Learning Today, Inc., a South Florida-based reading and math software publisher, announced the implementation of their Smart Tutor and new MangoMon programs in Miami-Dade County Public Schools (M-DCPS). The programs were launched this week to 6,000 M-DCPS students with disabilities and the teachers and staff who support them.
After conducting a focus group comprised of M-DCPS special education transition experts last spring, Learning Today developed and introduced a new web-based interface for their Smart Tutor program. The resulting interface, now known as MangoMon (http://www.MangoMon.com), was designed specifically to meet the needs of middle and high school students with intellectual disabilities. The program is aligned with the Florida Sunshine State Standards Access Points, which drive the curriculum, instructional strategies, and student outcomes as measured by Florida’s Alternate Assessment for students with cognitive/intellectual disabilities.
Learning Today’s Smart Tutor program has been successfully utilized by M-DCPS students with intellectual disabilities in elementary schools since the 2003-2004 school year and was introduced to transition students (teens to young adults) with similar disabilities during the last two school years. Although Learning Today’s Smart Tutor program had previously been determined suitable for elementary-age students with cognitive disabilities, the focus group determined that it would also be appropriate for older students if the program could be introduced to them in a modified, high-interest manner.
“We attribute the creation and resulting success of MangoMon to the work of the transition experts and their students in Miami-Dade County Public Schools,” commented Robin Baker, Executive Vice President of Learning Today. “We had informally witnessed the program’s success with older students for some time, but sought the advice of experts in the field to ensure that it was accessible for their students in a new, adaptable way.”
Following the focus group’s findings, Learning Today and the school district launched a two-month pilot program in eight M-DCPS middle and high schools last year. As a result of this pilot program, much of the new MangoMon web-based interface was designed by the district’s transition students. During the course of the pilot progam, the Learning Today staff realized that many of the disabled students were very gifted in the arts, as demonstrated by their elaborate, detailed drawings and paintings. A resulting art work display area was added to MangoMon.com for these students to display their art work.
M-DCPS Instructional Supervisor for Transition Services and of Programs for Students with Intellectual Disabilities, Jill Brookner, led the focus group and authorized the pilot program for the transition students as well. “I am a firm believer that if you give a research-based program to the staff and students to evaluate, they will absolutely determine whether or not it is appropriate for their needs,” stated Brookner. “Learning Today was willing to accept the scrutiny for better or worse, and fortunately it turned out for the best. We were able to use some of our district’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds to bring both programs to the staff and students this year. They are thrilled that the district was able to support the program financially and that there were students and staff included in the process of determining the appropriateness of the program.”
In an effort to save district funds, improve productivity and time management, and advance her staff’s ability to engage in professional development via distance learning, Brookner requested that the training be launched via Learning Today webinars (web-based professional development seminars). Separate webinars are offered online for each program on a dedicated M-DCPS registration website.
Learning Today’s Smart Tutor & MangoMon reading and math programs are research-based and provide placement assessment and individualized instruction. The online learning management systems allow educators to use reports to improve teaching and learning, manage individual lesson plans, and provide information to encourage parents to be involved in their child’s education. Free teacher resources include a teacher forum, as well as reading and math games for whole group instruction.