NoRedInk is an interactive web resource that helps students learn how to write correctly. Founded in 2012, it features customized online drills that make use of personal interests, popular TV shows, and the names of friends, which then evolve and adapt based on student progress.
The program generates sentences that students can edit, rather than traditional testing styles, and allows teachers to quickly assess strengths and weaknesses. The product is free, but the company has recently introduced a premium version at the request of school districts.
NoRedInk’s About page includes a list of the concepts it addresses, including proper apostrophe usage, “affect” vs “effect,” and other common grammar mistakes. The founder and CEO, Jeff Scheur, says:
“Because multiple choice tests aren’t a great way to learn, we’re focused on building authentic, personalized curriculum that inspires kids to think creatively and help them write better. Teachers spend a tremendous amount of time grading papers, and yet students are rarely able to use the feedback because they’re discouraged by all the red ink without a clear path to getting better. We’re trying to change that.
The College Board and ACT have reported that the grammar and writing section has had the lowest scores of any section on either test since it was introduced in 2006. Lizette Chapman of the Wall Street Journal reports that according to the National Center for Education Statistics, only 27% of students tested at or above grade level proficiency in writing.
The founder, Jeff Scheur, was a high school English teacher in Chicago before starting NoRedInk, according to Marketwired. He says that despite spending 15 minutes on a student’s paper, he/she would get flustered by all the red ink and just throw their graded essay in the trash. He created a coding system for grammar mistakes that would allow him to grade more efficiently and for students to more easily see what kind of mistakes they were making.
Teachers and other school officials have given statements and endorsements that appear on the NoRedInk website. Amelia Crotzer, a 7th grade teacher, is glad to “have an effective, streamlined method of tracking progress.” Eric Nentrup, who instructs 12th graders, notes that his students were “incredibly receptive” to the program.
True Ventures has recently invested in NoRedInk Corp., along with The Social+Capital Partnership, Kapor Capital, and ReThink Education. Together they have provided $6 million to the start-up, in the hope that it can continue making strides in the way writing skills are taught.
Now, Scheur works with 11 engineers and linguists, but the company is planning on hiring more engineers and teachers so the curriculum can be expanded. He notes that the program can also be used for those learning English as a second language. “There’s a billion people learning English internationally,” he says. “It’s a big market.”