Twin Cities Charter School Students Ace Minnesota State Writing Assessment With WriteToLearn

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Two Neighboring Schools Turn to Pearson's Web-Based Writing and Reading-Comprehension Development Tool to Build Student Literacy Skills.

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We commend the school's educators and students for working so hard to build important writing and reading-comprehension skills.

When "Anna," a ninth-grade student receiving special-education services, enrolled in a new charter school last year, her writing skills were far below what she would need to pass the Minnesota state writing assessment.

"Her writing skills had been extremely low for a number of years," said Duane Dutrieuille, dean of Academic and Student Affairs of Dunwoody Academy High School, which provides academic and career-focused training for students from the inner-cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul.

After just three months of honing her writing skills with the help of Pearson's award-winning Web-based literacy learning tool WriteToLearn™, Anna scored 3.5 out of 5, exceeding the passing threshold of 3 on the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment-II Graduation-Required Assessments for Diploma (MCA-II/GRAD).

"She was able to pass this test, and it made a world of difference in her confidence," said Dutrieuille. "After years of not passing, it was a major accomplishment and practically transformed her into a new student."

Anna was in good company at Dunwoody Academy, with a full 73 percent of the student body reaching or exceeding the standard - a number on-par with the state average and above what would normally be seen in a new charter school, said Dutrieuille. "This is an accomplishment for our school that we are very proud of," he said.

Dutrieuille attributes the students' success to the writing skills they developed by using WriteToLearn, adopted by the school in January 2008, along with the guidance from their language arts teacher, Beverly Davis, Ed.D., and their teachers in the content areas.

"The success of Dunwoody Academy is a stunning example of the amazing writing and reading-comprehension gains that students are achieving with WriteToLearn," said Lynn Streeter, president of the Knowledge Technologies group of Pearson, developer of WriteToLearn. "We commend the school's educators and students for working so hard to build important writing and reading-comprehension skills."

With WriteToLearn, students practice essay writing and summarization skills, and their efforts are measured by Pearson's state-of-the-art Knowledge Analysis Technologies™ (KAT) engine. The KAT engine is a unique automated assessment technology that evaluates the meaning of text by examining whole passages, not just grammatical correctness or spelling.

"WriteToLearn gives students immediate feedback, so they are able to receive a great deal of practice in refining their writing skills," said Dutrieuille. "Our teachers across all the content areas worked together, along with Dr. Davis, and did an excellent job with WriteToLearn."

Dunwoody Academy added another grade level this school year and increased its student body from 130 to 225, in grades nine through 11. Dutrieuille looks forward to the challenges ahead. "We are confident that we have the proper tool in WriteToLearn, combined with excellent instruction from our teachers," he said. "It's very gratifying to see the results, and we're looking for even greater gains this year."

After seeing the data that show Dunwoody Academy's success, two neighboring schools are bringing aboard WriteToLearn to help boost their students' literacy skills. Harvest Preparatory School, a charter school that has been educating K-6 students for 10 years, is piloting WriteToLearn this year. And, a new charter school, BEST Academy, a boys-focused Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Talent Expansion Program (STEP) school for K-8 students, has opened its doors with a launch of WriteToLearn. Both schools will include WriteToLearn in their individual learning plans, which will detail a designated number of writing prompts to be completed throughout the school year.

Eric Mahmoud, chief executive officer and startup coordinator for SEED, Inc., the organization that oversees Minneapolis charter schools, foresees growth in literacy skills at both Harvest Prep and BEST Academy. "Based on Dunwoody Academy's outstanding accomplishments, we're confident that implementing WriteToLearn is the right decision for our students," he said. "They will gain the writing and reading-comprehension skills they need to succeed."

More information about WriteToLearn is available at

About Dunwoody Academy High School:
Dunwoody Academy is a Minneapolis charter school dedicated to providing a rigorous industry-oriented education to inner-city youth of Minneapolis and St. Paul, to prepare them for admission to and successful degree completion from an accredited technical or other college. Like all Minnesota charter schools, it receives funding from the state based on student enrollment. It also receives support from its sponsor, Dunwoody College, in the form of start-up capital and consulting work in the areas of curriculum development, fundraising, event planning and more. Dunwoody Academy's guiding principles are based on Dunwoody College's core values, which include commitments to a strong work ethic, practical, applied learning, diversity and continuous quality improvement. It offers a standard high school curriculum with specialized training in automotive, construction, health care or manufacturing technologies. In addition, students must fulfill certain requirements beyond Minnesota graduation and/or public university requirements, such as four years of math and science instead of three, and three years of language study instead of two.

About Pearson:
Pearson (NYSE:PSO), the global leader in education and education technology, reaches and engages today's digital natives with effective and personalized learning, as well as dedicated professional development for their teachers. This commitment is demonstrated in the company's investment in innovative print and digital education materials for preK through college, student information systems and learning management systems, teacher professional development, career certification programs, and testing and assessment products that set the standard for the industry. The company's respected brands include Scott Foresman, Prentice Hall, Addison Wesley, Benjamin Cummings, PEMSolutions, Stanford 10, SuccessNet, MyLabs, PowerSchool, SuccessMaker and many others. Pearson's comprehensive offerings help inform targeted instruction and intervention so that success is within reach of every student at every level of education. Pearson's commitment to education for all is supported by the global philanthropic initiatives of the Pearson Foundation. Pearson's other primary businesses include the Financial Times Group and the Penguin Group. For more information, go to


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