Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation and Gates Foundation Back Online Curriculum for Montana Students

Montana will be the first state in the nation to implement an online education program proven to quickly boost students’ math skills.

The program, called EdReady, is backed by two of the nation’s leading advocates of education. In February, the Missoula based Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation gave $2.4 million to the University of Montana to launch the program statewide, making it available for all high school and post-secondary students. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation provided earlier funding for the design and development of EdReady by the National Repository of Online Curriculum (NROC).

“Student success for all is a core interest of the Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation, and the EdReady Academic Readiness Program will support the exemplary work of P-20 educators by providing them with the unique tools they need to strengthen students’ skills,” said Mike Halligan, executive director of the Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation. “By taking the lead with support for EdReady, we believe all Montana youth will benefit.”

EdReady provides a unique online platform for students to assess and increase their readiness for college at any Montana university. Following an initial assessment, EdReady creates a personalized learning plan so students can increase their level of college preparedness.

Early pilot results at UM showed that 86 percent of EdReady participants raised their math placement scores and therefore were able register for college level coursework this fall. A total of 41 students out of 60 no longer needed to start college with a remedial math course.

“The University of Montana is privileged to help design and deliver this program that will benefit so many Montana students, their families and teachers,” said UM President Royce Engstrom. “Because of the Washington Foundation’s continuing generosity and its focus on education, we will be the first state in the nation to offer the program, developing a national model that will guide future implementation across the country.”

The University conducted an initial test of Ed Ready last summer and received positive results. The Phyllis J. Washington College of Education and Human Sciences, Montana Digital Academy, the UM Mathematics Department and the Office of Student Success collaborated on a pilot designed to help students achieve entry into the college mathematics course required for their major.

Overseeing the complex pilot were Roberta Evans, dean of the Phyllis J. Washington College of Education and Human Sciences; Sharon O’Hare, associate vice president for enrollment and student success; and Robert Currie, executive director of the Montana Digital Academy. The project included high school, traditional-aged college students, and non-traditional students, all of whom progressed.

“We are honored to have the support of the Washington Foundation in expanding the scope of this promising program,” said Evans. “Not only will it ensure college readiness, it will enable students to overcome early barriers to success and achieve their dreams of earning a degree.”

EdReady will be offered to school districts, colleges and universities across the state starting this spring. Initially the EdReady curriculum will focus on improving math placement scores, with English to be added in 2015.