Fueling Innovation Cassie Hodges  | August 21, 2017

A Tech Startup by Teachers, for Teachers (and their Students)

“It was a classroom that would bring tears to your eyes,” Michelle Brown says recalling her tenure teaching 7th grade at a low-income school in rural Mississippi. The school had minimal resources, and every day, Brown struggled to tailor her lessons to a classroom overcrowded with students who were at various reading levels and had various needs.

Today, she’s tackling those very challenges through her education technology startup.

Launched in the nation’s capital, CommonLit develops software and educational resources designed to help children learn to read. Students using the CommonLit platform can access reading assignments and quizzes that adapt over time to their individual reading levels.

“The programs are all online and help serve 28,000 schools across the country, and that number continues to grow” Brown says. So, too, has the company: Over the past year, Brown’s team has expanded from three people to a group of 20, consisting of 5 engineers and 15 curriculum writers – all of whom have teaching experience in low-income schools.

“Our rapidly growing user base is something that even amazes me,” says Brown, wrote her thesis on the CommonLit idea while at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Brown’s passion stems from her personal experiences and jarring juxtaposition she has seen between schools in different parts of the country. After working in Mississippi, she took a job was at a school in Boston, where the resources were plentiful.

She thought to herself, “How do I share this? How do I make these resources available for all schools and teachers?” And the answer soon became clear: put it online. With it’s tagline, “For teachers, by teachers,” CommonLit has since connected with schools across the country, allowing teachers to have more, do more, and learn more.

“I’ve seen these schools first-hand,” says Brown, “I know what the needs are, and I want to help get resources to those teachers at schools that have little-to-nothing.”