impact and who have the talent and enthusiasm to craft dynamite video lessons (3-5 minute screencasts). Each teacher selected will receive:

  • Support and feedback from math and literacy experts and other talented Dream Team members
  • The technology and software necessary to create video lessons
  • $2000 compensation
  • Recognition on LearnZillion’s website

Dream Team members commit to creating 20 Common Core video lessons between June and mid-August (with a possible convening event on June 19-21). All video lessons will be featured on the LearnZillion website and linked to professional development platforms in multiple states. All video lessons will be freely available to all teachers and students across the country.
Admissions are rolling. We are currently recruiting for our second admissions cycle, which ends April 29th.  Our final cycle ends May 27th. For more on LearnZillion, visit our site at www.learnzillion.com. To listen to a recent Marketplace piece on LearnZillion, visit:http://www.marketplace.org/topics/life/education/learnzillion-does-number-classrooms.
To apply, please follow the link below and complete the application form: https://www.applitrack.com/learnzillion/onlineapp/_application.aspx?posjobcodes=101&posfirstchoice=technology&posspecialty=  Please also feel free to email LearnZillion’s administrative assistant Ann ([email protected]) if you have questions about the application.


Tom - Speaking Engagements

Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is the CEO of Getting Smart. He has written or co-authored more than 50 books and papers including Getting Smart, Smart Cities, Smart Parents, Better Together, The Power of Place and Difference Making. He served as a public school superintendent and the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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