RELEASE: 10 Finalists Announced in ‘Moonshot for Kids’ Competition

Washington, D.C. — Today, the Center for American Progress and the Thomas B. Fordham Institute announced the selection of 10 finalists in its joint “Moonshot for Kids” contest. The competition is part of a yearlong project to gather ideas for new education research and development investments. The goal is to generate new, evidence-backed proposals to substantially improve outcomes that have stagnated in America as other countries have realized significant gains among their own youth. The list of finalists and their ideas include:

  • Reducing the number of fourth graders reading below the Basic level, an extremely modest indicator of literacy
    • Tom Neumark: The design and evaluation of reading curriculum and aligned professional development that packages scientifically based methods in an actionable format for teachers.
    • Anna Utgoff, Bibliomatic: Computerized games with speech-recognition technology to identify mistakes students make while reading out loud and provide personalized feedback to improve reading skills.
    • Ginger Young, Book Harvest: Home visits three times a year to all Medicaid-eligible families with newborns to provide books, language rich curriculum, and parent-focused literacy training that gets kids kindergarten ready.
  • Doubling the amount of high-quality feedback middle school students receive
    • Kareem Farah, The Modern Classrooms Project: A professional development framework to help teachers restructure their instructional time using videos, allowing them to provide more feedback one on one with every student, every day.
  • Doubling the number of effective eighth-grade writers
    • Michelle Brown, CommonLit: A free and open access online reading curriculum that helps teachers foster adolescent literacy not only in English classes but also social studies, humanities, and STEM classes.
    • Steve Shapiro, FineTune: An artificial intelligence application that guides students through the essay writing process with as much accuracy and personalization as a one on one interaction with their teacher.
  • Universal college or career counseling for all students before ninth grade
    • Jayda Batchelder, Education Opens Doors: A college and career knowledge curriculum embedded directly into classrooms that could increase average time on college guidance from 35 minutes over four years to 900 minutes in just one year.
    • Anna Vallee, Harvard Graduate School of Education: A college admissions dating app that matches high school students with colleges based on compatibility (e.g., geography, GPA, SAT scores, college size, college type, etc.) and calculates their chances of admission.
  • Doubling the number of young women majoring in STEM fields
    • Ryan Torbey, University of Texas at Austin: A National Robot Library that would loan physical computing devices to teachers at no cost and provide teachers with curricula and training focused on engaging female students.
    • Lindsey Tropf, Immersed Games: Video games that engage students in solving real-world problems such as testing a broken ecosystem and proposing engineering solutions to fix it or using genetics to solve a simulated hunger crisis.

The winner of the Moonshot for Kids competition will be named at an event this November, where these 10 finalists will pitch their ideas to a panel of judges at a live Shark Tank-like event. The winner will win a $10,000 grand prize—with all finalists taking home a $1,000 prize. More information about the event will be announced in the coming weeks.

For more information about the contest, please contact Colin Seeberger at or 202.741.6292.