Virtual learning that actually works
How one nonprofit delivered accelerated learning to students in the COVID-19 pandemic — and set the standard for the future
Steven Wilson, Ian Rowe, and Chris Cerf, founders of Cadence Learning, a virtual learning platform
Teachers and parents struggled to engage students through virtual learning in the pandemic
Create and scale a platform that trains teachers for virtual education and offers students accelerated and highly engaging learning experiences
Reached 40,000 students in year one, saw big math and reading gains, and now have a national expansion underway
Steven Wilson, Ian Rowe, and Chris Cerf knew that virtual learning was usually a disaster.
At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, these three educators saw a looming crisis: 60 million students were headed to online education, most of it sub-par. They also saw the looming consequences: Bad virtual learning would hurt these students for the rest of their lives.
Steven, Ian, and Chris founded Cadence Learning in May 2020. They had a vision to provide local teachers with expert training from proven virtual educators. The teachers would then provide tailored lessons to their students, replacing boring lectures with engaging learning experiences.
Of households with school-age kids relied on virtual learning during the pandemic. They needed it to be world-class. It usually wasn’t.
Realizing this vision was no easy task, Steven, Ian, and Chris needed money and connections to build such a far-reaching platform. They found that support in the Stand Together community.
From our perspective, Cadence Learning embodies the best of education. It rejects the top-down, one-size-fits-all approach that dominates the learning landscape. Instead, it embraces individualized education, which recognizes students’ unique passions and aptitudes and empowers teachers to help them unlock them.
“Stand Together helped us turn the problem into the solution: When the classroom doesn’t have four walls, there’s so much more you can do for students.”
Just three days: That’s how long it took to green-light Steven, Ian, and Chris’ pitch. There was a chance to help thousands of students in the near-term. In the long run, it was an opportunity to reject a top-down approach and embrace a deep belief in the potential of every child, and empower educators to help them thrive.
In funding — Cadence Learning’s first investment
Days it took to approve Steven, Ian, and Chris’ request for support
Cadence Learning partnered with us in numerous ways:
- Steven, Ian, and Chris needed funding to get off the ground. The Charles Koch Institute, part of the Stand Together community, provided $1 million — Cadence’s first financial support.
- They wanted connections to secure further support. We introduced them to the Walton Foundation and our community of 700 business leaders and philanthropists.
- They asked for help engaging more educators. We connected them with the VELA Education Fund, which led to a private-public school collaboration in Nevada that has had great success.
Virtual learning doesn’t have to be a disaster. With Cadence Learning, it’s a big success.
Cadence Learning hit the ground running. In the summer of 2021, it engaged nearly 1,400 teachers and provided accelerated learning to 18,000 students from 55 partner organizations in 22 states. It also launched partnerships with multiple school districts. A study of its Nevada partnership shows that while students started two years behind in subject mastery, each one gained at least a full year’s worth of learning — and 87% saw two years of progress.
Students who benefited from Cadence Learning in the summer of 2021
Participating families who would recommend it
Of students saw a full year’s growth in subject mastery, according to one local study; 87% saw two years of growth
Teachers, parents, students, and schools all give Cadence top marks. Now Steven and Ian are gearing up for a dramatic expansion in 2022. Virtual learning is becoming more and more relevant for millions of students. Cadence Learning is committed to making it world-class for all of them.
Virtual learning is becoming more and more relevant. Cadence Learning is showing the way to make it work.
What You Can Do
Learn More: Explore our work with diverse partners to create individualized education that works for every student.
Partner With Us: Tell us about your project and vision — and how we can help you accomplish even more.
Get Involved: Find out how you can support innovators like Stephen, Ian, and Chris — and spark the broader transformation that education urgently needs.