TeacherMate Improves Students’ Reading Scores

TeacherMate excites donors

TeacherMate means schools dont have to rely on old, bulky computers anymore. Image from Flickr.

TeacherMate means schools don't have to rely on old, bulky computers anymore. Image from Flickr.

Despite the rough economy and the overall drop in charitable donations, Innovations for Learning, a nonprofit that supplies schools with the TeacherMate system, is doing quite well. The foundation has only been around for 18 months, but thanks to the founder’s focus on cost-efficiency, this nonprofit business is booming.

Perhaps that’s because companies like JPMorgan Chase recognize the social and education value of TeacherMate. JPMorgan has donated $300,000 per year since 2007, before the foundation was officially launched. While other nonprofits are struggling to find small cash loans, Innovations for Learning founder Seth Weinberger’s business savvy has attracted plenty of donors, to the tune of about $800,000.

What is TeacherMate?

TeacherMate is a literacy program that’s run on small, hand-held computers. Thanks to Innovations for Learning’s partnership with a Chinese manufacturer, the TeacherMate computers cost schools about $100 each. According to the TeacherMate web site:

Imagine having a handheld computer for every student in the classroom, with activities that not only cover all beginning reading and math skills, but also precisely aligns with what is being taught that week in the classroom. Imagine having a tool that provides an individualized lesson plan for each student and delivers up-to-the-minute student progress reports based on data automatically uploaded from the handheld computers.

The web site also emphasizes how engaging it is for students. It says it keeps students focused, and even the hardest-to-reach students’ scores improve.

It’s all about the kids

TeacherMate uses educational games to hold students’ interest, and several teachers and educational administrators have provided tesimonials about TeacherMate that illustrate its effectiveness. One JPMorgan excutive credits Weinberger’s business model and social conscience with the success of the foundation.

“Seth is not in it to make money, which is key to making education technology accessible to the classroom,” said Mark Rigdon, national director of educational grant making at JPMorgan Chase. “He is very nimble at blending his business innovations with the education needs of early elementary students and teachers.”

Though Innovations for Learning charges schools $100 per device, sales of TeacherMate computer systems only make up 20 percent of the foundation’s budget, and the rest comes from donations. Weinberger himself has contributed $350,000.

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