About Us

Who We Are

Foundations in Learning is a provider of scientifically based, empirically derived solutions for elementary and middle school age students. Our researchers and program developers have decades of experience in creating, testing, and providing schools with effective programs to meet the individual needs of their students.

Our mission is to leverage the most current learning science to advance the science of reading – providing educators solutions that efficiently address the longstanding reading challenge in our country. Our research-based solutions have taken seriously the models and principles from learning science that have been proven to be effective in many other disciplines. These models are particularly relevant to the development, application and generalization of reading and mathematics skills.

Our commitment, as partners, to our customers

Student success is our primary focus. This success hinges on the development and maintenance of a shared vision with teachers and administrators that is rooted in collaboration, respect, and a commitment to share responsibility for student results. This commitment requires building and executing clearly defined plans for implementation, support and open communication.

You can expect the following:

  • Candor, clarity, and respect throughout the process
  • Active partnership with school leadership in the implementation planning and execution process
  • Creativity and collaborative problem solving to ensure success
  • Implementation models and professional development that respect the critical role teachers play
  • State-of-the art student curricula embedded in a learning platform that integrates current learning science
  • Order fulfillment and delivery of training support as best fits the mutually established implementation plan
  • Continuous monitoring of the status of the implementation
  • Ongoing and relevant communication

About the Company and the Founders

Two-thirds of students in this country cannot read proficiently. Academic progress is stalled for at least half of these students because they lack foundational reading skills. Foundations in Learning (FIL) was founded to ensure that all students have access to the gateway skills that are essential to reading fluency and comprehension.

Foundations in Learning was established in 2009 to translate effective learning models into instructional and assessment tools to maximize impact for students and schools. Through partnerships with schools and use with over 15,000 students, the assessment and instructional models have been continuously tested and refined. Development and validation of the online assessment tools were supported by funding from the Institute of Education Sciences at the Department of Education.

In 2021, FIL launched WordFlight, the latest iteration of a decade of research. WordFlight effectively connects models and principles of learning (long missing) to reading science and pedagogy. The online component provides each student personalized instruction and practice which is reinforced and enhanced by teacher-facilitated instruction

Foundations in Learning’s history

Over the past 30 years FIL’s founders, Dr. Carolyn Brown and Dr. Jerry Zimmermann, have focused on optimizing student learning and facilitating access to literacy. Together, they have co-founded three companies (Breakthrough to Literacy, the Iowa Language and Literacy Institute and Foundations in Learning), each organized to advance current science and create solutions to help all children learn to read.

In their first endeavor, Brown and Zimmermann developed and implemented Breakthrough to Literacy (a McGraw-Hill company), which served PreK-3 students across the country as one of the first blended literacy programs.

Motivated to better understand why so many US students were failing to reach reading proficiency, Brown and Zimmermann next founded the Iowa Language and Literacy Institute. They initiated research and development efforts to identify and understand why so many students struggled to acquire and/or generalize reading skills. By incorporating a robust learning model into a technology framework, they were able to efficiently test what was missing and how to best optimize instruction for struggling readers. This resulted in a collaboration with cognitive scientists and reading researchers at the University of Iowa that focused on how students learn, not just what they needed to know.

A company built on collaboration

An ongoing collaboration between FIL and the University of Iowa has resulted in a strong track record of independent and collaborative R&D (both product refinement and basic research) that marries theory and practice. This sets the framework for all students to access the gateway reading skills that are essential for educational success.

Our Founders


Dr. Carolyn Brown, Ph.D.


Dr. Brown has devoted her career to developing tools and testing solutions that optimize language and literacy development for all students. She and her colleagues have received support from the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Education, the National Science Foundation, and the State of Iowa. Dr. Brown received her B.S. and M.S. degrees in Speech Pathology and Audiology from Eastern New Mexico University and her Ph.D. in the same field at University of Iowa. Her areas of specialization are child development, language acquisition and reading. She is an adjunct professor in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders at the University of Iowa.


Jerry Zimmermann, Ph.D., J.D

Vice President of Research

Dr. Zimmermann, research scientist, received a B.A. in psychology from Brown University, an M.S. in Speech Pathology and Audiology from Southern Illinois University, and a Ph.D. in Speech Science from the University of Iowa. He also received two postdoctoral fellowships at the University of Iowa, both of which were supported by the National Institutes of Health. Additionally, he earned his J.D. from the University of Iowa College of Law. He is an adjunct professor in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders at the University of Iowa.