Where's the Money Flowing in Curriculum?
What factors have caused the market to decrease over the past three years? And more importantly, with fewer dollars invested, where is the money going—is it targeted at the curricular areas that teachers feel are most impactful for learners? We’ve mapped venture capital dollars for each subject area to identify where money is flowing, where there are funding gaps and where opportunities exist for investors to recoup higher returns on their investments. Analyzing investment data, we’ve juxtaposed the dollars against the drivers that impact investment decisions to understand what forces have shaped these investments.
Collectively, STEM includes science, technology, engineering and math, but these subject areas do not see an equivalent amount of investment dollars. Over the past three years, coding products have become the front runner when it comes to funding in comparison with the other three STEM areas.
Investors value products designed to teach coding, sequencing and programming languages over products in the other STEM areas, even though funding in this area has been dropping since 2016. Investors see a greater potential return on investment with coding products, which is largely influenced by economic and political drivers.
The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) recognizes computer science as part of a "well-rounded" education
Major corporations form a coalition to push for more funding in computer science education
Then-President Barack Obama outlines his CS for All Initiative to empower K-12 students to learn computer science and computational thinking skills
President Trump extends the CS for All Initiative by making high-quality access to computer science education a top priority for the Department of Education
Investors are less inclined to fund products designed to teach skills in engineering, electronics and mechanics, in part due to the absence of known drivers.
The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) were released in 2013, but since then, investors appear hesitant to invest in science products, even if aligned to those standards.
Nineteen states and the District of Columbia have adopted NGSS since its release, but no other states since 2017
The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for English language arts and mathematics were released in 2010, but since then, there have been no recent drivers to push investors toward taking a bet on math tools.
Over the past three years, the amount of venture capital invested in products that support instruction in the arts and social studies has been too small to measure.
The "A" in STEAM has drawn significant attention and funding from philanthropic organizations that want to understand how art, design and creativity come into play when students develop technical skills like coding. However, curricular products developed for the arts haven't seen venture capital dollars. The intersection of creativity and technology could spur interest from venture capitalists because of its potential to prepare learners to fill workforce needs such as graphic design and sound engineering.
Given today’s divisive political environment, foundations and nonprofit organizations are driving awareness to the importance of civics and media literacy. Yet, awareness hasn't been enough to incentivize venture capital to invest in companies building social studies products. The upcoming U.S. 2020 presidential election could drive venture capital to pursue future investment in this subject area.
While investors recognize there’s much more than dollars at stake when it comes to social and emotional competencies, few investors have put their money where their mouth is. Products that support non-academic areas have seen minimal investment, with dollar amounts typically remaining under $5M.
In its latest iteration, the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) included questions designed to gauge collaborative problem solving, social skills and psychological well-being, in addition to its existing sections on math, reading and science
A combination of record high job openings and a movement toward skills-based hiring has constructed an environment that needs to better prepare students for the future of work
Tools that support the development of 21st century skills skills have seen a dramatic decrease in funding since 2016. But preparing today’s learners for the future economy involves more than just technical knowledge. There’s a need to cultivate skills for success such as negotiation, problem solving and collaboration, and an opportunity for investors to capitalize on corresponding tools.
Products that support the development of social-emotional skills have seen the arrival of venture capital. Drivers related to social and emotional learning are relatively recent, so products that support areas such as identity development, emotional regulation and relationship building are emerging, along with the opportunity to invest in those products.
The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) requires state accountability plans to include five school indicators, one of which must be a broader measure of school quality or student success than academic achievement
A number of forces including the #MeToo social media movement, the controversy over gender neutral bathrooms in public schools and the focus on culturally-responsive instruction and professional development in response to the country's changing demographics have led to an increased awareness of the need to support identity development in schools
Philanthropic dollars are leading the support in SEL efforts such as CASEL and California’s CORE districts
Tools that support development in English language arts (ELA) have seen a steady increase in funding since 2016. In contrast, funding for tools that support language learning has been more sporadic.
As a commonly assessed subject area, it’s no surprise that ELA curriculum has seen an upward trend in investment over the past three years. ELA tools are likely to continue receiving investment, though we might expect to see the level of investment vary based on more granular sub-areas, such as grammar and vocabulary. A focus on these granular sub-areas could be a "way in" for investors in an otherwise crowded ELA space.
Forty-two states and the District of Columbia have adopted Common Core since 2010
Sixteen states and the District of Columbia have laws that require retention of third graders if not proficient in reading
It is startling, however, that the amount of dollars for tools that support language learning has been more erratic. The gross fluctuations in U.S.-based language learning tools could be in response to more funding for foreign-based language learning companies and the use of those tools overseas in, for example, China, which has a more consumer-driven market for learning a second language. But with changing U.S. demographics, there is a need for tools that support the growing population of English language learners in U.S. schools, and an opportunity for investors.