Pearson's WriteToLearn Adds Enhanced Features for English Learners

11/6/2013 12:00:00 AM

Compton Unified School District and Hundreds of Schools Turn to WriteToLearn to Accelerate Development of Reading Comprehension and Writing Skills

BLOOMINGTON, Minn. – Nov. 6, 2013 – According to the National Center for Education Statistics, nearly 5 million students arrive in U.S. classrooms every day facing not just the challenge of meeting today’s more rigorous achievement goals, but also the hurdle of learning a new language. Considered by many to be the fastest-growing demographic group in U.S. public schools, English Learners (ELs) must have access to tools for building the literacy skills necessary to meet the Common Core State Standards and graduate prepared for success in college and career. In support of this critical goal, Pearson today announced an update to WriteToLearn, its award-winning web-based literacy tool, specifically targeted at closing the achievement gap for this important group of students.

Hundreds of schools around the country rely on WriteToLearn to help all of their students build 21st century literacy skills. One example is Compton Unified School District, located in the south central region of Los Angeles County, Calif. More than 50 percent of the 24,500 students served by this urban district are English Learners and school leaders are committed to ensuring that all of its students build the literacy skills necessary to achieve at the highest levels.

To support EL students at Compton and other schools and districts around the country, WriteToLearn now features a selection of enhanced essay writing prompts targeted specifically at this special population. These prompts provide students with feedback that focuses on the fundamentals of writing including language usage, sentence correctness, mechanics and ordering of ideas.

Last school year, Compton piloted WriteToLearn with secondary ELs in an after-school program. Based on the gains these students realized, school leaders expanded the implementation to 35 schools starting this fall and now elementary, middle and high school students build literacy skills with the online tool.

“Providing all students with equal access to a high quality education so that they achieve their potential is at the core of Compton Unified School District’s mission,” said Abimbola Williams-Ajala, Ed.D, Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services. “WriteToLearn will help us attain this important goal by providing our English learners with a tool for building the reading comprehension and, in particular, writing skills that are required by the new Common Core State Standards.”

To further support ELs and other struggling readers and writers in Compton and around the country, WriteToLearn features tools from Texthelp, a top provider of customizable literacy and language support tools. Using Texthelp’s highlighting tool, students can highlight the main and supporting ideas within WriteToLearn reading passage, helping them to build their comprehension skills. Texthelp’s word prediction technology in WriteToLearn allows students to select correct word choices with fewer keystrokes and, ultimately, produce writing products with greater skill.

WriteToLearn also provides visual and translation support for ELs. A picture dictionary provides the written definition of a word accompanied by an image, to reinforce students’ understanding of the meaning of words. Students whose primary language is Spanish or Chinese will find the instructions for using WriteToLearn and the feedback they receive on their work translated into their native languages. Additional language support tools for all students are available through an embedded dictionary with cross-language translation and text-to-speech functionality that reads text aloud in Spanish as well as English.

“To meet the Common Core Standards and graduate from high school prepared for college and career, today’s students must have strong reading comprehension and writing skills,” said Alistair Van Moere, president of the Knowledge Technologies business of Pearson. “For English Learners meeting these critical goals presents a special challenge because they are also faced with learning to read and write in a new language. We are continually focused on adding new features to WriteToLearn that will help to close the achievement gap for these students.”

WriteToLearn also teamed up with Pearson’s widely-adopted basal programs for ELs, Pearson Longman Cornerstone and Pearson Longman Keystone, to include essay writing prompts and summary scoring capabilities, specifically designed to accelerate learners’ language acquisition skills. Adopters of Pearson Longman Keystone and Pearson Cornerstone series can use their print or e-books in combination with WriteToLearn in a blended environment that extends learning through the use of technology.

WriteToLearn qualifies for a wide variety of federal funding sources such as Title I, Title III, IDEA and Race to the Top. For more information, visit http://www.writetolearn.net.

About WriteToLearn

WriteToLearn is the complete online tool for building writing skills and developing reading comprehension for students in grades 4-12. With WriteToLearn, students practice essay writing and summarization skills, and their efforts are measured by Pearson’s Knowledge Analysis Technologies™ (KAT) engine.

About Pearson

Pearson is the world’s leading learning company, providing educational materials and services and business information through the Financial Times Group. Pearson serves learners of all ages around the globe, employing 41,000 people in more than 70 countries. For more information about Pearson, visit www.pearson.com

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