News release: Unprecedented Public-Private Initiative Launches in Response to New U.S. Department of Education Strategy for Court-Involved Youth and Adults 

Leading edtech company Knewton and global education leader Houghton Mifflin Harcourt to develop personalized learning solution for use in youth correctional facilities

Today at the U.S.Department of Education, global education leader Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and leading educational technology company Knewton announced the launch of an adaptive learning solution designed to improve educational outcomes in correctional facilities. SkillsTutor Powered by Knewton is one of a set of highlighted innovations aimed at providing the country’s millions of court-involved youth and adults with the academic and life skills needed to transition successfully to traditional education or employment.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan brought together leading experts from the public and private sectors at a Summit on Education in Correctional Facilities. Held at the Department of Education headquarters, the Summit was designed to tackle the pressing issues around educational access and quality for court-involved adults and youth.

“Every student deserves a quality education,” said Jim Shelton, the Department of Education’s Assistant Deputy Secretary for Innovation and Improvement. “Right now, less than 15 percent of students in juvenile secure settings go on to complete high school or earn a high school equivalency degree. We are excited to see innovators provide and scale high quality, academic and career-oriented courses and technology-supported instruction into correctional facilities.”

Developed by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, SkillsTutor Powered by Knewton will leverage the Knewton Adaptive Learning Platform to provide an effective and engaging adaptive learning experience for each student. Built with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s award-winning math, language arts, and developmental content, SkillsTutor Powered by Knewton will offer students personalized learning recommendations to meet their unique learning objectives. Ultimately, SkillsTutor Powered by Knewton will help prepare students with varied educational backgrounds and incarceration sentences for an effective transition to traditional schools, high-school equivalency exams, or the workplace.

“Helping to ensure that disconnected youth have a pathway to succeed is incredibly important to our society and our economy,” said Mary Cullinane, Executive Vice President, Corporate Affairs and Social Responsibility, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. “Used by over 2.6 million students worldwide, SkillsTutor provides the necessary differentiated instruction and the targeted, effective content required to break down the educational barriers these students face.  By partnering with Knewton, the level of interactivity and engagement of the SkillsTutor content is increased significantly.  With such targeted instruction, we believe that this population has a greater chance at long-term success.”

The Knewton Adaptive Learning Platform will enable SkillsTutor – HMH’s flexible online curriculum – to identify and address each student’s individual areas of weakness, especially as pertains to workforce readiness and high school equivalency degree preparation. The Knewton platform, which uses data to continuously personalize online learning products for hundreds of thousands of students at over 2,500 schools, has already seen great success at schools like Arizona State University. After two semesters of use in development math courses at ASU, pass rates increased from 64 percent to 75 percent and withdrawal rates dropped by 56 percent.

The specific use of SkillsTutor Powered by Knewton in youth correctional facilities will be informed in large part by the Consortium for Educational Excellence in Secure Settings. Led by David Domenici, this eleven-state consortium advocates for changes that support the delivery of high-quality educational programming in youth correctional settings. Domenici, a prominent reformer working at the intersection of education and juvenile justice, previously served as the founding principal of Maya Angelou Academy, which is located at New Beginnings, a long-term, secure juvenile facility in Maryland. Domenici and the staff he assembled are credited with transforming one of the country’s worst schools for incarcerated students into a national model of excellence and reform.

“The Consortium believes strongly in the ability of blended learning and data-driven instruction to improve educational and career opportunities for students,” said Domenici. “SkillsTutor Powered by Knewton is an unprecedented opportunity to create a product that leverages the expertise of innovators across the public and private sector to dramatically enhance access to technology and online educational programs available inside juvenile facilities.”

“We’re incredibly excited to be part of such a groundbreaking partnership,” said Jose Ferreira, Founder and CEO of Knewton. “Education is the ultimate gateway problem. SkillsTutor Powered by Knewton gives us the opportunity to use our technology not only to help improve learning opportunities – but also to work towards lowering crime, recidivism, poverty, and more.”

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