News & Events

Provost News

Provost Academy South Carolina Class of 2015 Hits New High August 21, 2015

With ninety more Provost Academy South Carolina seniors completing course requirements during the recently concluded summer school session, the total number of graduates for PASC’s Class of 2015 has now reached 225 – the school’s largest ever graduating class, and an all-time high for any EdisonLearning partnership school.  This also brings the total number of high school graduates during the year throughout EdisonLearning’s network to more than 700 – another new milestone.

This tremendous accomplishment by the students, teachers, and school leaders further highlights our focus on the #1 Point of Urgency - Achievement Results: to consistently and substantially improve student outcomes across all of our education solutions; taking in account that outcomes are not solely based on student test scores – but on graduation rates, college acceptances, and meaningful jobs.


5th Chicago Magic Johnson Bridgescape Academy to Open – Staff Prepares for New Year August 20, 2015

On September 8, a new Magic Johnson Bridgescape Academy will open to students in Chicago Brainerd neighborhood (above).  This new center will mark the fifth MJBA location in the city, and bring the total number of students earning their high school diplomas in the program to 1,000 students.  During the recently completed school year, more than 100 students received their diplomas, and the Chicago-area MJBAs had a graduation rate of 80%.

In addition to the learning centers being readied for the students, the education teams for all five of the Chicago MJBAs participated in a unique professional development initiative earlier this week.  They are piloting a program called WhyTry, which utilizes a series of ten visual metaphors to teach social, emotional, and leadership principles. It is a multi-sensory approach designed to build resiliency and relationships.

The program directors, guidance counselors and teachers participated in two days of interactive, high energy and robust training with a really facilitator from the WhyTry organization (photos below).  In the future, the MJBA staff will serve as the implementation experts for the pilot this year, and serve as the project leaders at each of their individual sites. 



Gary Roosevelt Welcomes Students August 20, 2015

Theodore Roosevelt College and Career Academy in Gary welcomed students for the new school year this week, marking EdisonLearning’s fourth year serving as the lead turnaround partner under the Indiana Department of Education’s School Improvement effort started in 2011.

Throughout EdisonLearning’s involvement with TRCCA – all measurement goals, as stipulated by the Indiana Department of Education, have been met or exceeded each year. The graduation rate is now 73% - as compared to 47% prior to the turnaround – an increase of 26 points - and nearly two-thirds of the graduating class is now enrolled in a 2-4 year college or vocational program.

Student attendance exceeds 81% -- well above the 67% prior to the turnaround, and monthly Disciplinary Referrals have been cut in half.

Demographically, TRCCA is the only public school in Indiana that is comprised of 100% minority students, and 100% of students being classified “Free and Reduced Lunch”.


Not Your Typical First Day at Provost Academy WLTX-TV, August 18, 2015

Instead of riding the bus and changing classes throughout the day, students at Provost Academy simply logged on. The online high school is changing the way students can get an education.

Columbia, SC (WLTX) - The first day of school was not your typical day back for one group of high school students. Instead of riding the bus and changing classes throughout the day, students at Provost Academy's online high school simply logged on.

"It's extremely convenient," says Joe Carieri, a sophomore at the academy. Carieri is one of the 600 students around the state taking high school online. "All you really need to do your work is a wi-fi connection and a laptop," says Carieri.

Attending Provost Academy allows him to create his own schedule for learning. "One thing I really like is that you work on your own hours," says Carieri. "If you're not going to the building, you can wake up at one in the afternoon and just work really well."

Carieri's mother was at first a bit skeptical about him taking high school classes online. "The first thing I thought of was isolation, that he was going to turn into this home-bound hermit who wouldn't have any social interaction with other kids at school," says Michele Carieri. "That is not the case at all."

Just like many schools around the Midlands, Monday marked the first day of class for Provost. Students could either work from home or work at the academy campus in Columbia.

"They come in and they are so focused," says Provost Academy English teacher Dawn Jones.

Jones worked in a traditional high school for several years and says the first day usually consists of handing out papers and books. "You don't really get a lot of curriculum and coursework done that first day," says Jones. "It's really helping students know where they are supposed to be as opposed to the orientation I gave this morning that took about 30 minutes, then the students started working."

At Provost there are no bells or changing of classes. However, according to Desmond Brown with the academy, students can get the same education as in a traditional high school. "We're not an alternative school, we're not a second hand school, we are a charter school, but we're just online and we're here to offer that flexibility for students," says Brown.

Brown explained that many students are already working on their careers, or have part time jobs.That flexibility is what they say helps students like Joe Carieri succeed.

View video at:


Ohio MJBAs Prepare for New School Year August 4, 2015


The professional educators from the five Ohio-based Magic Johnson Bridgescape Academies held their 2nd Annual Statewide Meeting in Columbus, Ohio as a kickoff to the new academic year. Program Directors, Office and Family Outreach Managers as well as faculty and support staff from Cincinnati, Cleveland and Columbus participated in an intense professional development day that highlighted our internal programmatic EFLT standards, Ohio Department of Education mandates, Special Education support as well as NWEA/MAP testing training. Additional training included, Problem Based Learning, Infinite Campus, Curriculum Mapping, Core Learning Skills, Achieve3000, EdModo and content area training.



Magic Johnson Bridgescape Academies Establish Partnership with Ohio Association of Foodbanks and Ohio Benefit Bank to Expand Services for Students and Families August 3, 2015


Three of the forty largest cities in the United States with the lowest high school graduation rates and the highest percentage of low-income students are located in the State of Ohio – Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Columbus.  It is this reality that fuels the mission of the Magic Johnson Bridgescape Academies, which are located in each of these three communities.

The vast majority of the nearly one in five U.S. high school students who fail to graduate from high school each year - approximately 800,000 students – do not receive a diploma because extraordinarily difficult life circumstances interrupted their educational path. They are not “dropouts”.  They are “non-graduates” who have not achieved academically, because they lacked supportive connections with parents, other family members, peers, or educators.  They are very much the face of urban America, who as a result of their socio-economic disparity, it has been assumed that they would not finish school, would not find a decent job, and would never go to college.

In order to further re-engage young people in Ohio who have interrupted their education, the Magic Johnson Bridgescape Academies in the state have established a partnership with the Ohio Association of Food Banks, and the Ohio Benefit Bank to create supportive structures to help connect these young people to new opportunities, and foster civic engagement.

For more than 20 years, the Ohio Association of Foodbanks has advocated for equitable public policy at the state and federal levels to decrease hunger in Ohio, working with partners to inform policymakers, media, and other stakeholders about the issues facing low-income Ohioans.  It works in concert with regional foodbanks to distribute food to soup kitchens, food pantries, and homeless shelters that serve hungry people.

  The Ohio Benefit Bank is an innovative online service that is implemented in partnership with the State of Ohio, four federal agencies, nine state agencies, and more than 1,100 faith-based and community organizations. Its purpose is to connect Ohio’s families with work support programs, food assistance, child care assistance, health coverage, and tax credits.

As a result of this innovative partnership; Magic Johnson Bridgescape students in Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Columbus, their families, and residents of the surrounding communities can now qualify for the basic services provided through the Ohio Foodbank Association, and the Ohio Benefit Bank.

Being fully aware that socio-economic conditions directly impact the ability of young people to focus on, and complete their education, the Ohio-based Magic Johnson Bridgescape Academies are fully committed to doing whatever is necessary to provide “non-graduates” the opportunity to further their education, and to build a solid foundation for successful lives.


Plan hopes for better future to help state’s most vulnerable youth Columbus Post-Dispatch, July 30, 2015

Makkedah Cutshall is a recent graduate of the Magic Johnson Bridgescape/Road to Success Academy in Columbus.

If her family life had collapsed in another state, Makkedah Cutshall might still be in foster care. Rent, utility payments and grocery bills wouldn’t yet be causing her anxiety. “That would be real helpful,” said Cutshall, who aged out of foster care last year at 18. “I’d maybe have a chance to save.”

She has been working with advocates to urge passage of a bill to extend foster-care programs in Ohio to age 21, a change that would offer three more years of assistance to some of the state’s most vulnerable youths. Supporters had hoped that the bill, which also includes “bill of rights” provisions for wards in guardianship cases, would be approved along with the biennial budget. Now, they’re aiming for action yet this year.

“What’s sad, or perhaps moving, is how many foster teens who have aged out are active in this campaign,” said Mark Mecum, executive director of the Ohio Association of Child Caring Agencies.

"It’s frustrating to get emails from children who ask, 'Has this passed yet? How can I help?'"

Between 1,000 and 1,300 foster youths leave Ohio’s system each year after they turn 18. Staggering numbers of them soon experience homelessness, or become parents, or fall into the justice system.

About 26 states, along with Washington, D.C., already have extended foster care to 21 or are in the process of passing legislation to do so, Mecum said.

The 2016 startup cost for an extended foster-care program would mean about $550,000 in state money next year, then up to $9.7 million in 2017, depending on whether the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services has it fully or partly implemented by then. Up to $14.8 million in federal foster-care money also would be budgeted for the program in 2017, for a total of about $24.5 million in state and federal funds that year.

Cutshall, now 19, is just trying to figure out how she can get far enough ahead to thrive. She shares a tidy, spare Reynoldsburg apartment with a roommate and dreams of having a car someday. For now, she rides her bicycle to the bus stop and then faces a two-hour bus trip (including transfers) to her minimum-wage job on the North Side.

“I’m trying not to let myself get down,” she said. “But I would still be with my foster mom if I could.”


Drop out recovery program proposed The Tidewater Times, July 27, 2015


FRANKLIN, VA  -- Representatives from EdisonLearning, a for-profit international educational services provider, met with the Franklin City School Board on to discuss a possible partnership in creating a Magic Johnson Bridgescape Academy in Franklin.

In partnership with famed basketball player Magic Johnson and school districts across the nation, Edison Learning has opened 13 Bridgescape Academies across the United States, including locations in Chicago, Cleveland and Norfolk.

The Academies allow recent high school dropouts to resume their studies. Courses are taught entirely online through two 4-hour long sessions each day to allow flexible scheduling so students may continue to work while enrolled.

Students undertake a course load designed by administrators to fit each student based on the amount of credits needed and placement testing. Students also receive support and resources to prepare for life after graduation, including college, vocational school, military or the workforce.

School districts reportedly benefit from housing a Bridgescape Academy by the resulting improved graduation rates, as well as recapturing the per-pupil funding provided by state and federal governments that are lost when students drop out.

If such a partnership were to come to fruition, EdisonLearning would provide administrative staffing for the school and the technology necessary for the online courses. Franklin City Public Schools would be responsible for the hiring of core content area teachers, guidance counselors and special education instructors, as well as providing a facility in which to hold classes.

The proposed partnership is in very early stages, and it is there is no established timeline for when the Bridgescape Academy would open in Franklin.

Graduation 2015

edBridgeton MJBA Caps Off Graduation Season July 20, 2015


The Magic Johnson Bridgescape Academy in Bridgeton, New Jersey presented diplomas to its graduating seniors last Thursday evening, concluding the graduation season for EdisonLearning’s partnership schools. More than 340 students have received their high school diplomas this year from Magic Johnson Bridgescape Academies in five states – with the total number of graduates from all partnership schools exceeding 600.

Elijah Thompson (second from left in photo below) was recognized with the High Honors award for earning the highest GPA in the senior class. Elijah has a unique talent for writing, and is a published author for his poetry which can be found in the Patterson Literacy Review, titled, “I want to be just Like You.” As he has stated, “The only challenge we ever face is the challenge of believing in ourselves.” Elijah now is a believer that he can accomplish his goals, he just has to find the correct path to follow. Elijah plans to attend Cumberland County College in the fall to study Philosophy and Religion.

Congratulations to Elijah, and all of the members of the Class of 2015.


Graduate says Provost Academy South Carolina Changed Her Life July 15, 2015

COLUMBIA, SC – "In life, it's not only important to get started, but to finish what we started, and how we finish is critical to our success." These words were spoken to the 2015 graduation class of Provost Academy South Carolina – an EdisonLearning partnership school.

Sitting amongst those graduates was living proof, senior Larissa Brown. "During my senior year, I struggled with losing my mother and my father." Brown said.

Larissa transferred to PASC, a tuition-free and state-authorized online high school months before graduation and attended classes at the Columbia Campus, which is an extension of Provost’s online school, and provides students with additional hands-on academic assistance in their daily studies. Students who attend have the opportunity to complete their course work on-site in a computer lab with the assistance of instructors, and receive character education and career training through Provost’s guidance counselors.

After losing both of my parents, I knew that I would need the support and minimum distractions. The teachers were not as supportive or encouraging at my old school. Provost Academy accepted all of my credits and my teachers motivated me to finish even when I felt like giving up. I needed that most during my senior year." Brown said.

Now as a Provost Academy graduate, Larissa will soon enlist in the United State Navy as a Mass Communications Specialist to pursue Naval Arts & Photography.


Parents of Norfolk MJBA Graduate Express Their Thanks July 1, 2015

With the graduation ceremony on June 16, the Magic Johnson Bridgescape Academy in Norfolk, Virginia competed its first year of operation. A few days later, Program Director Dawn Hester received a letter from the parents of one of the graduates. In just a few heartfelt words, the letter is a testament to the work being done by the Norfolk MJBA team, as well as the teams in Chicago, Columbus, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Durham, and Bridgeton to help young people complete their high school education.

Ms. Hester,

We just wanted to say thanks to you and your team for helping Matthew graduate.

While he may never fully appreciate or know all you all did, we do.

Yes, he did the course work (eventually), but we know the full story.

If it wasn't for you all, and for all the help he got there right down to the last minute, it would not have happened.

Matthew has always been very intelligent, it's the applying it that has been the drawback. So your program helped him to get there - not sure if it would have happened without you all. He was going down a path and you all helped him to get back on track and graduate.

We truly appreciate it. The ceremony was very nice. The message about doing what couldn't be imagined, yes there was a long time when we didn't think it was going to happen. But your words to me over the phone, “Oh, he's going to graduate all right - if I have to come knock on the door and get him.”

Please share our thanks with your team and let them know what a difference they made!

Thanks again,

Matthew’s Mom & Dad


Provost Academy South Carolina Graduation - 6/18/15





Last weekend in Columbia, South Carolina, diplomas were presented to the 157 members of the Provost Academy Class of 2015.  PASC – completing its sixth year of operation - is one of South Carolina’s first online public high schools, and is a long-time partner with EdisonLearning.


NPS Open Campus – A Magic Johnson Bridgescape Academy Celebrates Its First Graduates - 6/17/15


It was a jubilant day for 16 Norfolk Public Schools students, who earned their high school diplomas on June 16, 2015, after overcoming many life obstacles to complete their coursework at the new Norfolk Public Schools Open Campus – A Magic Johnson Bridgescape Academy. The Open Campus program opened last September as the first of its kind in the Commonwealth of Virginia, and the 16 students formed the first graduating class. The graduates’ family members, along with the many Norfolk Public Schools staff members and teachers who inspired the students throughout the program, beamed with pride and shed more than a few tears.


Norfolk’s Open Campus School graduates first class WAVY - 6/17/15

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — A unique new school in Norfolk graduated its first class this week. The Norfolk Public Schools Open Campus held graduation on Tuesday. It’s a Magic Johnson Bridgescape Academy that works to end poverty, giving students a second chance.

Clink link to view photo gallery:


Norfolk schools' Open Campus holds inaugural graduation ceremony

Virginian Pilot – 6/17/2015


Daun Hester, director of Magic Johnson Bridgescape Academy,

hugs Jeffrey Monroe Jr. as he receives his high school diploma

during commencement Tuesday, June 16, 2015.

Josiah and Lillie Nelson belted a chorus of hallelujahs Tuesday as their granddaughter, Shylah Russell, walked across the graduation stage. They have raised Russell since she was 4 years old, after her mother died. The death had a lasting impact, Lillie Nelson said. She watched Russell struggle to pass the state exams. At Booker T. Washington High, the load was overwhelming, and Russell stopped going.

But on Tuesday, the 19-year-old earned her diploma with the other 15 members of the inaugural graduating class at Norfolk Public Schools Open Campus. The division launched the program this school year for 125 students who had dropped out or fallen behind. "I've been to a lot of graduations, but this one was very emotional and heartfelt," Nelson said. Russell wants to attend Tidewater Community College and become a nurse.

School leaders say the program is the first of its kind in the state. The division has partnered with Magic Johnson Bridgescape and EdisonLearning, which run similar programs throughout the country. The students face a host of challenges. Some are teenage parents; others are homeless or struggle academically. It's possible for them to get a GED, but at Open Campus, they earn a diploma.

Its students take only self-paced, computer-based courses needed to graduate. They also must pass state Standards of Learning exams.

Students attend classes daily at the building near Widgeon and Sewells Point roads, but they earn diplomas from their assigned high schools.

Math teacher Wes Flanagan said the scheduling provides flexibility to focus on academic weaknesses and allows for more teacher-student interaction than in a traditional classroom. Flanagan said the graduation helps dispel myths that dropouts aren't smart or motivated. Some of them have socioeconomic challenges that make a traditional classroom experience difficult, he said.

Daun Hester, the local Open Campus director who's also a state delegate representing Norfolk, handed out diplomas and hugs. She praised the students' hard work and thanked the parents for their support.

L'Tanya Simmons, a division leader who spearheaded the project, told the graduates they have inspired other students by not giving up. "In spite of all the odds and all the doubts, you're graduating," she said. "Receiving a high school diploma is only the beginning of college and career success."

Simmons said staff members worked quickly to open the program within a few weeks of the beginning of the school year. They had to renovate a former school building, hire teachers and install new technology. Now, leaders hope to expand the program.

In her commencement address, salutatorian Claris Turner fought tears while thanking supporters, including her teachers. "They told me I have potential," she said.

Turner said that the program was the best opportunity for her and that she's happy to make her family proud. "This will forever be a memory that I will tell my baby boy. Success is the key," she said. "Ma, I made it!"


MJBA Class of 2015 Receiving Diplomas - June 10, 2015




With graduation season now well underway, 157 young people have already been awarded their high school diplomas in the past few days as graduates of Magic Johnson Bridgescape Academies in Chicago, Columbus, and Durham, NC.  In the coming weeks, hundreds of more students in Norfolk, Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Bridgeton, NJ will join their ranks. Thom Jackson was the commencement speaker at the graduation ceremonies held yesterday in Chicago, where 95 students were presented their diplomas. Seniors will also be graduating this week from Provost Academy South Carolina.


Graduation 2015: Durham Magic Johnson Bridgescape Academy

Durham Herald Sun – 6/9/15


DURHAM - Donovan Livingston, an academic adviser with the Upward Bound program at UNC-Chapel Hill, urged gradates of the Performance Learning Center and the Magic Johnson Bridgescape Academy Tuesday to take time to appreciate the “baby steps” that they make.

Livingston, a Fayetteville native and UNC alum, was the guest speaker for the joint commencement exercises for the two alternative school programs housed at the Durham Performance Learning Center.

He shared with the audience that he is nearsighted in one eye and farsighted in the other and told graduates that they much approach life from a nearsighted and a farsighted perspective.

“If we only choose to focus on the big picture, we will live our lives in a perpetual state of disappointment because what we want is so very far away,” Livingston said, touting an advantage of the nearsighted view. “Instead, take the time to see the beauty in your baby steps.” He added, however, that the farsighted view also has its advantages.

“Farsighted people have the unique ability to avoid peripheral distractions and keep their sights set on much larger purposes,” Livingston said. “As you mature, your nearsightedness and farsightedness become less about how you see the world and more about how you see yourself.”

Before his speech, Livingston asked graduates to turn and to look at someone in the audience who helped them make it to graduation. “Your accomplishment is not yours alone,” Livingstone said. “You succeeded because of your own efforts and those who saw something in you that made them invest their time, their money, their energy, effort and enthusiasm in you.”

In all, 51 students received their high school diplomas during the morning ceremony at the Holton Career and Resource Center attended by more than 200 people. Twenty-two of the graduates were enrolled in the MJBA program and the remaining 29 in PLC.

Friends and family cheered the graduates, many of who had overcome challenging obstacles to earn their diplomas. Each graduate crossed the stage holding the hand of someone who was instrumental in their pursuit of a high school diploma.

After the ceremony, family, friends and graduates mingled outside the school where they took pictures, exchanged hugs and made post-graduation plans.

Timon Kirby, 20, a graduate of the Bridgescape Academy, said graduation day was a longtime coming. “It feels good,” Kirby said. “I can’t wait to see what’s next for me.” He said his immediate plan is to attend Durham Tech to study math.

Durham Public Schools Board of Education Chairwoman Heidi Carter was beaming with pride after the graduation ceremony. “This graduation is a demonstration of what a fallacy the letter grading system is,” Carter said. “This is why you can’t connect a letter grade with the actual performance and quality of the school.”


Roosevelt graduates told to make most of opportunities

NW Indiana Times – 6/7/2015

Leslie Corpus, Valedictorian, gives her speech to her fellow graduates of the Roosevelt College and Career Academy.

GARY | Theodore Roosevelt College and Career Academy valedictorian Leslie Corpus wants her fellow graduates to do more than reach for the stars. During the school’s commencement program Friday night, she told her classmates when they encounter an opportunity to accomplish their goals, “grab it in a choke hold and do not let go of it no matter what.”

From the beginning of the program, there was an abundance of enthusiasm. The graduates’ families and friends were on their feet and let out roars of cheers as the students walked into Roosevelt’s auditorium. Clutching their cellphones, many raised their hands to grab pictures of the graduates as they headed to their seats. Those cheers later escalated as each of the 38 graduates walked across the auditorium stage to receive their diplomas.

Coach Tony Branch, of ABC's "Secret Millionaire" fame, told the students they have limitless potential.

Branch encouraged the graduates to “fix things in life my generation didn’t fix.”

As the graduates leave high school, Branch told them to “continue to learn as we go through life” and to not be afraid of making mistakes. “With mistakes comes experience, and with experience comes wisdom,” he said.

Branch also explained the students didn’t go through their journey in high school alone. He said they had their family, teachers and school administration to assist them. In particular, Branch recognized Roosevelt Principal Donna Henry. He said Henry believes in young people and has a strong love for the student body.

Leslie Corpus, who will be attending Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, also told her classmates to never forget the “wonderful four years” they had together. Corpus said the graduates have already overcome many challenges while in high school. She said they will face more hardships in the future, but they shouldn’t be discouraged.

“You are stronger than you know,” Corpus said.


Gary, EdisonLearning forge bold, new partnership

Gary, EdisonLearning forge bold, new partnership

(Gary Post Tribune) – December 4, 2014 - EdisonLearning Inc. and the Gary Community School Corp. told the State Board of Education in Indianapolis Wednesday they plan to work together to establish a systemic approach to fixing the school district’s academic and financial troubles.

Once bitter adversaries, the two are now pairing up in a public-private partnership aimed at correcting long, festering issues that have dogged the urban school district of nearly 7,000 students.

Superintendent Cheryl Pruitt literally locked arms with EdisonLearning President and CEO Thom Jackson saying they will present their detailed improvement plan at the board’s Jan. 7 meeting. “It’s a bold plan built upon the pillar of local leadership. It will require funding,” Jackson said.

In 2011, the state named EdisonLearning to serve as the turnaround operator for the Roosevelt College and Career Academy, a high school on the state’s intervention short list. Turf turmoil quickly erupted in battles over broken boilers, burst pipes, snow removal, transportation and other issues. That discord led a state turnaround committee to make a series of recommendations to the state board Wednesday.

The board postponed intervention action on Dunbar-Pulaski Middle School, pending the creation of the comprehensive plan.

State board member Tony Walker, who represents Northwest Indiana, said he was opposed to state takeovers like Roosevelt and that school districts should be allowed to select their own turnaround partner. Last summer, Jackson was elevated to his new role. From there, he and Pruitt forged a strong, working relationship.

“What a difference now between Edison and the Gary Community School Corp.,” said Walker. “I’m so excited, I could do back flips.” Walker said Gary and EdisonLearning came together on their own. “This is exactly the kind of model were hoping for.”

Pruitt hammered away at the state board to push for more funding. “Regardless of how we got here, we’re here. The onus just isn’t on me, it’s on everyone who is here. That includes putting some money in Gary to help us with financial issues.”

Pruitt told the board it’s been hit hard by a low property tax collection rate. Last year, it was 42 percent. Tax caps have also hurt, along with declining enrollment and a new state funding formula. “Don’t disenfranchise the community anymore. We have the highest number of charters, we have vouchers and every education effort that’s supposed to work put into Gary. It’s time to stop.”

Jackson said a piecemeal approach of trying to turn one school around in a troubled district doesn’t work. “You can’t just address one school when the problems are systemic,” he said.

Gary schools to tap EdisonLearning as partner

Gary schools to tap EdisonLearning as partner

INDIANAPOLIS (NWIndiana Times) – December 4, 2014 - The Gary Community School Corp. and EdisonLearning have established a partnership to improve all schools. After an acrimonious relationship, Gary Superintendent Cheryl Pruitt and EdisonLearning CEO/President Thom Jackson told the Indiana State Board of Education, EdisonLearning would be its "external partner" to improve all struggling Gary schools, and the two would develop a plan and present it in January.

Three years ago, the State Board of Education removed Gary Roosevelt from operation by the school corporation and appointed private Tennesse-based EdisonLearning to operate the failing high school, creating conflict and confusion between the two.

The concept to use an external partner is in line with a series of recommendations approved Wednesday by the State Board of Education, which decided to create its own turnaround unit to monitor school turnarounds. The state board was set to vote on extending EdisonLearning's contract in Gary by two years and make some decisions regarding Dunbar-Pulaski, which also has had failing grades for six consecutive years. 

In an emotional plea to the board, Pruitt said she and Jackson have developed a cordial relationship and intend to work together to develop a plan to improve the school district.

"It's not just the academic program," Pruitt said. "It's also the buildings and the finances. Thom Jackson and I have locked arms to do what is best for children. We're proposing that EdisonLearning serve as our external provider. We will look at our finances, buildings and grounds and academics. We want to make sure that we touch every area. We want a multi-year approach, creating a financial improvement plan, talent management and academic improvement plan."

Jackson said, "We support the approach identified by Dr. Pruitt. One of the things we've learned is that you can't tackle a problem with one school. The problems in Gary are manifold."

Gary attorney Tony Walker, a state board member, said he was happy to see the relationship between Gary and EdisonLearning has improved. "It shows the type of leadership we have in Gary with Edison Learning and Superintendent Pruitt. I’ve seen the progress at Roosevelt under Edison and I’m very excited about the prospects of both parties partnering to improve the entire school district,” he said.

The board agreed to hold off on any decision regarding EdisonLearning, Roosevelt and Dunbar-Pulaski until Pruitt comes back with a comprehensive plan at its January meeting. The school district continues to work with the U.S. Department of Education regarding its "high risk" designation. It is the only district in the state rated F.

New School Gives Dropouts a Second Chance

New school gives dropouts a second chance

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) - November 3, 2014 – A new school in Norfolk is working to end poverty by giving students a second chance. The Norfolk Public Schools Open Campus – A Magic Johnson Bridgescape Academy allows students to get their high school diplomas and learn life skills. The ‘open campus’ is for high school dropouts and students who are overage for their grade level.

Marquis White is a student at Open Campus. He said, “I was behind in a grade and I was trying to catch up.”

“I was saying that I was going to school, but I would go to school some days. The majority of days I didn’t go,” said Alexis Mitchell, a 19-year-old student.

“We have children who are homeless. Children who are living with friends. Some children who have nowhere to live. We’re dealing with children who need to work and need help,” Program Director Daun Hester said.

Mitchell dropped out of high school just three months before she may have graduated and two months into a pregnancy. “A lady made a left turn in front of us and cut us off. The airbag deployed at 200 miles per hour and detached my placenta and then I had a seat belt on. [The baby] was flipped, getting ready to come down the birth canal and the seat belt locked on my stomach and fractured her skull in the front,” Mitchell said.

Her daughter died after seven hours of life. “She was my biggest blessing, and I still love her to life, but I feel like I’m destined to do more, and God knew that by me having her I would have just settled, because she was my baby,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell is not settling. She is now only five and a half credits from getting her high school diploma and plans to graduate in January. “I would have done anything to get it,” Mitchell said. She is one of 125 students at Open Campus. It is the only school of its kind in the state.

Right now there is a waiting list for other students looking to attend, but officials plan to double the number of students allowed there as early as January.

Click link to view video report:

New Norfolk MJBA Highlight of Video Report

New Norfolk MJBA Highlight of Video Report

(October 23, 2014) “NPS Now” is a weekly program featuring news, sports, and information about Norfolk Public Schools. This week's show takes a closer look at the NPS Open Campus - A Magic Johnson Bridgescape Academy.

Click here to view:

New school for drop outs opens in Norfolk

New school for drop outs opens in Norfolk

NORFOLK (October 1, 2014) - A new school for high school drop outs and students who have fallen behind is opening this week. Norfolk Public Schools' "Open Campus, A Magic Johnson Bridgescape Academy" is a new, alternative way to earn your high school diploma.

The program is starting with 125 students, including 100 dropouts, 20 middle school students who are behind by about two years, and five high school students behind by five or more credits. Students attend school 4 hours a day, and learn through a combination of accredited online courses and face-to-face teaching.

About $429,000 in state funding will cover most of the cost of the new school, and NPS will pay about $248,000 toward the program. This will be the first "open campus" in Virginia, but there are similar programs nationwide. Magic Johnson Bridgescape Academy and EdisonLearning will work with the division to run the program. The new school is part of Norfolk schools' transformation initiative to improve student achievement. Officials hope to expand the "Open Campus" to accept more students in the future.

Click link to view video report:

EdisonLearning Announces Prominent Additions to Leadership Team

EdisonLearning Announces Prominent Additions to Leadership Team

Jersey City, NJ (September 30, 2014) -- EdisonLearning, the leading international educational services provider, today announced the appointment of two new members of the organization’s senior leadership team.

Thom Jackson, EdisonLearning’s President and Chief Executive Officer, announced that Doug Mesecar, a former senior official with the U.S. Department of Education, has joined the organization in the role of Senior Vice President, Blended Learning Solutions.  Mr. Jackson said that, “Doug Mesecar will lead us in the development of a new service delivery model, which combines our Charter School and Virtual Education divisions to create a unique and innovative Blended Learning Solution for our customers.’

“This is not only a substantive change in our service delivery model, but it will ultimately transform our entire company -- leveraging our rich history as a founder of the charter school sector, with our well received and innovative approach in virtual and alternative education to provide new, research-proven solutions for eliminating the achievement gap,” Mr. Jackson said.

Mr. Jackson simultaneously announced that Curtiss Stancil has joined the organization as Senior Vice President. “Curtiss Stancil brings more than 25 years of executive management leadership, business development, sales, operations and strategic marketing experience to our efforts,” Mr. Jackson said.

Doug Mesecar has served in senior operational and policy roles at leading education companies, the U.S. Department of Education, and in Congress.  At the U.S. Department of Education, his roles included Deputy Chief of Staff of the Department, Assistant Deputy Secretary for the Office of Innovation and Improvement, and Acting Assistant Secretary for the Office of Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development.

Mr. Mesecar also led the school services and education technology implementation for Sylvan Learning as Vice President for Contract Programs and SylvanSync; and he gained valuable experience in curriculum development and education technology as Vice President of Math and Strategic Initiatives at Scholastic Education.

Most recently, Mr. Stancil has been an equity owner and President, of CurtMont Global, an integrated services and strategic business development company.  Earlier in his career, he served as Vice President, Sales for Sodexo USA, and was responsible for sales, marketing, operations and business development for colleges, universities and large urban K-12 school districts.  In addition, he held various executive level sales, strategy and marketing positions with Proctor & Gamble, L’Oreal, Gibson Greetings, First Transit, GEMS Education and Carson Products. 

Mr. Jackson noted that both individuals had previous tenures with EdisonLearning, “An important aspect of both Curtiss and Doug re-joining our organization is that they know the students we help to educate, they understand and are vested in both our mission and vision, and each of them has an authentic passion for disrupting education to eliminate the achievement gap.”

Paradigm shift needed in school takeovers, educators say

Paradigm shift needed in school takeovers, educators say

GARY (September 22, 2014) | Creating an educational environment where every student can succeed will take a paradigm shift to partnerships and collaboration between every stakeholder and away from all punitive actions and antagonism. The Indiana State Board of Education Committee on School Turnarounds heard that message repeatedly during a special meeting Friday at Indiana University Northwest to discuss and review the current turnaround activities at Theodore Roosevelt College & Career Academy.

Tony Walker, a Gary attorney representing the 1st Congressional District appointed by Gov. Mitchell Daniels in 2010, is a member of the three-person committee. The other two are Sarah O’Brien, an elementary school teacher in Avon who represents the 4th District, and Daniel Elsener, the president of Marian University in Indianapolis who represents the 7th District. O'Brien and Elsener were reappointed by Gov. Mike Pence in 2013.

School turnarounds began in 1999 when the Indiana General Assembly passed Public Law 221 in a bipartisan effort. Also called "the school improvement law," PL 221 gave the State Board of Education the authority to intervene in what have been labeled failing schools. It was in response to the federal No Child Left Behind mandate.

The turnaround of the historic Gary high school that opened in 1929 has been fraught with major challenges that have ended up in court, according to both Gary Community School Corp. Superintendent Cheryl Pruitt and Donna Henry, the school's principal.

One of the major issues continues to be who is responsible for maintaining and upgrading the old building, Pruitt and Henry said. Crumbling infrastructure, bathrooms in disrepair, damaged lockers and non-functioning heating/cooling equipment were among the problems found during a comprehensive building survey completed by EdisonLearning in May 2012, Henry said.

The terms "turnaround," "takeover" and "failing schools" create a negative impact in the community, said Thom Jackson, the new president and CEO of EdisonLearning Inc., which was founded 22 years ago and is one of the pioneers in charter school education in the nation.

"When you say we’re going to take you over, you already cast the school corporation as the villain," Jackson said. "The district felt indicted by our presence." He recommended that the state board of education "get the district to the table so the district feels it is a partner" and that the problems at Roosevelt be seen as a symptom of what’s also going on in the Gary education system from pre-K through middle school.

If students aren’t prepared to learn in those grades, the challenges will only be magnified when those students reach high school, Jackson said. He recommended using the model EdisonLearning uses to create new climates at the rest of the Gary public schools.

Theodore Roosevelt College & Career Academy has achieved the following benchmarks since EdisonLearning Inc. was selected in 2012 to take over the failing Gary high school, according to Principal Donna Henry:

  • Graduation rate is now 54 percent, compared to 47 percent pre-turnaround
  • 77 percent of graduating seniors are enrolled in two- to four-year colleges or vocational programs, compared with 60 percent previously
  • ISTEP+ proficiency test outcomes have nearly doubled with an increase of 9.9 points since the turnaround
  • Proficient/advanced literacy levels have increased 28 percent, from 13 percent to 41 percent.
  • Student attendance is now 81 percent, compared with 67 percent pre-turnaround.
  • Monthly disciplinary referrals have declined to 9.8 percent, compared to 19.3 percent.
  • A full-time truancy officer has been hired who works with the courts to assist families and curtail truancy.
  • Truancy referrals have declined by more than half to 32 compared to 73 at the time of the turnaround. EdisonLearning has invested more than $150,000 in building repairs to ensure successful school operations.

Gary, EdisonLearning urge state to make school turnarounds smoother

Gary, EdisonLearning urge state to make school turnarounds smoother

GARY (September 22, 2014)  — The 2011 removal of Roosevelt High School from the Gary Community School Corp. seemed like a hostile takeover, members of a State Board of Education committee learned Friday.

“It was very clear the district felt indicted by our very presence,” said Thom Jackson, chief executive and president of EdisonLearning Inc., the education manager tapped to turn around the failing school under a 1999 state accountability measure.

Jackson and Gary School Superintendent Cheryl Pruitt told the State Board Committee on School Turnarounds that collaboration, not conflict is critical to a successful transition during a takeover. Roosevelt is one of six Indiana schools being operated by turnaround firms after posting six straight years of poor academic performance. One other Gary school, Dunbar-Pulaski Middle School, is in the turnaround pipeline, entering year six. The state is evaluating its turnaround process.

EdisonLearning began assessing Roosevelt’s needs one year prior to its operating the school in 2012. The company had to register students, obtain academic transcripts, hire teachers and staff and deal with maintenance issues. “Our biggest challenge in the first year was who’s going to pay the price of change, not that the district didn’t want change,” Jackson said.

EdisonLearning installed new lockers and lighting and painted the walls. It also installed a trophy case after awards were found in a closet. “We had a 1929 building that needed tremendous repairs — $150,000 was just a drop in the bucket,” Jackson said. “You can’t look at turnaround efforts in a vacuum. You have to give that district an opportunity at the table as well.”