MISSOULA – In 2014 the Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation donated $2.4 million to the Montana Digital Academy at the University of Montana to launch an innovative statewide math readiness program called EdReady Montana. Less than three years later, EdReady Montana has exceeded all expectations and inspired another generous gift of $3.5 million from the Washington Foundation to continue its critical work with Montana students.
The EdReady program was primarily designed by the National Repository of Online Courses, with the financial backing of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, to help college-bound students avoid remedial coursework when they attend college. MTDA made the EdReady math program also available to teachers and administrators throughout the pre-K and K-12 system in Montana for free. Montana students, from elementary to adult learners, became the first in the nation to use this innovative tool on a statewide basis.
During the first three years of its implementation, EdReady Montana has helped incoming college freshmen boost their scores on college math placement exams, determined algebra readiness for middle school students and helped high school students stay on track in math classes. The program also has assisted adult learners across the state in preparing for the high school equivalency test and college-level math courses, enrolling more than 51,000 students and adult learners.
“The first three studies tracking more than a thousand students who completed the EdReady program clearly show faster and higher math achievement gains than any other tutoring tool,” said Roberta Evans, dean of the Phyllis J. Washington College of Education and Human Sciences. “We must remember that each data point represents a real Montana student who has overcome the barrier of previous math struggles to advance successfully and with newfound confidence toward his or her dreams.”
Since its inception, MTDA has implemented EdReady Montana in more than 290 schools statewide, including higher education, secondary and adult learning centers. Currently, 45 percent of middle schools and well over 50 percent of Montana high schools, two-year colleges, four-year universities, tribal colleges and adult education centers use EdReady Montana.
The MTDA team also has trained hundreds of teachers, counselors and school administrators on how to successfully implement the program in their schools and with their students.
“By supporting this opportunity for Montana students, the Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation is enabling our agile and innovative P-20 education system to model excellence and lead the nation in yet another area,” Evans said.
The program’s impact on Montana schools has received national attention. Inspired in part by the success of EdReady Montana, 39 states now use the program in individual schools, districts or learning centers statewide, including Colorado, New Mexico, Nebraska, South Carolina and New Jersey.
The EdReady Montana team has conducted implementation sessions at the National NROC Member Conference, as well as training sessions for schools, districts and states in Denver, with a second session scheduled for Chattanooga, Tennessee, in October.
The overwhelming success of the original EdReady Math Remediation Program inspired a renewed dialogue between Bob Currie, executive director of the Montana Digital Academy, Gary Lopez, CEO of the National Repository of Online Courses, and the Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation to deepen the use of the program in the pre-K, K-12 and higher education systems; expand EdReady to include English; and adapt the existing EdReady curriculum and customized remediation software to assist employers and employees through a new program called JobReady.
“Since we first launched the EdReady Project, I have been consistently amazed at the versatility that the tool has shown in helping students at a variety of levels overcome their mathematical challenges,” Currie said. “Now we are poised to expand our existing model to meet 21st-century needs of students and employers nationwide.
“We at MTDA are extremely pleased and honored by the confidence that the Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation has shown through its continued support of EdReady Montana.”
Finally, the program’s supporters have plans to create an EdReady research and training center on the UM campus.
“While the work of EdReady Montana began with college math readiness, the expansion of the program into the PK-12 system, and inclusion of the English and JobReady components, has made EdReady a bridge that connects our entire education system to careers and job creators helping to increase the pool of qualified employees for employers across the state,” said Mike Halligan, executive director of the Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation.
“We are proud to partner with the Montana Digital Academy and the National Repository of Online Courses to expand this highly successful academic readiness program to meet the needs of our students and employers,” he said. “The five-year, $3.5 million grant provides stable funding to allow Bob Currie and his team to fully implement their vision for the EdReady Montana program.”