Archive for the 'NCLB' Category

New Version of Apangea Learning’s Online Math Tutoring Solution Launched and Now Available to Parents for First Time

Today, we release a new version of our flagship math solution (formerly known as SmartHelp). Rebranded as Apangea Learning Math, a number of enhancements have been made to the product. Additionally, this new version is now also available for direct purchase by parents for use at home.  Previously, Apangea Learning Math was sold exclusively to schools/school districts.


Apangea Learning Math provides each student one-student-to-one-teacher differentiated math instruction through a unique integration of “intelligent” computer-animated learning coaches and live, certified teachers who instruct students online. A student’s learning pathway can be individually customized based on state standards, the student’s grade level and his/her proficiency level. New enhancements found in Apangea Learning Math include:


·         The Practice Zone – After completing all of the core problems in a module, students will complete a series of problems in the Practice Zone. This facilitates the transfer of skills learned in Apangea Learning Math to not only classroom exams, but also to high stakes assessment exams. Students can also select the design of their own Practice Zone page (customized skin) further personalizing their learning experience.

·         Altruistic Motivation – In addition to earning gift cards to their favorite retailers, Apangea Learning Math’s motivation system now allows students to donate the monetary value of their earned “ApangeaPoints” to a charitable cause of their choice.

·         Enhanced Page Design – The teacher and student homepages have been redesigned to a three column format to provide easier navigation and access to critical information.


“Launching Apangea Learning Math into both the retail and B2B platforms marks a very important milestone for the company,” explained Apangea Learning CEO, Louis Piconi. “Additionally, the Practice Zone will significantly help students improve their test scores. Many students feel a great deal of anxiety around test taking. To help alleviate this and build academic confidence, Apangea Learning Math’s Practice Zone is designed to teach students how to transfer the skills learned online to their written exams.”

Altruism: a true motivator

al·tru·ism   [al-troo-iz-uh m] –noun


1. The principle or practice of unselfish concern for or devotion to the welfare of others


It is relatively easy to motivate someone with a dangling carrot if that carrot directly benefits them. However, would that same person be as motivated if that carrot only benefited another? In the end, the answer comes down to the individual. But, we were happy to discover that as a whole, today’s students (tomorrow’s leaders) truly have an altruistic spirit about them.


During the winter holiday, Apangea Learning held a national contest to encourage students to use SmartHelp over the winter break. Unlike previous contests, this contest did not have students competing one-on-one for prizes such as iPods and Nintendo DS Lite. Instead, it had a new twist: altruism.


During this season of traditional goodwill and giving, students would now work together as a class to compete against other classes not for gadgets or pizza parties, but for the opportunity to help complete strangers. Apangea Learning would donate $1,000 to the charity of the winning class’ choice.


The participation in this contest was phenomenal.


Since that contest, Apangea Learning has held additional altruism contests that yielded equally impressive student participation.  Winners of these contests (and the charities they chose) include:


  • Bill Arnold Middle School (TX): Leukemia and Lymphoma Society North Dallas Chapter
  • North Kenwood/Oakland Middle Campus of the University of Chicago Charter School (IL): Chicago Coalition for the Homeless
  • Southeast Local Middle School (OH): Akron Children’s Hospital 

The students altruistic spirit did not go unnoticed. Click the following links to view a few of the stories that ran as a result of the students’ efforts: 

Apangea Learning and the National Mathematics Advisory Panel

To compete in the 21st century global economy, knowledge of and proficiency in mathematics is critical. Today’s high school graduates need to have solid mathematics skills—whether they are headed for college or directly into the workforce. The National Mathematics Advisory Panel (National Math Panel) was created in April 2006 to help ensure our nation’s future competitiveness and economic viability.

Recently, the National Mathematics Advisory Panel released its final report on best practices for the teaching and learning of mathematics (please see the above article: Focus on algebra, U.S. panel tells schools). The final report contains 45 findings and recommendations on numerous topics including instructional practices, materials, professional development and assessments.

Apangea Learning is well-positioned vis-à-vis the recommendations of the National Mathematics Advisory Panel.  SmartHelp is an excellent fit with the panel’s key recommendations. Additionally, it fully covers each of the benchmarks for the Critical Foundations of Algebra. Please click below for a detailed report on how Apangea Learning SmartHelp aligns with the National Mathematics Advisory Panel’s final report.

Click to learn more

Let the Teachers Teach

Lately, we have been considering the following question:  what does Apangea Learning SmartHelp really do in the classroom?  And, I don’t mean this in a tactical sense, but in more of a philosophical sense.  As is so often the case, the answer came from one of our customers, Barbara Shoap, a teacher at George Washington High School in Philadelphia. 

“Some of us remain committed to give disadvantaged students some much-needed skills and some direction. It’s an uphill battle and it’s burn-out. There are always some kids who resist change or refuse help. But Apangea Learning PLUS my support kept them attending, engaged, and progressing, commensurate with the effort that they made to apply themselves within the program. I think that is a realistic definition of success. I was able to be more available to their individual needs, and my relationship to them was both teacher and facilitator.  Apangea Learning made my day better every day. 

That simple, yet powerful paragraph provided us with the answer we were looking for:  Apangea Learning lets the teachers teach.  And, the more we thought about it, the more we realized that the reasons that people become teachers is for those special moments when they are able to interact with a student and help that child learn.  But, in these days of crowded classrooms, diverse student populations, and high stakes exams, we ask our teachers to do more and more with less and less.  Our job as businesspeople, as parents, as citizens of society as a whole is to help the teachers do what we want them to do and what they want to do:  teach.  And, that’s why we say: LET THE TEACHERS TEACH!

Teaching? You’ve got to be kidding!

Every week, I visit classrooms across the U.S. and see the same problems again and again.  It frustrates me to no end when I see a teacher who cannot teach; however, in the vast majority of cases, the teacher is not the problem. The problem is that we have placed teachers in a no-win situation and forced them to become babysitters, social workers and police officers.  Consider this, nearly every teacher in an urban school district is expected to do the following activities simultaneously:

  • Answer the questions of approximately 30 students, many of whom are functioning at significantly different levels of academic performance.
  • Get EVERY student to a level where they can pass a standardized exam.
  • Keep everyone interested in learning!!

Some people will say that this type of challenge is exactly the reason why teachers become teachers – and that may be true – until you begin to consider that these same teachers also need to deal with:

  • Family and social issues of students who lack a strong support network.
  • The never ending encroachment of electronic games, cell phones, pagers and more into a busy classroom.
  • The mainstreaming of students with special needs (note: this is not a criticism, just another challenge for many teachers to face).

Put it all together and what do we get in the typical U.S. classroom: frustrated teachers, students, administrators and parents.  The model for education in the U.S. has not adapted to the new challenges presented in today’s classroom.  We MUST start supporting our teachers and students in new and innovative ways.  The answer is not more training, better text books or even fancier software. The answer: we must devise ways to enhance the ability of teachers to do their job effectively – and this means reconsidering what a classroom in the U.S. should look like.

Next installment – your ideas on how to fix this problem… (e-mail

~ Louis Piconi, Founder and Chief Executive Officer ~

For ninth graders, academic odds are stacked against them

According to a recent article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, for ninth-graders starting classes in metro Atlanta, the academic odds will be stacked against them. One in five could flunk this year and by May 2008, close to a 10th of the class of 2011 could disappear from high school altogether.  

Ninth grade seems to be the make-it-or-break it year and many principals are searching for ways to improve students’ chances of earning a diploma.  

The article suggests creating freshman academies that isolates ninth graders from upper classmen. Other suggestions include employing veteran teachers; providing tutoring to make sure struggling students get help before falling behind (those students pulling less then an average of 75 percent would have to attend 30 minutes of mandatory, daily tutoring during lunch); and allowing students to explore post graduation plans. 

Research was conducted earlier this year that also suggests “a three-pronged approach focused on prevention, intervention and bringing dropouts back into schools is the most effective [solution].”

Technology is on the forefront of all these efforts, and may just give educators, families and communities the edge needed to keep students from giving up.

 ~ MATT HAUSMANN, Vice President ~

Go back to school with the latest tools

Great news!

Apangea Learning SmartHelp 4.0 was selected as one of Technology and Learning’s “Top 100 New Products for the New School Year.”

New Product Trends

In demos, at meetings, on the Web, and at the National Educational Computing Conference this past June, T&L editors scoured the new-product market to bring you the latest …

… on the rise are online tutoring sites—for both kids and educators—from publishers like Atomic Learning and Apangea …

Apangea Learning
The SmartHelp 4.0 online learning environment offers math-based problems and provides one teacher for every student. Features include a reward-point motivation program, the ability to select problems based on student interest, and expanded algebra content.

For the entire article and list of top 100 products, please go to: URL:

~ MATT HAUSMANN, Vice President ~

When Do the Ends Justify the Means?

Everyone has had a parent tell them that “the ends do not justify the means.” Really?  Is it true? This question has never been more important than in today’s world of K12 public education.  NCLB, NEA, student censorship, Intelligent Design v. Evolution, school board politics – so many of these important education issues represent a breakdown in the “means” of our society’s ability to engage in meaningful discourse. When do the ends justify the means? Good question — here is the issue: when the means are cheapened, the ends are nearly always damaged in the process. 

Last night I watched a school board elect a new Superintendent on a 5-4 vote.  No problem there – the majority has the right to make decisions; however, it became clear that the minority had not been included in the decision making process in a meaningful manner.  Why is this important?  Because when the means are subjugated, then the ends are irrevocably weakened.  The end result of this meeting was a new Superintendent; however, by not working diligently to get at least one vote from the minority, the majority has significantly weakened the leadership position of this Superintendent.  Being a Superintendent in today’s world is a really tough job.  It is patently unfair to a new Superintendent to have to deal with factious parents, students, teachers, administrators and board members – all because a board majority did not feel the need to follow the proper “means” in its decision making process.  Although this may be the right person for the job, he now faces an uphill battle to successfully lead this district.  The collateral damage to this decision making process is very real.

Being in the majority is a true challenge.  It requires an unwavering commitment to the processes that properly represent the views of the majority while protecting the rights of the minority.   A majority does not have license to act in an autonomous manner; instead, it represents a responsibility to use that majority position in a prudent manner.  The same ills that afflict today’s political arenas now affect our schools. 

So, when do the ends justify the means?  The answer is very, very, very rarely.  One of the core principles of education is that it teaches each of us the value of dissenting views.  How can we expect our children to learn this value if we do not live it ourselves?

I know that I will be telling my children that “the ends do not justify the means; instead, the means validate the ends.”  

~ LOUIS PICONI, Founder and Chief Executive Officer ~

Today’s need for highly individualized and small group instructional programs in reading and math

No Child Left Behind (NCLB) continues to make a significant impact in America’s schools. President Bush expressed his continuing commitment to NCLB in his State of the Union Address. Reauthorization of NCLB will mean incorporating more flexibility into the law, while maintaining its four main components of accountability, parental choice, increased local control and implementation of scientifically grounded practices.


Perhaps more than ever before, there is a need for highly individualized and small group instructional programs in reading and math. Students need to be engaged in strong, intensive and research-based approaches to learning that provide explicit processes for learning. Furthermore, students need to be provided critical activities designed to enhance and deepen their knowledge of essential math and literary skills.


With more flexibility in NCLB, these needs can finally be addressed through technology-based platforms and process-based learning.

~ DR. PAULA BUTTERFIELD, Academic Director ~ 

Guest Blogger

State of the Union Address

No Child Left Behind

Paula Butterfield, Ph.D.



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