Scaling A2i: A Conversation with Jay Connor and Sarah Siegal (Part 2)

January 22, 2024 | By Morgan Solender

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This blog post is part 2 of a three-part series highlighting key takeaways from a conversation with Jay Connor, CEO of Learning Ovations, and Sarah Siegal, director of research and practice at Scholastic and former vice president of research at Learning Ovations. This conversation is part of the LEARN Network’s new Stories of Scaling series where members of the LEARN Network team talk to developers, researchers, and industry leaders to provide real life examples of evidence-based educational products that are achieving scale.

A2i is a tool that uses technology and professional development to improve literacy outcomes for students in kindergarten to grade 3. It helps teachers tailor literacy instruction to individual students by providing teachers with real-time data on learning needs, individualized literacy learning plans for their students, and professional development. The Learning Ovations team developed A2i and sold it to Scholastic in 2022. They continue to work closely with Scholastic to ensure their product maintains its efficiency and integrity.

In part 2, Connor and Siegal discuss their considerations for transitioning A2i, how Scholastic’s acquisition of Learning Ovations was paramount in helping their product achieve scale and what they did along the way to maintain the integrity of A2i. Read about how they considered and responded to market needs in designing A2i in part 1.

Making mission-driven decisions ensures products benefit teachers and students. Even with the opportunity to sell products in their suite individually, the Learning Ovations team turned away venture capital dollars because they knew their full product was what would ultimately help students learn. Making difficult choices with their goal of improving outcomes for emerging readers in mind, the team ensured A2i had its promised effect in the marketplace.

Ensuring aligned missions. When the Learning Ovations team wanted to expand A2i’s presence in schools, they knew they needed a partner that would benefit from their technology while allowing them to broaden their reach. Acquisition by Scholastic, a company with similar goals, allowed Learning Ovations to reach more districts while maintaining its mission of improving literacy outcomes.

Finding the right partner. The acquisition by Scholastic led to significant changes for the Learning Ovations team, all of whom moved to Scholastic. Finding a partner willing to integrate existing Learning Ovations staff who know the ins and outs of the product while accepting a sense of ownership over the product led to a more seamless transition.

Selling a larger promise. Some validated assessments have scaled successfully as stand-alone products in education because of the requirement for districts to purchase and use them. Scholastic was initially interested in the assessment component of A2i, but through continuous conversations the two teams discovered that A2i could help Scholastic systemically deliver reading outcomes beyond just assessments.

In the third blog post of the series, Connor and Siegal share their advice for others who want to follow similar paths to achieving scale with their products. Watch the full conversation here!

Tags: Application Education technology Innovation Literacy Research & Developers Transition