Investing in Marker Learning

Annie Collins, Justin Larkin, Anne Lee Skates, Daisy Wolf, and Julie Yoo

Posted February 9, 2023

Every student can learn, just not on the same day, or the same way. – George Evans

Getting a formal learning disability diagnosis and proper early intervention can be the most impactful event in a person’s life, as it was for the co-founders of Marker Learning. Stefan Bauer and Emily Yudofsky were both diagnosed with dyslexia in childhood, and the former was told that he would never graduate from high school. After multiple cycles of heroics by their parents that led to early intervention, they went on to accomplish high-achieving academic and professional careers that would put even the best of us to shame. They started Marker Learning to allow their level of success to be accessible to anyone dealing with learning disabilities.

Chances are you know someone who is living with a learning disability—roughly 20% of the population is affected with some form of dyslexia, dyscalculia, dysgraphia or other non-verbal or oral/written/reading deficit. While federal and state funding for special education is available to the clip of over $80 billion per year, representing more than double the per student amount for “general education,” a formal diagnostic assessment and report are required to unlock access to the services provided through those funds.

As with many publicly funded services in the US, the backlog for obtaining this diagnostic assessment is ridiculously long; wait times for free assessments provided by school districts can be upwards of 2-3 years. Private psychologist assessments are available more quickly—but at an average cost of up to $14,000, an untenable price for most families. This is almost unconscionable when early intervention can make a 2x difference per year, and undiagnosed students are 3x times more likely not to graduate high school and 2x as likely to be jobless.

States are increasingly implementing mandates requiring universal dyslexia screening—but this only exacerbates throughput and latency issues, at a time when our education and healthcare industries are experiencing crippling labor shortages. As a result, only 20% of affected individuals (or 4% of the overall population) are able to access and afford a formal diagnosis today.

Marker Learning’s vision is to make learning assessments as routine as hearing and vision tests for all children and adults. They’ve begun their journey towards this goal by launching a nationwide platform for learning disability diagnostic and remediation services, made available both directly to families and through school districts to the students who need them.

Marker uses software-based automation and virtualization to address the severe supply-demand mismatch problem in this space; they’ve already shortened by 6x the amount of time needed to run the evaluation and produce a report (which is normally done manually by psychologists over the course of 40+ hours), and brought the price point of an evaluation down to around $1,000. Additionally, Marker’s provision of remediation services like tutoring and coaching produces a closed-loop dataset that could engender novel ways of studying and measuring the impact of various diagnostic approaches and interventions down the road.

We’re privileged to be partnering with Stefan and Emily by leading Marker Learning’s Series A, and look forward to supporting their march towards revolutionizing the manner in which learning disabilities are diagnosed, treated, and researched.