In a recent interview with CIO Applications, Mohannad Arbaji, the President & CEO of Chalk Talk Solutions, explains how the company succeeds in helping students crack state assessment and competitive examinations.
What are the factors that led to the inception of Chalk Talk?
I never had to pay for education through from first grade through college as I was on full scholarships throughout. Realizing the value education added to me as an individual, I decided to help students achieve the same. I started by tutoring students for exams like the SAT whenever I went to Jordan for summer vacations. By the time I graduated college, I had a franchise operating across three countries but all our locations were brick and mortar centers with inherent scalability limits. I figured if I were to help a billion students around the world—and not just a few thousands in a couple of countries—our solution needed to break out of that physical limitation of a brick and mortar center and into the scalability advantages of newer technologies. This idea led to the inception of Chalk Talk Solutions, a company that offers a tech-enabled supplemental curriculum to help students improve their performance in reading, writing, and math. That is how our journey began. From there, Chalk Talk went on to develop our core platform—CollegeReady—which is a supplemental English Language Arts (ELA) and math curriculum that prepares high school students for state standards, state exams, and the SAT/ ACT.
What are the benefits of Chalk Talk’s personalized approach to learning? How does it overcome the hurdles of K12 education system?
We noticed that most of the existing adaptive learning models force educators to turn into data administrators; teachers were being asked to walk around the classroom while students work on their computers and learn from videos and presentations.
This past year we delivered ELA and Math score improvements two to three times the US national average in less than half the time
How does Chalk Talk’s CollegeReady program streamline the educational content in line with college curriculums?
CollegeReady personalizes educational content on three different levels. First, the teachers deliver lesson slides on a given ELA or math topic and go through sample exercises. The content of the teaching materials is personalized at the classroom-level, meaning that it is different for each school based on that school’s schedule. Next, teachers distribute in-class group activities to students. These activities are generated adaptively by the software for different groups of students, making this step adaptive at the small group level. Finally, students log into the CollegeReady website to complete a practice assignment, which is personalized at the student level. These steps repeat every class until the course is over. One unique aspect of Chalk Talk is that we don’t rely solely on our own mock exams to report score improvements. Rather, we let the ELA and math score improvements speak for themselves when our students take up state assessment and standardized exams. This past year alone we delivered ELA & Math score improvements for every client we had in major urban districts like Boston, Chicago, and New York that are two to three times the US national average growth in less than half the time. These are massive score improvements and it’s why we’ve been spreading quickly across the US.
Could you shed light on one of your recent engagements with an institution that helped students achieve academic excellence, especially in state assessment and competitive exams such as SAT, ACT, or State-Specific Exam?
One of our clients, East Boston High School, enrolled its junior class in the CollegeReady program. The average score improvement for students who completed all required practice was 141 points in 14 weeks. According to CollegeBoard, students improve by 60 points after 52 weeks, so this was a major result at the school. Students also reported high scores on the ACCUPLACER and MCAS (the Massachusetts state exam).
How does the future look like for Chalk Talk?
All our efforts are directed toward the development of products that can supplement the ELA & Math curriculum of educational institutions. We are partnering with schools and colleges across the world to introduce personalized education to every school. One aspect that differentiates Chalk Talk from others is that we provide a complete solution that includes print materials, an online program, professional development, ongoing account management, and support. These solutions are configured and delivered to meet the requirements of every school, thereby delivering the best combination of teaching resources and technological solutions.