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Common-Core Lesson Co. Announces Teacher 'Dream Team'

LearnZillion, a company that provides teacher-created lessons aligned to the Common Core State Standards, has announced the members of its 2014 teacher "Dream Team."

The 200 educators selected for the team will each receive a $2,000 stipend, as well as an all-expenses-paid trip to the group's TeachFest event this June in New Orleans. At the event, teachers work in teams with instructional coaches on the creation and curation of common-core-aligned resources to be published on the LearnZillion site.

The company says it received some 4,000 applications for the Dream Team this year. The application process included short essays, a lesson-building exercise, and lesson-review tasks.

Eric Westendorf, a former charter school principal who co-founded LearnZillion in 2011, said the company looks for teachers who have a unique combination of "expertise and humility—teachers who are super hungry about continuing to learn." The educators selected represent district, charter, and private schools from 42 states and four countries. They range in teaching experience from two to 42 years.

Westendorf described the annual TeachFest event as "ridiculously fun," adding appreciatively that some might call it "NerdFest."

"It's about teachers who are already creating powerful learning experiences getting to meet one another," he said. "They are excited to get together and scale their impact."

According to the company, more than 380,000 teachers use the LearnZillion site, which provides free video-lesson resources designed to support the common-core standards in grades 2 through 12. Customers of the site's premium service, which features collaboration and curriculum-sequencing tools, include the District of Columbia and Syracuse, N.Y., school districts.

LearnZillion has received some $9.4 million in venture-capital funding since it's founding, according to The Washington Post. It has also received grant funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which has been a prominent backer of efforts to integrate the common standards into instruction.

Asked about the ongoing backlash against the common core, Westendorf said LearnZillion sees its role as working with teachers on the lessons they need "as opposed to [engaging in] high-level policy."

At the same time, he noted that "basically we know that a lot of teachers are really excited about the common core." While the stress around implementation is not to be diminished, he added, the standards themselves pose "such a wonderful opportunity for the teaching community to come together around finding ways to help their students and deepen learning."

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