PLATO Learning, Inc. (NASDAQ:TUTR), a leading provider of K–adult computer-based and e-learning solutions, today announced an agreement with the Harris County (Texas) Juvenile Probation Board to provide web-delivered credit recovery, intervention, assessment, and on-grade curriculum solutions using the PLATO Learning Environment™. Harris County will implement its PLATO Learning solution at four residential facilities for incarcerated students, as well as at two schools for expelled students.
“We were looking for a complete solution that covered all subject areas, but we also required a very flexible implementation model,” said Margaret Rhode, deputy director of the Harris County Juvenile Probation Department. “Many of these kids have severe academic deficiencies that must be addressed individually, so we were glad that PLATO Learning offered us a versatile, self-paced learning and assessment option.”
For Harris County, their electronic learning system needed to address the unique challenges of teaching incarcerated kids. A web-based model was essential for providing lesson access to transient students, many of whom are transferred between facilities as part of the adjudication process. With PLATO Learning’s web-based solution, students can use their log-on to complete lessons from any location.
“In the juvenile justice system, kids are not always grouped by grade level,” said Rhode. “There are often complicated territorial issues, such as gang allegiances, that need to be considered before putting kids together in a learning lab. The PLATO Learning Environment gives us the flexibility we need to foster truly individualized learning at each of our sites.”
Harris County is committed to getting the most out of its implementation by training extra teachers to use the system. “We received federal grant money for training,” said Rhode. “We want to make sure all of our teachers know how to use the product every single day so we can have a better handle on measurable results.” To prepare students for the statewide Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) examination, teachers will use benchmark assessments aligned to TAKS with PLATO® Test Packs with Prescriptions on PLE™ and monitor time-on-task to measure student engagement and lesson effectiveness.
Different kids learn in different ways, and this might work well for some. I'm glad to see they're training extra teachers, and I hope the PLATO program isn't seen by the county as a substitute for providing human teachers for these kids. A teacher isn't just a source of facts and figures to remember, they're a role model for proper behavior and the benefits of education that, when they succeed, also teach kids important lessons on a human level you can't learn from a book. So I hope this is a successful tool, but that it is never viewed as an alternative to providing teachers for troubled kids.