Unprecedented Public-Private Initiative Launches at Release of New U.S. Department of Education Strategy for Court-Involved Youth and Adults

Nov 19, 2012, 10:02 ET from Knewton

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

WASHINGTON, Nov. 19, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- 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.

"All students deserve a high quality education," said Jim Shelton, the Department of Education's Assistant Deputy Secretary for Innovation and Improvement. "This economic environment has highlighted the tremendous cost to communities of a system that results in less than 15% of those it serves receiving high school diplomas or equivalents.  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, the program will offer students personalized learning recommendations to meet their unique learning objectives, and ultimately 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."  


Houghton Mifflin Harcourt is a global learning company with the mission of changing lives by fostering passionate, curious learners. Among the world's largest providers of pre-K–12 education solutions and one of its longest-established publishing houses, HMH combines cutting-edge research, editorial excellence and technological innovation to improve teaching and learning environments and solve complex literacy and education challenges. HMH's interactive, results-driven education solutions are utilized by 60 million students in 120 countries, and its renowned and awarded novels, non-fiction, children's books and reference works are enjoyed by readers throughout the world. For more information, visit www.hmhco.com.

Press Contact: Bianca Olson. Vice President, Corporate Communications - 617 351 3841 or bianca.olson@hmhpub.com


Knewton is a technology company that uses data to continuously personalize online learning content for individual students. The Knewton Adaptive Learning Platform is a recommendation engine that powers third-party learning solutions. Knewton analyzes data about the performance of each student and similar students on the platform, as well as the relevance of the educational content, in order to serve up the best activity for each student at a particular moment in time. Knewton partners with publishers, universities, and other educational content providers to make personalized learning available to everyone worldwide.  In 2012, Fast Company named Knewton one of the world's 50 Most Innovative Companies.

Knewton was founded in 2008 by Jose Ferreira, a former executive at Kaplan, with Series A, B, C, and D funding from Founders Fund, Pearson, FirstMark Capital, Bessemer Venture Partners, Accel Partners, First Round Capital, and prominent angel investors. For more information, visit www.knewton.com.

Matthew Mirandi, mmirandi@groupsjr.com or 917.338.4933


The Center for Educational Excellence in Alternative Settings (the Center) along with eleven state juvenile justice agencies has formed the Consortium for Educational Excellence in Secure Settings (the Consortium).  The Center will provide intensive, multi-year support to Consortium member states intent on dramatically enhancing the educational programs inside of their long-term, secure, juvenile facilities.  The Center will support the implementation of key policy and practitioner level improvements for member states designed to help states radically improve educational outcomes for youth committed to their care. As of September, eleven states have agreed to join the Consortium.  The states are Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Missouri, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, and Utah.

David Domenici is the Center's director. David is one of the Co-founders of the Maya Angelou Schools in Washington, DC, and was the founding principal of the Maya Angelou Academy, the school located inside of Washington, DC's long-term youth facility.  The Maya Angelou Academy's success has been widely acknowledged.  Students at Maya Angelou improve their reading and math scores at an annualized rate of nearly 1.5 grade levels.  Student retention rates (students remaining in school or work after release to the community) have doubled during the Maya Angelou Academy tenure.  A national expert and a court appointed monitor have credited Maya Angelou with creating a "remarkable" transformation since it assumed management of the school in 2007.  The Middle States Commission's Accreditation team concluded that the school was "one of the best schools we have ever seen."  The Maya Academy was recently featured on NBC's Rock Center with Brian WilliamsDavid Domenici has earned his undergraduate degree from the University of Virginia and his law degree from Stanford University.


SOURCE Knewton