Education Opportunity Project Spotlight: Sparkler

September 21, 2018

Voqal’s Education Opportunity Project made a series of investments this summer in companies that help advance our goal of measurably reducing educational opportunity gaps.

One of those investments, New York-based Sparkler, provides a mobile infrastructure to promote early brain and childhood development for children from birth to age 8, with a goal of closing learning gaps for all children. Sparkler assesses a child’s development in key areas, empowers parents and caregivers with research-based practices to support their child’s growth and partners with pediatricians and teachers to ensure everyone involved in a child’s care has the information they need to serve families better. Sparkler’s core offerings consist of:

  • Content – Personalized playbook with off-screen, research-based experiences that inspire joy and build key skills, customized for each child based on observation and developmental measurement.
  • Measurement – The first mobile versions of the Ages & Stages Questionnaires (ASQ), the leading developmental screens, which provide valid, reliable and timely data to inform a child’s education and healthcare.
  • Coaching – Virtual coaching for parents from an early childhood expert with insights into their child’s development who can help them understand and support their child’s growth and progress.
  • Connection – Social features that drive engagement (messaging, user-generated content) and networks that center around the child (parents, caregivers, extended family, pediatricians and teachers).

Sparkler’s goal is to reach disadvantaged populations to improve educational outcomes and opportunity during the critical stages of early brain development. It is designed to reach these target populations by selling annual subscriptions to school districts, healthcare providers and other service providers that work with disadvantaged populations to keep the service free for families. Families are the primary users and are provided with an extensive library of research-based content to help foster strong development.

Early efficacy research conducted in Newark and New York City with families below the federal poverty level showed extremely positive likeability and usability results from families. Approximately 60 percent of users who indicated they would like to continue using Sparkler continued to engage with the app 6 weeks after the trial period ended. Sparkler was also named one of the Early Innovator winners of the Early Childhood Innovation Prize from Gary Community Investments and Open IDEO.

Voqal is excited to partner with the Sparkler team as it continues to expand its operations and reach to increase opportunity in the critical early childhood development phase of life.