The 2014 Tech Impact Awards: Education

| FROM THE PRINT EDITION |
 
 

FOR-PROFIT WINNER

Apex Learning

Location: Seattle | Employees: 320

Using the internet to help kids reach their full potential, regardless of school district or background, still seems like a deeply innovative idea. Back in 1999, when Apex Learning started pioneering the field, it was revolutionary.    

Apex Learning started out targeting a simple but serious problem: College-level “advanced placement” courses, which can accelerate the education of particularly bright students, weren’t available in many schools. The company developed an online system to address the issue, and has since helped millions of students achieve on a higher level. Apex has developed many additional programs meant to improve graduation rates and academic performance, as well as to assist teachers and students in adapting to new Common Core education standards.

“The programs that utilize our digital curriculum provide students with learning opportunities they otherwise would not have, which leads to a lifetime of opportunities,” says CEO Cheryl Vedoe, who notes that more than a half million students nationwide used Apex’s digital curriculum in the past school year. With digital learning gaining more traction with every year, Apex’s impact is poised to grow exponentially. 

NONPROFIT WINNER

Code.org 

Location: Seattle | Employees: 14

For many tech companies, finding entry-level computer scientists is a never-ending case of high demand and low supply. Luminaries such as Bill Gates have made it a life mission to argue American schools are not preparing students for 21st- century careers and it’s often hard to argue with the evidence. This is where nonprofit Code.org comes in.

Code.org is a young organization making big noise. Launched at the beginning of 2013, it released a YouTube video featuring Gates, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Dropbox’s Drew Houston, Valve’s Gabe Newell and other entrepreneurs discussing the importance of coding in schools. This was followed by December’s “Hour of Code Challenge,” a weeklong youth coding initiative supported by President Barack Obama. 

Such moves could be dismissed as PR stunts, but many would argue this is exactly what computer science programs need. Code.org notes that nine of 10 schools don’t offer computer science courses. By focusing attention on this neglected but important subject, the Seattle nonprofit hopes to transform STEM education in the United States and create more opportunities in the field for students from all walks of life. 

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Susan Gates, left, and Kate Isler

Longtime friends Kate Isler and Susan Gates encourage consumers to shop with purpose