EL Blog

Experienced Professionals to Lead Executive, Finance and Education Functions

Knoxville, TN (January 31, 2014) – EdisonLearning, the leading international educational services provider, today announced a new executive team to be led by Thom Jackson, as the company’s President and Chief Executive Officer.

Jackson, who has been serving in the role of Chief Operating and Legal Officer, takes over the reins of the company which was one of the pioneers of charter schools in the United States. Today, EdisonLearning assists schools achieve lasting gains in performance, and is currently partnering with more than 50 schools and 11 school districts in 14 states, as well as in the United Kingdom. Through these partnerships, EdisonLearning is helping to educate nearly 100,000 students.

Prior to joining the company as General Counsel and Corporate Secretary, Jackson held various key leadership positions at international and Fortune 100 companies, such as: the GAB Robins Group of Companies, Prudential, and MetLife. He earned his undergraduate degree from DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana; and received his Juris Doctor from the University of Cincinnati College of Law.

In his new role, Jackson has named Maureen Ryan to serve as the company’s Chief Financial Officer. Ms. Ryan has been with EdisonLearning for nearly 15 years, with increasing responsibility in both the operational and financial divisions of the company. She has been serving as the company’s Senior Vice President for Budget and Operations. Ms. Ryan earned her undergraduate degree from California State University-Northridge, and her Master of Public Administration from Columbia University.

In addition, Laura Hayes, a longtime teacher and education administrator with over 30 years of experience, will serve as the company’s Chief Academic Officer. Ms. Hayes has over 11 years of service with EdisonLearning, most recently as a Senior Director of Achievement in the West region. She earned her undergraduate degree from Bishop College in Dallas, and her Master of Science from North Texas State University.

“Educational and operational excellence is critical to meeting the needs of our partners and helping students succeed,” Jackson said. “The experience and expertise of our new leadership team will be tremendously helpful in enhancing our education offerings and services throughout our partnership network, and in sharing best practices throughout our organization.”

EdisonLearning’s tradition of innovation and education reform heritage brings a unique perspective to its’ extensive portfolio of proven K-12 solutions, including: school improvement and management of charter and district schools, Magic Johnson Bridgescape Academies focused on dropout prevention and recovery, state-wide virtual high schools, and eCourses - a full online curriculum.

“The passion of everyone in our organization to deliver the highest quality level of service to our partners is stronger than ever, and we are all committed to keeping EdisonLearning as a premier educational services provider,” Jackson said.

Monday, February 3, 2014 - 09:42

In an effort to increase the number of former dropouts receiving their high school diploma, Earvin “Magic” Johnson, two-time NBA Hall-of-Famer and business titan, is making new friendships to take action in addressing the high school dropout epidemic.
“As many as one quarter of our nation’s students are not finishing high school,” said Earvin “Magic” Johnson. “Our goal is to ensure that no student falls through the cracks, and that all students have the opportunity to receive their high school diplomas and be fully prepared for college or the workplace.”
The mission of Friends of Magic is to be the authority in dropout recovery and prevention solutions. Friends of Magic will set the standard not only for giving high school students the resources and assistance they need to graduate, but also by offering them the opportunity to build their future through educational resources, internships and real world experiences. Friends of Magic will help build the bridge to education, graduation and life transformation.
The very first “friend” of the Friends of Magic organization is Chicago-native rapper/actor Common. "My personal admiration for Magic Johnson as a professional basketball Hall-of-Famer and now a successful businessman spans decades. The opportunity to collaborate with him on a grassroots community level where we share mutual interest is a dream come true,” Common said. “He is a long time supporter of the Common Ground Foundation and it is an honor to extend backing as the first official "friend" of the Friends of Magic organization."
Magic Johnson Bridgescape Academies, operated in partnership with the national educations services provider EdisonLearning, provides students who have dropped out or are at risk of dropping out of school, with a free alternative path to earn a high school diploma in an environment that fits their schedule, life circumstances and learning needs. Magic Johnson Bridgescape Academies are currently in 6 states with a total enrollment of 1,675.

Friends of Magic launched yesterday at a press conference in Chicago. For more information about Friends of Magic, visit www.friendsofmagic.com.

Read more about the Friends of Magic press conference.





Friday, September 20, 2013 - 17:31

Earvin “Magic” Johnson was a guest on the Tom Joyner Morning Show yesterday, and shared about his partnership with EdisonLearning and the Magic Johnson Bridescape Academies.

“Our goal is to ensure that no student falls through the cracks,” said Earvin “Magic” Johnson, who last year formed a strategic alliance with EdisonLearning – which operates the Magic Johnson Bridgescape Academies. “All students should have the opportunity to receive their high school diplomas and be fully prepared for college or the workplace.” Two new centers will open in Chicago next week.

Listen to the radio interview.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013 - 22:26

In the second year of its partnership with Theodore Roosevelt College and Career Academy in Gary, Ind., EdisonLearning is building upon the blended learning it implemented during the past school to better personalize the learning experience for all students.
The curriculum implemented at Roosevelt in 2012-13 consisted of blended learning and eCourses that were rigorous, engaging, and fully aligned with the Indiana State Content Standards and Common Core Standards. High engagement with eCourses in a blended learning environment resulted in many seniors and juniors getting back on track for graduation at Roosevelt.
Many students in grades 7-10 were enrolled in READ180, a highly engaging program that leverages adaptive technology to individualize the learning experience for students and provide data for differentiation to teachers. Most students, including those with special needs, experienced increases in lexile levels and many exceeded expected growth proficiency gains.  READ180 Teacher, Tricia Walton said,  “The program has extreme benefits [for students] including engagement with self-correcting software that offers immediate feedback, small group rotations which allows teachers to address the literacy needs of individuals and groups of students, and independent reading using a variety of high engagement, leveled books with relevant subject matter that really holds students’ attention.”
The positive student response to blended learning options coupled with best practices in educational research has resulted in the expansion of the blended learning instructional model for at Roosevelt moving into the new school year. All students in grades 7-12 will engage in online learning experiences and interact with content online via technology and eCourses. Students will engage in offline experiences via exploratory, reflective and collaborative work with peers and adults.  Students will be able to work at a pace that meets their individual needs, while teachers will be able to maintain an environment of high academic rigor while tailoring instruction to individual student needs.
EdisonLearning’s blended learning model will provide endless benefits for Roosevelt students: highly engaging, differentiated learning experiences and interactions with teachers and peers; unlimited access to up-to-date resources available via the Web; enhanced skills in goal setting, time management, critical thinking, and problem solving; increased time and multiple opportunities to explore, reflect and collaborate around big ideas, innovative processes and course content; and timely, meaningful feedback that promotes deeper learning.
To ensure continued success around implementation, administrators and staff at Roosevelt are currently participating in training seminars.

Monday, August 12, 2013 - 22:17

Remarks by Jeff Wahl, President and CEO of EdisonLearning, at Summer ELDA Conference in Atlanta Georgia.

I am delighted to be with you. Gathering here in Atlanta is notably meaningful, as this region and state have strong connections to the past, present, and future of EdisonLearning.

Atlanta’s first public charter school – Charles R. Drew – is consistently rated a “Distinguished School” for exceeding state and federal academic standards, and this year was named Georgia Charter School of the Year.  It was also recognized as one of the “25 Coolest Schools in America” by Scholastic Parent & Child Magazine.

Our partnership goes back more than a dozen years – and is very much a positive contributor to our legacy.  We’re honored to play a small role in Drew’s success with the Board and Head of School.

Intown Academy and The Main Street Academy are both examples of charter schools in the purest sense – where parents and communities work together to establish quality education options for their children.  Our partnership with these schools precede their opening four years ago – and we are likewise honored to collaborate with them as they continue to foster success.

Provost Academy Georgia – completing its first year of operation – represents the most significant effort we havve undertaken to offer a challenging and flexible alternative for students who need something different than traditional schools.

Blending the curriculum offerings of eCourses – with the Magic Johnson Bridgescape program - Provost Academy Georgia is unlike any other education offering in this state.

Executive Director Monica Henson, and the Provost Academy Board, are helping to establish a foundation for our future growth and success.  We’re greatly encouraged by the prospects to come.

This now brings me to the focus of my remarks.

Beginning at a young age, sports held a special place in my life.  It all began with baseball.  Growing up in a household where names like: Bob Feller, Lou Boudreau, Rocky Colavito, Larry Doby and Satchel Paige were common, led me to develop my own heroes: Buddy Bell, Dave Winfield, Dave Parker, Dwight Evans and the great Henry Aaron, to name but a few. 

I mimicked my heroes on the baseball diamond.  Oscar Gamble for example.  When he would slide into base, just by leaning his head back, his helmet could effortlessly fly off his head.  For a variety of reasons, I wasn’t so successful in my attempts.

I first developed a love for statistics by playing tabletop baseball.  In this non-athletic version of the sport, my buddies and I would simulate games, by rolling the die and matching numbers on playing cards, which would determine player outcomes.

It is appropriate that we are gathered in Atlanta – home of one of the most consistently successful professional baseball teams of the past generation - winning an unprecedented 14 consecutive division titles, 5 National League pennants, and a World Series – which sadly was won against my beloved Cleveland Indians.

It is also no coincidence that the foundation for the Braves’ successful run was engineered and led by the visionary businessman and entrepreneur – Ted Turner.  Regardless of what your opinion of Ted Turner may be – it is hard to deny his accomplishments and successes.

Apart from initially stating that he bought the Braves, “To get an autographed baseball without pleading for it and to get good seats” and, in addition to his countless outrageous shenanigans as an owner, including a one day stint as the team’s manager; Ted Turner was the prime force in shaping the way baseball is broadcast today – and how the world receives its news.


As the owner of a cable station, he saw the potential that cable television could have in generating new revenue streams and increasing his team's popularity.  When technological developments made it possible for Turner's "super-station" WTBS to be carried by most cable distributors in the late 1970s, suddenly the Braves' games were being broadcast nationwide. This created a fan base in all sorts of places that didn’t have a home team.

Turner’s groundbreaking vision hit its peak in 1980, when he revolutionized the television news industry with the creation of his all-news 24 hour cable channel – CNN.

“You should set goals beyond your reach so you always have something to live for.” This is just one of the many teachings from Ted Turner – and he did, as he said.

As professionals and partners – we are well aware of why we’re here – “we have something to live for.” So, let’s play ball.

Baseball is America’s pastime.  It captures our imagination as few things can.  I’d like to share with you the following clip from Field of Dreams.  James Earl Jones, describes baseball’s magical appeal and firm entrenchment in American society.

There are parallel histories between the growth of America’s public education system, and the emergence of its national pastime.

After the Revolutionary War, the newly independent nation began to place an emphasis on public education.  Since the time of the early colonists, private academies flourished in many of the larger towns - especially in the northern states.  However rural areas, (where most people lived) had few schools before the mid 1800s.

Many eminent public leaders, including some of the remaining founding fathers, put out a call to action.  Our second President, John Adams, clearly stated what needed to be done:

"The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people, and be willing to bear the expenses of it.  There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it - not funded by a charitable individual - but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves."

By the year 1870, every state had free elementary schools, and the United States had one of the highest literacy rates in the world.

Around the same time, baseball was recognized as the true American game.  The Cincinnati Red Stockings became the first professional team, and aggressively recruited the best players.  By the time the first World Series was played in 1903, baseball had established itself as our “National Pastime.”

The link between baseball and American society is best described by documentary filmmaker Ken Burns, who said: "Baseball tells us who we are; it is a barometer of our country."

As the history of baseball parallels social advancement in the growth of education; and, as leaders in the most important endeavor undertaken by the free world – public education – we all can learn from the basic lessons of baseball.  So let’s take a look.

Lesson 1: Keep your eye on the ball. 

Hitting a baseball is one of the most difficult tasks in sports.  On the professional level, players must be laser focused on the ball coming at them at 80-100 miles per hour.  In the world of education, it is not only essential to stay focused – it is required.

In both baseball and education, performance and customer satisfaction are reviewed, discussed and debated in the most public of forums.  In the stadiums of every baseball team, each occupied seat contains a critic with an opinion about every decision a manager makes.  But in the end, they only care about their team winning.  Similarly, in education, taxpayers focus on government expenditure, but really only care about results.  I am proud to be the manager of a team that has always focused on student achievement.

One of the first five players elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, Walter “The Big Train” Johnson famously quipped, “You can’t hit what you can’t see.” And it’s the ability to see the ball that separates the good hitters from the great.  By practicing our ability to concentrate and filtering out the noise of the crowd - all of those things competing and clamoring for our attention that distract us from our goals – we’ll see our students soar.

Lesson 2:  Hit ’em where they ain’t.

In baseball, it really does not matter how hard you hit the ball, just hit it where the opposing players are not standing, and you can get a hit.  The legendary right fielder “Wee” Willie Keeler made a career of “Hitting ‘em where they ain’t.” He coined the phrase – and ended up in the Hall of Fame.

Obviously, batters need to focus and keep their eye on the ball even before swinging.  In the same way, we continue to realize that as long as there’s a need, and we have a solution to an existing problem in education – we’ll continue to build successful, winning partnerships.

We are filling a great gap in the field of education with our product development.  Through cross-functional teamwork, refinements, improvements, and, in some cases, full redesigns, we’re bringing about innovative product solutions that are strengthening our relationships.  All of this is detailed in our new Impact Report.

Lesson 3: Know how to hit a curve ball.

The history of baseball on every level, from Little League to the Major Leagues, is filled with great fastball hitters.  They keep their eye on the ball, time the swing, and hit it into the gap all the way to the wall.  But too often, the next time up, the pitcher throws three consecutive curve balls, and the hitter goes down swinging.

We need to remain responsive and adaptive.  We need to be able to hit the curveball in order to succeed.  Many groups can “knock a fastball out of the park,” but not all are prepared for the unexpected.  We need to stay ahead of the curve and remain flexible.  We will be preparing for curveballs over the course of our time together.  Our reflexes will be stronger and our eyes will be sharper.  We will be able to spot the curveballs from farther out, prepare for them, and use them to our advantage.

We will also be in the batting cages continuing to get ready for the Common Core State Standards.  We’ll be examining the content shifts in both literacy and math.  We will be training our eyes to know what to look for, because, as with anything new, there are sure to be bumps along the way.  But we will keep our eye on the ball.  We will focus on the students and give them everything we have got.

Tommy Lasorda said, “there are three types of baseball players: those who make it happen, those who watch it happen and those who wonder what happened.” By knowing how to consistently hit the curveballs we’ll be the ones who make it happen.

Lesson 4: Measure everything that matters.

Baseball, more than any sport, is full of statistics and analysis.  Sportswriter Arthur Daley joked that, “a baseball fan has the digestive apparatus of a billy goat.  He can, and does, devour any set of statistics with an insatiable appetite and then nuzzles hungrily for more.”

Batting average, on base percentage, ERA, WHIP and hitting with men in scoring position are among just a few.  Everyone involved with education has a similar insatiable appetite for measuring success based on achievement gaps, graduation rates, HSAs, DSTPs and ISTEPs.  To this we add our unique insights with eValuate.

Using eValuate, we are able to analyze and improve student performance.  We create fully customized assessments that are aligned with state standards and testing.  In this way, we are creating a revolution in education similar to what Billy Beane did with the Oakland A’s.

In Moneyball, author Michael Lewis revealed it’s not just looking at the numbers, it’s looking at the right numbers.  He showed how the Oakland A’s bucked tradition in the way they evaluated players.  In doing so, this small-market team with only $41 Million in salary in 2002, was able to compete with richer teams, like the Yankees, who spent $125 Million in payroll that same season.

Billy Beane, the General Manager of the A’s, saw that talent wasn’t being objectively measured.  Too often players were evaluated on speed, the strength of their arm or the grace of their swing.  When the front office did look at hard data it looked at the slick stats, like stolen bases, runs batted in and batting averages.  By looking at on-base percentages and total bases instead, he was able to find diamonds in the rough and build a talented and competitive team.

So much so that even when MVP Jason Giambi left the A’s after the 2001 season and signed a $120M contract with the Yankees, the A’s still tied them for the best record in baseball, with each team winning 103 games.

Similarly, eValuate allows us to not just gather information, but to gather the right information.  It allows us to zero in on the most important facets of a student’s development and growth.

For 15 years, we have been at the forefront of benchmark assessments, and we continue to see the tangible results; be it in Nevada, Hawaii, Delaware, Indiana, Virginia, Colorado, right here in Georgia, or elsewhere.

Lesson 5: Teams win championships. 

Casey Stengel said, “Finding good players is easy.  Getting them to play as a team is another story.” In baseball, more than in any other team sport, it’s the team as a whole that matters.  Even the most powerful of pitchers plays only once every five days.  Therefore, a successful team is greater than the sum of its parts.  As Reggie Jackson proved during his tenure as a Yankee, superstar talent is not enough – teams that believe in one another and in their organization are the most successful.

The Red Sox learned this recently when, despite having many All-Stars on their roster, they finished last in the AL East for the first time since 1992. After trading high-priced players for more modest ones like Shane ‘The Flyin Hawaiian’ Victorino, the Red Sox are climbing back this season.  They play better as a team when they have players who check their egos at the door.

You know the synergy of teamwork.  You know you can accomplish together what you can’t do on your own.  It’s one of the main reasons why you come together at ELDA, to build your connections and learn from one another.

Your foundation is solid.  You demonstrate this time and again.  Thanks to Provost Academy and our Virtual Education teams, Provost Academy Georgia was “Accredited with Quality,” the highest level possible, by the Georgia Accrediting Commission.

Thanks to teamwork, the Minnesota Education Commissioner named our longtime partnership school in Duluth, North Star Academy, a Minnesota Celebration School.

Likewise, four of the high schools we partner with in Hawaii were recognized by U.S. News as among the nation’s best.  And these are but a few of the many examples I could cite.

Lesson 6: Don’t be afraid to get your uniform dirty.

As Yankees General Manager Joe McCarthy pointed out, “nobody becomes a ballplayer by walking after the ball.” You don’t walk, you run, because you know the immediacy of your work.  Your students’ futures are at stake so you give your all.  You never stop swinging and you never, ever give up.

As educational leaders, each of you on a daily basis set an example for your teammates and the students you serve.  There are challenges all around you, but you’re not afraid to dig in – you are not afraid to break for home.

Although there is no doubt that your students are bright and filled with potential, they are often limited by the circumstances around them.  Some organizations try to cherry pick the students who shine the most on paper, the students who’ve had a chance to prosper in uncomplicated learning environments.  They avoid challenges because they fear their reputations will somehow be tarnished.

You accept the tough challenges.  You are not afraid to go where you’re needed the most.  You are sowing hope and self-confidence in students and showing them how to overcome obstacles.

Last month I had the privilege of speaking at the graduation ceremony for all four Magic Johnson Bridgescape centers in Cleveland.  Like many of you, I had a chance to see what your hard work has accomplished.  The majority of these students were on the verge of slipping through the cracks.

Of the 58 students graduating, six represented the first in their family to graduate from high school, five were parents and one had been homeless. Now, standing tall with a high school diploma, four have already been accepted into college and nine already have jobs.

Through your hard work and fearlessness you get your game won.  You empower your students to stand up and show up for their futures.

Lesson 7: Any player can be team captain.

In baseball, any player can emerge as team captain.  It is an environment where natural leaders surface to unite the team and inspire them to victory. Some even rise to be managers and coaches of the teams they used to play for.  And you are just like them.  I admire how you strive to know each and every one of your players individually.  You help each one improve and you challenge them to do better and push their limits, just like you do for yourselves.

Duane Kuiper was his team’s captain during most of his 12-year major league career.  He holds the record for most career at bats (3,379) with exactly one home run.  Although he was not the most glamorous player, he was looked up to as an inspiring leader and an above average defender.  Today he is a 5-time Emmy award winning sportscaster.

You will be in the bullpen warming up your leadership muscles quite a bit over the course of the next few days.  You will be exploring how to lead professional development at your schools.  You will work at identifying emerging team captains and how to mentor them.  You will learn how to best model leadership for others.

You will also be further learning how to have courageous conversations, to get the results you want despite challenging and high stakes settings.  And you can do this, because you are not afraid to dig in and ask the hard questions and get your uniforms a little dirty.

Coaches in baseball can also show us what not to do. In business, as in baseball, it is easy to get caught up in the win-loss record and lose sight of your players.

At times I have been guilty of that. Sometimes, in my passion for seeing EdisonLearning succeed I have been blinded to paying attention to the work you all are doing as individuals.  I can do better and I will do better.

But hear me when I say I see each and every one of you.  I see the hard work and talent you have cultivated.  I see the difference you have made in your communities, your schools and your students.  It is an absolute honor and privilege to be one of your coaches.

Lesson 8: You can't hit a home run unless you swing for the fences.

Baseball is a game, but your mission is paramount to the future of society; therefore, you must think big and act big.  You can’t accomplish huge things unless you go for it.  When Babe Ruth called his shot he did not point to first base.  He pointed to the center field bleachers.

Of course, in baseball, with two strikes, many choke up, and just try to make contact.  But for you, there is little time to settle for less.  Your goal is not to just help students improve their grades or meet state standards.  Your goal is to give every student a world-class education.  And you are lion-hearted in pursuing that goal.

You swing for the fences.  Your current successes reflect this.  For every person here there are hundreds of students who prove how committed you are.

You swing for the fences – and Hit it Out of the ParkThat is your legacy.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013 - 20:00