Curriculum Associates: Leveraging For-profit Power With a Nonprofit Purpose

EdTech, Learning, Mission-Driven Work, Platforms & Data, PreK-12

Located in the Boston Suburbs, Getting Smart Advocacy Partner Curriculum Associates is a leader in research-based, classroom-proven K-12 assessment and instruction programs. Thanks to the vision of founder Frank Ferguson and CEO Rob Waldron, Curriculum Associates has a proven business model that provides incentives for growth, a focus on impact and a big social return. Through a unique agreement between Ferguson and Waldron, a positive company culture and perpetual trust foundation, Curriculum Associates has set a pathway to educational impact and social benefit.

Over 35 years ago Curriculum Associates had a growing catalog of teaching and instructional programs. They then added the BRIGANCE® inventories, which started as an assessment tool for students and has since blossomed into a comprehensive suite specially designed for early childhood, Head Start and special educators.

In the last decade, there have been several very attractive acquisition offers but Ferguson has refused them all. “I didn’t sell because money wasn’t what was driving me,” he adds. “I am driven – and the whole company is driven – by making classrooms better places for students and teachers. The opportunity to better the lives of students and teachers through my work at Curriculum Associates is what gets me out of bed in the morning,” says the 88-year-old Ferguson, who still comes to work most days. “When I get to the office in the morning, I’m jazzed. I’m energized.”

Seven years ago, Waldron was looking to use his background in for- and non-profit education to find a good career fit close to home. His dream job was to “run a $25-$100 million dollar, socially-responsible K-12 company, whose products and services made a real difference to children.” After a friend recommended he meet with Frank, it turned out Curriculum Associates was the fit he was looking for.

Driven by a desire to help change students’ lives, Waldron offered to run the business. Ferguson struck him a deal and said, “let’s try it for a year.” The two were the perfect match for the education space, both with a mission to make a positive change on the lives of others. Because of his commitment to long-term change rather than next-quarter profits, Waldron accepted a 20-year contract and the role of CEO.


Curriculum Associates entered the big world of EdTech in 2010 with the launch of highly adaptive, K-12 diagnostic and K-8 instructional software called i-Ready, which provides a visually stimulating and highly engaging approach to educational content. The adaptive diagnostic provides data that identifies the placement level of each student within the major domains of mathematics and reading. i-Ready, through its adaptive diagnostic provides data that identifies the placement level of each student within the major domains of mathematics and reading. i-Ready then provides “can do’s” and “next steps for instruction” for each student based on their skill level within each domain.

The program is flexible and can be used in a number of ways such as powering a blended learning classroom or lab, accelerating struggling students, and challenging those who are at or above grade level. It points directly to Ready® (now available for Reading, Mathematics, and Writing), for on grade level print-based instruction. Ready is also available digitally, through the Ready Teacher Toolbox, providing easy access to additional classroom materials. i-Ready has also been successfully implemented in summer school programs.

Coming Fall 2015, i-Ready Standards Mastery will be added to the i-Ready Diagnostic platform and will allow regular, flexible monitoring of specific Common Core standards. This new tool makes it easy for districts and schools to get regular formative and benchmark information on standards mastery as students’ progress in curriculum throughout the year. Administrators and teachers will be able to quickly identify when re-teaching or remediation is needed for standards as they are taught throughout the year.

Ready® Writing

A brand new addition to the Ready family of standards-based Reading and Mathematics instruction, Ready Writing was built from scratch based on leading research from the field, to meet the more rigorous expectations of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). With the shifts in writing needed to help kids graduate college and career ready, Curriculum Associates designed Ready Writing to meet expectations around producing real-world writing, building knowledge through research, writing to sources, and incorporating text evidence. Perhaps one of the best features of Ready Writing is its gradual release model, which helps build autonomy and student confidence in their writing skills while also providing teachers the step-by-step instructional support they need understand the new standards themselves and easily implement the program.

Students receive an interactive work text via instruction books for each Ready Writing lesson that leads the student step-by-step through the writing process through the use of mentor texts, research projects, and culminating writing assignments. The program is currently available for grades 3-5 with an expansion into grade 2 coming later this spring. Each Ready Writing lesson provides approximately 5 days of instruction. A day of instruction assumes approximately 45 minutes of class time dedicated to writing. Every lesson teaches the writing process, critical research skills, real-world writing assignments, includes 1-3 rich source texts embedded into lesson, and are grade level appropriate genres and complexity. Teachers can customize how each assignment should be completed, whether that be physical writing with paper and pencil or written on a device using digital software.

Curriculum Associates built Ready Writing to integrate with Ready Reading. While it can be used independently of the Reading program, together they provide a cohesive program that covers the CCSS for reading, writing, language and many standards relating to speaking and listening.

Mobile Apps

Along with their adaptive classroom technology, Curriculum Associates has free iPad apps that were developed to address specific CCSS requirements for additional practice and focus on Tier 2 vocabulary, fact and computational fluency. Door 24 Plus, focuses on fact and computational fluency through game-based learning. World’s Worst Pet uses game-based learning to help students enrich their vocabulary.

Proven Solutions for Student Success

With a company-wide belief that all children can succeed and a drive to help teachers better navigate technology-supported learning, the talented team at Curriculum Associates is creating tools and professional development resources that focus as much on making it work for the teacher as improving learning for the student. These tools and resources are supported by some of the best service in the industry, something that sets them apart from many of their competitors. A few key differentiators include the company’s focus on service, investment in people to keep pace with growth, and commitment to ensuring they always over-deliver, serve, delight and retain their customers.

Priding themselves on offering the best prices so that every district, school and educator can afford top quality resources for their students, Curriculum Associates maintains their independence and is able to channel investments toward product development, research, customer service, and technical support.