Open Up Resources offers two of the highest-reviewed curriculum for middle-school math and K-5 English, according to EdReports, which evaluates textbooks for rigor, usability and alignment to academic standards. To some surprise, most of the sales and adoption of its openly licensed materials have come so far from schools that ask for printed versions.
But a new partnership with a budding startup may help tip that scale toward digital. Kiddom, a startup based in San Francisco, will offer core curriculum materials from the nonprofit publisher on its curriculum management system.
Even though the transition from print to digital instructional materials has taken longer than most people anticipated, “one of the main ideas of bringing our curricula to Kiddom is in service of making high-quality curricula available to all schools and giving districts and teachers the tools they need to succeed for kids,” says Jess Sliwerski, CEO of Open Up Resources. The reality, she adds, is that every district prefers to use different tools—digital or otherwise.
For Kiddom, the deal marks a big step in its effort to create a one-stop shop for all of the instructional tools used in K-12 classrooms and “help bridge the gap that currently exists between curriculum, instruction, assessment and intervention,” says its chief academic officer Abbas Manjee. Founded in 2013, the company has raised $21.5 million in investment to date.
On Kiddom, teachers can upload lessons and resources, distribute assignments and get data on how students perform against academic standards. The platform also offers a library of supplemental resources from third-party providers. But this will be the first time that Kiddom offers a core curriculum, and the platform will automatically align the scope and sequence of Open Up’s materials to any district’s standards. The system can also recommend follow-up activities and exercises specific to areas where a student may struggle.
Planning lessons, teaching, testing and analyzing results often involve different tools and processes that teachers stitch together. The technologies are often purchased separately as well.
That was the case for Antoinette Dendtler, the founder and head of school of ECO Charter School in New Jersey, which had used Kiddom and Open Up Resources separately. She first discovered Open Up Resources in 2016 and rolled out its K-5 English curriculum for the 215 students at her school in the fall of the following year. In 2018, Dendtler’s team ditched its previous curriculum management platform in favor of Kiddom, citing a cleaner interface and smoother user experience.
It was a pleasant surprise when she learned about the brewing partnership between the startup and the nonprofit.
“We want something that could house student data in one place, along with curriculum and standards, where it could be easily searchable,” says Dendtler. She’s enthusiastic about accessing Open Up Resources’ materials on the Kiddom platform. “By having the curriculum together on the platform, you know what you’ve taught with the click of a mouse, you can see who knows what, and you can assign and differentiate your assignments based on what your students’ needs are.”
A lesson unit in Kiddom (Image credit: Kiddom)
That information could be helpful to publishers as well, as they usually don’t get insight into how the materials are used or whether they are effective at all, says Sliwerski. Having top-notch reviews from textbook evaluators is one thing—seeing how the materials actually impact student learning is another.
“We want educators to see how it connects with students and see the impact that curriculum makes on learning outcomes,” she adds. “That’s why the partnership with Kiddom is important. It brings the analytics to understand who we’re serving.” That data can also inform updates to Open Up’s curriculum.
The publisher’s two curricula are used in about 500 U.S. school districts, and it is on track to reach a million students by the end of the year “that we know of.” Sliwerski says the actual numbers may be higher since the materials are openly licensed and are downloaded for free from its website.
Open Up Resources generated $40 million in revenue in 2018, according to Sliwerski, the bulk of which has come from print sales and implementation services it provides. But that split should change—the nonprofit will get a cut from the sales of its curriculum on Kiddom’s platform.
A license to Open Up Resources’ curriculum on Kiddom will range from $10 to $50 per student, depending on the district size, implementation needs, and other support services that the company provides. Both executives said more specific pricing will be finalized in 2020.
Open Up Resources traces its history to 2013, when 13 states banded together to form the K-12 OER Collaborative to build low-cost, high-quality and openly-licensed instructional materials. It spun out as a separate nonprofit in 2016, and has received grants from foundations to support its work.