Learning Upgrade Ties for Grand Prize in $7M Barbara Bush Foundation Adult Literacy XPRIZE

Wednesday, February 20, 2019 - 10:48 am

Winning apps demonstrate increases in literacy skills among participating adult learners after 12 months of use

San Diego, CA (February 20, 2019) – XPRIZE, in partnership with the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy and the Dollar General Literacy Foundation, today announced that Learning Upgrade, an innovative education technology company that provides digital, differentiated literacy curriculum designed for learning breakthroughs, is one of the two grand prize winners of the Adult Literacy XPRIZE, a multi-year, multi-phase competition focused on transforming the lives of low-literate adults across the nation.

Launched on former first lady Barbara Bush’s 90th birthday in 2015, the $7M Barbara Bush Foundation Adult Literacy XPRIZE presented by the Dollar General Literacy Foundation challenges teams to develop mobile applications for smartphones that increase literacy skills among participating adult learners. With research showing that 77% of Americans now own a smartphone, the competition aims to dramatically change the way the United States meets the needs of the 36 million adults with low literacy skills, by tackling the largest obstacles to achieving basic literacy: access, retention, and scale.

Former Governor Jeb Bush asked XPRIZE, the leader in designing and operating global competitions to solve humanity’s greatest challenges, to help create a competition to tackle the largest obstacles to adults achieving basic literacy.

“Mom and I shared the belief that literacy is the gateway to live a life of purpose. Just imagine trying to find a job, get a driver’s license, or understand your child’s report card without the ability to read and write,” said Gov. Bush, former Barbara Bush Foundation board member. “We launched this project to leverage the power of competition to infuse innovation and fresh ideas into the adult literacy landscape.”

Grand prize winners Learning Upgrade and People ForWords will divide a $3 million purse, while each will also receive a $1 million achievement prize for having the best performance in two key demographic groups: native English speakers and English language learners.

A panel of independent, expert judges determined grand prize winners after their apps generated the greatest gains between a pre- and post-test, which were administered approximately one year apart to learners in a 12-month field test in Los Angeles, Dallas and Philadelphia. After careful review of overall student achievement among both native English speakers and English language learners who initially were reading English at a 3rd-grade level or below, the judges declared a tie between the two top performing apps.

“This competition has proven that our smartphone app can change the lives of adult learners,” said Vinod Lobo, co-founder and CEO of Learning Upgrade. “We see this prize as a golden opportunity to scale up to serve millions of adults with anytime, anywhere instruction so they can reach their full potential.”

The Learning Upgrade app, which is available on both Android and iOS devices, provides learners access to 300 sequenced, high-interest lessons on topics including phonics, decoding, comprehension, vocabulary, grammar, writing, and listening. The curriculum includes engaging songs, videos, games, and rewards that encourage all learners to achieve mastery. Each lesson provides practice activities accompanied by immediate intervention and remediation with multimedia supports. Learners can repeat lessons to mastery and earn a gold certificate when they become proficient in the College and Career Readiness Standards (CCRS) for that level.

“We believe the ability to read proficiently and a basic education are fundamental to a person’s success in society. When we helped launch the Adult Literacy XPRIZE, we hoped to find a way to eliminate barriers and help create equal access to educational instruction for all individuals,” said Denine Torr of the Dollar General Literacy Foundation. “We are excited about the impact these innovative, award-winning apps will have on reducing literacy program waiting lists while increasing their capacity to serve and reach students during times that fit within their busy lives.”

Jeb Bush, together with Denine Torr of the Dollar General Literacy Foundation and XPRIZE board member Amir Ansari, announced the grand prize winners at the Barbara Bush Foundation’s Florida Celebration of Reading in Miami. The event also celebrated the legacy of Mrs. Bush and featured guest speakers including humorist Dave Barry, the #1 New York Times bestselling author Brad Meltzer and Susan Page, Washington bureau chief for USA TODAY.

“XPRIZE is a powerful platform for impact, and we’re so proud to have been a part of this historic effort to empower adults to take their learning into their own hands,” said Anousheh Ansari, CEO of XPRIZE. “Through all their efforts and creativity, Learning Upgrade, People ForWords and all of the competing teams have done remarkable work in supporting adult literacy, and are proof that innovation and competition can help solve some of the greatest challenges of our time.”

“For 30 years, the Barbara Bush Foundation has played a leadership role in the field of adult and family literacy,” said British A. Robinson, President and CEO of the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy. “The Adult Literacy XPRIZE celebrates the enduring legacy of Barbara Bush and the Foundation’s commitment to ending the epidemic of low literacy in the United States.”

For more information about the winning teams, visit adultliteracy.xprize.org.

About Learning Upgrade
Founded in 1998 by educators, musicians, artists and programmers in San Diego, Learning Upgrade designs innovative, engaging lessons to support struggling students in reading and math. Through the incorporation of songs, video, games, and educational research, Learning Upgrade has helped more than 1 million students make learning breakthroughs. For more information, please visit LearningUpgrade.com.

XPRIZE, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, is the global leader in designing and implementing innovative competition models to solve the world’s grandest challenges. Active competitions include the Lunar XPRIZE, the $20M NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE, the $15M Global Learning XPRIZE, the $10M ANA Avatar XPRIZE, the $7M Shell Ocean Discovery XPRIZE, the $7M Barbara Bush Foundation Adult Literacy XPRIZE, and the $5M IBM Watson AI XPRIZE. For more information, visit xprize.org.

About Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy
The Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy has been the nation’s leading advocate for family literacy for three decades. The Foundation was established by former First Lady Barbara Bush in 1989, inspired by her vision of fostering the opportunity for every man, woman, and child to secure a better life through literacy. Today, the Foundation is a public charity that remains committed to Mrs. Bush’s vision, providing innovative programs and services to ensure that every American has the opportunity to learn to read and write. To learn more, visit BarbaraBush.org.

About Dollar General Literacy Foundation
The Dollar General Literacy Foundation is proud to support initiatives that help others improve their lives through literacy and education. Since its inception in 1993, the Foundation has awarded more than $160 million in grants to nonprofit organizations, helping more than 10 million individuals take their first steps toward literacy, a general education diploma or English proficiency. To learn more about the Dollar General Literacy Foundation, visit DGLiteracy.org.

Press Contact:
Sarni Jaye