Carnegie Learning Only K-12 Finalist for Dept. of Education $1Million XPRIZE

Upgrade Team Selected for Digital Learning Challenge by Institute of Education Sciences

(Photo: Business Wire)

LOS ANGELES--()--Carnegie Learning today announced the company’s research team, UpGrade by Carnegie Learning, has been selected as a finalist in the XPRIZE Digital Learning Challenge. UpGrade is the ONLY K-12 education team to make it to the finals. XPRIZE is a global competition to modernize, accelerate, and improve the technology and processes for studying effective learning and education.

The UpGrade by Carnegie Learning team leveraged a new and free open source platform for field experimentation within education platforms. The one-of-a-kind UpGrade platform was developed by Carnegie Learning to help edtech software providers use evidence-based approaches to understand which learning experiences lead to the most effective student outcomes. For the XPRIZE competition, the team runs experiments with UpGrade within MATHia, Carnegie Learning’s award-winning adaptive software for mathematics.

In the XPRIZE pilot phase, UpGrade by Carnegie Learning explored whether students receiving math word problems personalized to include common first names of students in their own schools helped students feel a greater sense of belonging in school and in their math class. The study was motivated by prior research suggesting that a positive self-concept and sense of belonging in students’ learning environments is linked to better academic outcomes.

“We have dedicated decades of research to understanding how students learn best,” said Carnegie Learning Founder and Chief Scientist Dr. Steve Ritter. “To propel students toward continually better outcomes, we know a personalized approach works—no two students learn alike. Working directly with three school district partners across the U.S. enabled us to apply our experiences to best serve the needs of teachers and students in their region of the country. What was most gratifying was the genuine excitement that our school district partners—administrators, teachers, and students—had about participating in research to help us understand the potential of personalized learning.”

With teams competing for $1M in prize money, the Digital Learning Challenge incentivizes the use of AI methods, big data, and machine learning to better understand practices that support educators, parents, policymakers, researchers, and the tens of millions of Americans enrolled in formal education every year. Competitors are in pursuit of a deeper understanding of which educational processes are working well and which should be improved to achieve better outcomes. The competition is sponsored by the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), the independent and nonpartisan statistics, research, and evaluation arm of the U.S. Department of Education.

For the pilot study phase, ten teams had six months to demonstrate the capabilities of their platforms to conduct a high quality study of educational effectiveness in a formal learning environment and then launch a replication of the intervention, targeting at least one unique learner demographic. Teams built platforms to demonstrate their ability to conduct rapid, rigorous, and reproducible educational interventions across different demographics–including harder-to-reach ones–to support understanding how high-quality, data-driven approaches to learning experiences can improve outcomes for all.

A judging panel of experts reviewed ten pilot phase technical submissions and selected three finalists to move on to the concluding round of the competition. A variety of education and technology experts are serving as competition judges. The final round tests the robustness of the digital learning platforms by requiring that an experiment be replicated at least five times with three or more learner demographics in 30 days and that platforms collect and analyze outcome data that can indicate the intervention’s effectiveness.

Finalist teams that will share $250,000:

“This new phase of the competition will further evaluate each teams’ technology, data, and user experience, but also review the strength of their business plans,” said IES Director Dr. Mark Schneider. “At this junction, the ability to test teams’ effectiveness will offer valuable insights into how to help close the learning gap and offer a more in-depth look at how technology is used in measuring educational methods.”

“We’re thrilled to be in a position to continue to demonstrate our experimental design in a formal education setting,” stated XPRIZE Digital Learning Challenge Technical Lead Dr. Monique Golden. “Since the pilot, we’ve identified three teams that will move on to the finals in the hopes of better understanding how we can harness big data to impact the education experience for millions of Americans across the country.”

For more information on the Digital Learning Challenge and the teams involved, please visit


Carnegie Learning is a leading provider of K-12 education technology, curriculum, and professional learning solutions. With the highest-quality offerings for K-12 math, literacy, world languages, professional learning, high-dosage tutoring, and more, Carnegie Learning is changing the way we think about learning and creating powerful results for teachers and students alike. Born from more than 30 years of learning science research at Carnegie Mellon University, the company has become a nationally recognized leader for its ability to harness the power of data to improve student performance. The company’s 700+ employees across the US and Canada—the majority of whom are former teachers—are passionate about partnering with educators in the implementation of effective, student-centered instructional strategies and supporting them in the classroom. For more information, visit and follow us on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram.


XPRIZE is a global future-positive movement, delivering truly radical breakthroughs for the benefit of humanity. XPRIZE inspires and empowers a global community of problem-solvers to positively impact our world by crowdsourcing solutions through large-scale competitions, tackling the world’s grandest challenges in exploration, environment, and human equity. Active competitions include the $100 Million XPRIZE Carbon Removal with Elon Musk, $15 Million XPRIZE Feed the Next Billion, $10 Million XPRIZE Rainforest, $10 Million ANA Avatar XPRIZE, $5 Million XPRIZE Rapid Reskilling, and $1 Million Digital Learning Challenge. Donate, sign up or join a team at

About the Institute of Education Sciences

The Institute of Education Sciences (IES) is the independent and nonpartisan statistics, research, and evaluation arm of the U.S. Department of Education. Their mission is to provide scientific evidence on which to ground education practice and policy and to share this information in formats that are useful and accessible to educators, parents, policymakers, researchers, and the public. Learn more at


Eden Bloss
Carnegie Learning


Eden Bloss
Carnegie Learning