Writing is fundamental, and writing education is hurting: 73% of students in the U.S. are below proficient in writing. Grading English papers requires a huge amount of work from teachers, with their “red ink” corrections often going unnoticed or unread by students. Many times, the teacher drowning in work doesn’t have the bandwidth to always follow up on the specific areas of error for each student. On the student’s side, a paper full of marks doesn’t make for a very engaging learning tool. These dynamics cause many students to stagnate and not improve upon their knowledge of grammar and writing.
Jeff Scheur taught high school English for eight years. After grading 15,000 papers, he envisioned a better way to grade them, a better way to provide himself (and other teachers) with insight into his students’ actual skills and progression, and a better way to really teach kids how to write well.
NoRedInk is a powerful interactive web application where students can drag, drop and click their way through sentence construction, grammar exercises, and assignments and quizzes. The product dramatically improves a student’s writing skills by using adaptive learning techniques and subject matter that is tuned to the student’s personal interests. Teachers can see heat-map visualizations that break down their students’ performance by concept, question, number of attempts per question and more. The systematic, customized and adaptive practice is valuable for students, and the automatically generated questions and reports are valuable for teachers.
The results so far have been nothing short of staggering. Students are answering over 2 million questions per day (!) on the NoRedInk site, and Jeff is intent on improving the feedback loop in education and empowering students to become strong, confident writers. Jeff was introduced to us by True Founder Kevin Rose, and when we learned about Jeff and his company, we quite literally jumped at the chance to be a part of his journey. True funded Jeff because we believe he has started a powerful movement for the future of education.
The power of ubiquitous, inexpensive, mobile, connected computing has revolutionized nearly every large, traditionally entrenched industry: manufacturing (3D Robotics); health care (Health Gorilla); automobiles (Renovo); beauty (Madison Reed) and many more. It’s now washing over one of the largest and oldest industries in our society: education. With approximately $141 billion spent last year in the U.S. on education, this is a big movement indeed. The mobile wave changes a fundamental part of education—through digitization, customization and ubiquitous computing, students and teachers now have the means of production and consumption in the palm of their hands. This changes everything. Mobile education means that the precious link between students and teachers can happen all the time, anywhere.
I believe in the goodness of teachers. True’s investments in NoRedInk and TeachersPayTeachers put educational power where it should be: back in the hands of teachers. NoRedInk is leading the democratization and modernization of writing education, and we couldn’t be more excited to be a part of this mission.
Jeff and the entire NoRedInk team: welcome to True!
Read more about NoRedInk in the The Wall Street Journal.