What defines an exemplary edtech company that serves K-12 needs? How does a district measure return on investment when adopting new curricula? While the edtech market continues to grow with innovative ways to engage students, not many companies provide products rooted in three decades of cognitive research that continue to provide solid returns on investment.
Barry Malkin, CEO of Carnegie Learning, recognizes the need for research to drive edtech product creation, and his company has been leveraging data on the science of learning to ensure the efficacy of its tools. He knows there is a saturated market of curricular options for schools, and he is confident in what Carnegie delivers: personalized, student-centered instruction for grades K-12. Recently, EdSurge spoke with Malkin about his company’s expansion into curricular areas beyond math, including literacy and world languages, and how research is the foundation of all its products and services.
EdSurge: A lot of companies talk about research and data, but your company takes that to another level. How does cognitive science inform your products and processes?
Malkin: Carnegie Learning originated at Carnegie Mellon University, one of the most respected research universities in the country, known for its work in education and cognitive science. So research, data and learning science have always been at the core of what we do. We continue to invest in research and expand our team. We actively incorporate cognitive science and our research into the products we’re building. Cognitive science and research inform every product decision we make and ultimately influence the academic outcomes we achieve. We are a very results-driven company, and you can only expect to achieve success, as measured in educational outcomes, if the inputs are truly based on what science tells us works. There is no other company in the education industry that has been as open with their data and devoted to research like we have. I am very proud of that fact. It says we are doing this for the right reasons.
We’ve been the recipient of many competitive grants that have helped shape the continuous improvement process built into our product development efforts. We’re constantly looking for ways to improve the content we deliver. For example, you might say that math hasn’t changed much over the years, but how you teach math and the ability to improve math outcomes can be influenced, and it is something that we’re investing a lot of time and effort in. We’re looking at bias in adaptive learning and artificial intelligence technologies. We’re looking at how reading affects mathematics outcomes. We have even developed an open-source A/B testing platform that allows us to evaluate the effectiveness of content changes we make in our software. All of these efforts are part of our continuous improvement process.
We have a particular approach to how we teach math, literacy and even languages that is based on what the research says is most effective. We like to say that while others teach what, we teach why. This concept really does underpin all of our pedagogy. Why am I doing this? How does it relate to the real world? Why is this the answer? That’s how students get to the why and move way beyond the what.
You mentioned subject areas beyond mathematics. In what domains has Carnegie Learning branched out?
We have been, for many years, a 6-12 core mathematics company. We’re expanding within and outside of mathematics. We’re launching our new K-5 math product, an innovative, blended learning solution this year, as well as a new video-based platform called MATHstream, which we are very excited about. Outside of mathematics, we are focused on literacy and languages. We are one of the country’s largest providers of world language curricula. We are also working hard to reinvent our literacy portfolio, including a cognitive-based approach to reading and reading intervention. We are investing enormous resources into improving and expanding our products and services. Carnegie Learning is a very exciting place right now.
What makes Carnegie Learning exceptional when it comes to professional learning, implementation and coaching?
We have three components to our business. We’re a technology company, a content company and a professional services company. As far as our services are concerned, we have a large professional learning organization that supports our district and school partners. When you choose Carnegie Learning, you’re partnering with a company that will be there with you to drive the best outcomes possible. Our professional learning organization is truly best in class. At the end of the day, there is nothing more important than the educator in the classroom. Nothing. Our team is simply there to support these professionals.
Your company has grown dramatically and quickly. How do you maintain a small company vibe, integrate new employees—including those in your new Canadian HQ—and keep winning best places to work awards?
Carnegie Learning has grown remarkably over the past several years, but the company is really just getting started. We’ve gone from fewer than a hundred employees to more than 500 employees today. Our rocket ship is growth, but our fuel is mission and passion. I’m more excited today than I was seven years ago when I started. The talent that I’ve been able to surround myself with is extraordinary.
Mission drives everything this organization does. And we’ve been able to hire people who believe in and fully embrace our organization’s mission. They are deeply passionate about education with a collective, tenacious focus on driving positive change for future generations.
As a company, we’ve established a series of ongoing initiatives to ensure we maintain a strong culture and continue to foster a world-class working environment. We take this very seriously. We even created an internal Net Promoter Score (NPS) that we call our Happiness Score. To ensure that we’re maintaining a strong Happiness Score across the organization, we undertake quarterly pulse surveys with all employees. I am happy to report that we are consistently well above the national average every quarter, and we continue to attract record numbers of applicants to our open positions.
For the past six years in a row, we’ve been voted a best place to work, which I am very proud of. I love what I do and want everybody around me to feel the same excitement about their contribution to our efforts.
To encourage feedback and employee engagement, we hold a standing, interactive webinar called “wouldn’t it be wonderful if….” We establish a couple of prompts and say, “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we improved this or that?” And the whole company gets together, goes into breakout rooms and talks about challenges that we have or challenges that our partners are experiencing, and we figure out ways to solve them. We want to ensure that everybody across the organization has a voice and participates in problem-solving. I always say, you never know where the next great idea will come from.
Carnegie Learning Accolades and Badges: