News Release – What’s New in Ed Tech for Early Learning?

August 7, 2017

NewSchools Launches Challenge Based on New Findings

(Oakland, CA, August 7, 2017) – NewSchools Venture Fund recently conducted market research on early learning and uncovered unmet needs in ed tech tools tailored for preK-2nd grade learners. This research – generated through interviews with educators, school leaders, entrepreneurs, and funders – inspired the NewSchools Ignite challenge for innovative ed tech tools to support students in PreK-2nd grade. The “Early Learning Challenge – PreK-2nd Grade” runs August 1-31, 2017 and is supported in part by Omidyar Network.

“NewSchools Ignite is rooted in research, and we always start by talking to people in the field who are doing this work,” said Tonika Cheek Clayton, managing partner, NewSchools Venture Fund. “We heard from both educators and ed tech developers about the lack of high-quality tools to support academic and social development for young students.  They also emphasized the importance of limiting the hours spent on devices and promoting interaction with parents and teachers.”

“Given NewSchools Venture Fund’s track record of sparking new ideas and activities in education for nearly 20 years, Omidyar Network is proud to help support the NewSchools Ignite challenge focused on early learning,” said Isabelle Hau, US Education Lead and Venture Partner, Omidyar Network.  “We want to foster greater innovation in early learning and create quality early learning solutions for all children, their families and their teachers.”

Among key findings of the market research:

  • 60 percent of four-year-olds are not enrolled in publicly funded preschool programs.
  • Children who don’t attend preschool are developmentally behind by almost a year or more by the time they enter Kindergarten.
  • Educators want to see more PreK through early elementary alignment, specifically around academic, social-emotional, and executive functioning.
  • Children’s learning experiences in pre-kindergarten through early elementary are shaped by many factors, including race and income, creating school readiness gaps that could be addressed in part with technology solutions.
  • Parents want to use educational technology to understand their child’s early learning goals in school and better assist their children at home with learning challenges.

Full findings of NewSchools’ market research on early learners will be released in a Market Gap Snapshot, the first of many to be developed in tandem with NewSchools Ignite ed tech challenges. This Market Gap Snapshot will be available beginning August 12 on the newly released NewSchools/WestEd Ed Tech Research Portal, which features a collection of market research insights, literature reviews, webinars, a product rubric and a growing collection of resources developed by other organizations.

The “Early Learning Challenge – PreK-2nd Grade” offers companies and nonprofits a unique opportunity to create ed tech tools that address the needs of young students during this crucial time for social and academic development. NewSchools is looking for tools that can be used by students, teachers and/or parents to address one or more of the following critical needs:

  • Enhance interactions between students, parents, and teachers;
  • Enable engaging, interactive experiences that support academic development while reinforcing essential mindsets, skills and habits for success in college, career and life;
  • Thoughtfully consider and optimize students’ screen time while providing teachers and parents with helpful information to guide learning; and
  • Expand opportunities for families to discover and take advantage of developmentally appropriate early learning experiences.

In addition to funding in the range of $50,000 to $150,000, winners of NewSchools’ ed tech challenge will receive management assistance and participate in a virtual accelerator. We also provide grant recipients with targeted support and feedback from researchers, educators, investors and other experts.  Submissions are due by August 31, and winners will be selected by late October.

About NewSchools Venture Fund

NewSchools Venture Fund is a national nonprofit that supports and invests in promising entrepreneurs and teams of educators who want to reimagine learning. We help them accomplish their missions to achieve outstanding results for the schools, students, and educators they serve. We are committed to helping students graduate high school prepared and inspired to achieve their most ambitious dreams and plans. Through our investments, management assistance, network building, and thought leadership, NewSchools helps to reimagine PreK-12 education.

About Omidyar Network

Omidyar Network is a philanthropic investment firm dedicated to harnessing the power of markets to create opportunity for people to improve their lives. Established in 2004 by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar and his wife Pam, the organization invests in and helps scale innovative organizations to catalyze economic and social change. Omidyar Network has committed more than $1 billion to for-profit companies and nonprofit organizations that foster economic advancement and encourage individual participation across multiple initiatives, including Education, Emerging Tech, Financial Inclusion, Governance & Citizen Engagement, and Property Rights. To learn more, visit, and follow on Twitter @omidyarnetwork #PositiveReturns



Debbie Veney

[email protected] | 415-375-8262

Elly Stolnitz

[email protected] | 415-371-6034