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New Adaptive Learning Software Caters to Incarcerated Youth

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Through a new partnership between major education companies and a group dedicated to education in juvenile facilities, incarcerated youth in 11 states could be using a new adaptive learning software to catch them up on credits and grade levels.

Today, educational publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, adaptive learning company Knewton, and the Consortium for Educational Excellence in Secure Settings, announced SkillsTutor Power by Knewton, an online learning program for students in youth correctional facilities. The program will use Houghton Mifflin Harcourt's SkillsTutor content, already in wide circulation nationwide, and Knewton's adaptive software, which collects user behavior data and assessment results to prescribe personalized lessons for each individual student. (You can read Knewton founder Jose Ferreira's thoughts on education here.)

In the context of correctional facilities, where students are often several grade levels behind and working alongside classmates with highly varied sets of skills, the program can quickly identify the skills students lack the most and target the amount of remediation they receive to fill those gaps. The end goal is to equip incarcerated youth with the skills needed to re-enter traditional schools when they are released or ready them for high school equivalency exams.

A software program, of course, cannot do that alone. That's why use of SkillsTutor in correctional settings will be "informed" by the Consortium for Educational Excellence in Secure Settings, according to a news release. The consortium was established this fall by the Center for Educational Excellence in Alternative Settings, at the University of Maryland, and 11 state juvenile justice agencies to inform education policy and support initiatives for students in juvenile facilities. The consortia includes: Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Missouri, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, and Utah. Facilities in those states will still have to purchase the software, the same way they purchase current instructional materials, but the software will be offered at a competitive price, the release said.

David Domenici, the former principal at the Maya Angelou Academy, a charter school located at a youth correctional facility in Laurel, Md., is the director at the University of Maryland center and will work to get the program into schools. The Maya Angelou Academy is seen as a national model for juvenile education, and was profiled in Education Week in 2010.

The stakeholders will announce the initiative today at the U.S. Department of Education, in Washington. The department also announced a new $1 million grant fund for "innovative programs preparing incarcerated individuals to successfully reenter society."

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