The Heller Report: The vantage learning advantage

The vantage learning advantage

Managing the aggressive testing and assessment goals of the new Elementary and Secondary Education Act will take a whole new set of skills for man schools, but Vantage Learning (Yardley, PA) is prepared to take advantage of the situation. The company is promoting its new VANGuard ™ 2.0 online assessment platform as the perfect tool to help educators meet the new requirements. VANGuard currently delivers millions of tests nationwide, and is used in 40 states. It’s being touted as a cost-effective way to deliver ‘every year, every grade’ high-stakes assessment over the Internet, as well as an easy way to give schools and constituents immediate access to test results.

Scott Elliot, chief operating officer of Vantage, has been with the company for five years, and is excited about the new opportunity for growth that ESEA has opened up. He says the sheer volume will put tremendous pressure on his company and the entire assessment industry. “But it’s a good problem to have,” he laughs.

Vantage Learning is an ASPstyle business, 100% Internet and Java-based, with clients paying on a per-use basis and for some development costs. The company bills itself as the leading provider in online assessment and automated essay grading, with clients that run the gamut from Apple and Microsoft to The College Board, Harcourt Educational Measurement, Thompson Learning, and the states of Virginia, Oregon and Pennsylvania. The largest market to date is the College Board’s Accuplacer, which handles 4 million placement tests per year. A privately-held company, Vantage Learning has been profitable since its inception, Elliot says, and is projecting revenues of $70 million this year.

Elliot reveals that the ‘sexiest’ part of the business is its IntelliMetric ™ product. Debuting in 1998, it was the first application able to administer and score open-ended essay questions over the Internet. The scoring system comes out comparably to the way tests would be graded by hand, and can save teachers as much as 20 additional hours in scoring. The latest version of IntelliMetric includes tools for test scheduling, registration; delivery, reporting and computer adaptive testing (CAT).

Student Services

In addition to the hot field of assessment, ESEA legislation requires that schools offer services for students who are not making the grade. That’s another area in which Elliot sees Vantage Learning playing a role. The company has two off-the-shelf products that are particularly suited to the ESEA’s new emphasis on reading and writing skills.

My Access! is a writing development tool that allows students to maintain a portfolio, write to a prompted topic, and receive immediate feedback on grammar, sentence structure and so forth, using the IntelliMetric scoring engine. The product allows students to revise as often as they’d like, and gives teachers access to the portfolio to check on progress. It’s currently available for 7th-12th graders, but is being reworked for elementary age students. Products for specialized markets such as ESL are currently being marketed in Asia and other foreign markets, with an eye to future sales in the U.S.

MathWorksPlus is a math readiness product using advanced CAT as a way of honing in on a student’s math ability. It’s currently middle-school focused, and the company is evaluating whether or not to move the product down into earlier grades. Elliot says that the State of Virginia is using a variation of this product currently.

Instructional products currently make up 20 to 25 percent of company sales, and Elliot notes that the area is experiencing rapid growth. He says that school districts tend to be most interested in these instructional products, versus the states’ focus on assessment tools.

If there’s a fly in the ointment to the new ESEA regulations, it’s not a lack of opportunity — it’s a lack of vision, Elliott believes. He says the stiffest competition the company faces today is the weight of current practice. “There’s a reluctance to be innovative, and a concern about the risks of moving to the Internet,” Elliot notes. “You know, at one time, Plato was against the written word.”

RELATED ARTICLE: Company snapshot

Company Name: Vantage Learning

Headquarters: Yardley, PA

Employees: 80

COO: Scott Elliot

CEO: Peter Murphy

Primary Business: An affiliate of Vantage Laboratories, online assessment and automated essay scoring

Markets: 35% K-12, 65% Higher


Target revenue, 2002: $70 million

Contact: Scott Elliot 215-579-8390 ext. 1116,

COPYRIGHT 2002 Nelson B. Heller & Associates

COPYRIGHT 2002 Gale Group