Education Tech Nonprofit Launches with Gates, Carnegie Support

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February 5, 2013; Source: Atlanta Business Chronicle

With some major names behind it as funders and advisors, the new nonprofit inBloom aims “to make personalized learning a reality for every U.S. student by improving the effectiveness, variety and affordability of education technology.” The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation of New York have provided startup funding. The Atlanta Business Chronicle reports that, following the appointment of education technology specialist and Atlanta resident Iwan Streichenberger as CEO in 2012, the group has decided to establish its headquarters in Atlanta.

inBloom’s “data infrastructure” model is designed to provide teachers with information that is not only new but that can also be shared in new ways. In a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed, Bill Gates wrote, “I think the most critical change we can make in U.S. K-12 education, with North America lagging countries in Asia and Northern Europe when it comes to turning out top students, is to create teacher-feedback systems that are properly funded, high-quality and trusted by teachers.” inBloom appears to be an attempt to do just that. inBloom will attempt to operationalize the mission of the Shared Learning Collaborative (SLC), which an inBloom press release describes as “an alliance of states, districts, educators, foundations and content and tool providers passionate about using technology to improve education.” Among the key advisors to the SLC were Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, and Michael Lomax, president and CEO of the United College Fund.

inBloom’s plan outlines a multi-phase pilot program, the first phase of which is already underway with school districts selected to participate in Colorado, Illinois, Louisiana (where it is being implemented statewide), Massachusetts, New York and North Carolina. This year, schools in Delaware, Georgia, and Kentucky will be added for phase two. For perspective on what participation in pilot testing could mean for Georgia, the Atlanta Business Chronicle talked with Penelope McPhee, president of the Atlanta-based Arthur Blank Foundation, who said, “I do think that technology equity is a big issue among schools and across school systems…There are real gaps in what different schools and school systems have in terms of technology.”

TechCrunch reports that Streichenberger “assures us that the company was designed as a non-profit from the beginning to keep special interests at bay, in order to create a tool that is data, platform and user agnostic — one that can help educators, schools and entrepreneurs unlock the value behind the mountains of educational data that have long been trapped in proprietary data silos and myriad software platforms.” As most states move toward implementing the new Common Core State Standards, inBloom is positioning itself to support schools with targeted instructional data that will be linked to curricular resources. –Anne Eigeman