After teaching English for 15 years in Chicago, ThinkCERCA’s founder, Eileen Murphy, left the classroom in order to have a broader impact at the district’s central office. But while working with more than 100,000 students across 115 CPS schools, she realized that the challenge of preparing students for life after school was not being addressed by existing solutions.
For students to succeed in today’s ever-changing world, they need to be able to evaluate and synthesize information as well as construct and communicate their thoughts effectively. In short, they need strong critical thinking skills. It was clear to Eileen that higher-quality technology solutions were critical to helping students develop these skills.
Working alongside veteran educators and academics Doug Buehl, Katherine McKnight, Douglas O’Roark, Gerald Graff, and Cathy Birkenstein, Eileen developed our platform’s pedagogical approach, CERCA, in 2012. CERCA is a flexible literacy framework that helps students engage in critical thinking. According to decades of research, teaching students how to make Claims, support their claims with Evidence, explain their Reasoning, address Counterarguments, and use Audience-appropriate language is the most effective way to improve achievement on assessments and prepare students for post-secondary life.
In the early years, you could only find paper-based versions of ThinkCERCA in classrooms across Chicago while we were testing out our curriculum with teachers and students. But after being accepted into Impact Engine‘s first accelerator program for social impact startups in the fall of 2012, we built and launched the online version our product in April 2013.
ThinkCERCA Founder Eileen Murphy speaks with Chicago students using an early version of ThinkCERCA.
The next year, ThinkCERCA was awarded a $250,000 grant through The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Literacy Courseware Challenge, which helped us build out our Lesson Library. By the end of 2014, 40 differentiated text sets for English language arts were live on the platform. Since then, ThinkCERCA has become the only personalized literacy platform to include all four core subjects–ELA, social studies, science, and even, math.
Our focus has always remained on producing positive student outcomes. In fact, it’s our results that set us apart from other literacy solutions. In a recent evaluation of 26 ed-tech products, ThinkCERCA had the largest impact on student reading growth, which was four times higher than the next best company in the study. In addition, an Atlantic Research Partners study of 102 Chicago schools revealed that ThinkCERCA helps students achieve 1.5 to 2.5 of years of reading growth.
As the company grows, we remain committed to Eileen’s original mission to provide every student with access to high-quality, engaging curriculum that develops their critical thinking skills. And we’re excited to see where that mission takes us.
Want to learn more about ThinkCERCA? Read about our awards and media mentions >>