PassKey Helps West Virginia Students Achieve Mastery

In January of 2000, the West Virginia Department of Education adopted a software program for math, reading, and writing instruction from Glenc'e/McGraw-Hill called PassKey: A Prescriptive Learning System, for use in its 54 adult education centers and 23 community college developmental education programs. According to Calisa Pierce, director of Developmental Education at Southern West Virginia Community and Technical College, the reasons for the selection of PassKey included “its broad range of skills, starting at the earliest level and going on to much higher levels. We were particularly impressed that PassKey is not just a series of exercises. The explanations are particularly good and the tutorial actually teaches the skill. Of all the programs we reviewed, PassKey meets our needs the best.”

Louise Miller, the Adult Basic Education (ABE) technology coordinator for the state of West Virginia, added that one plus for PassKey was that Glenc'e/McGraw-Hill customized the program to meet their specific needs. The company created a correlation of PassKey lessons that match the West Virginia IGOs (Instructional Goals and Objectives) for ABE, as well as the learning objectives for the community college students. The program gives them “what they need to help prepare students’ basic skills while incorporating life skill activities.” It meets their needs from pre-GED through GED levels.

Because the hardware requirements for PassKey were compatible with many lab configurations already in place, the state was able to install the program on their systems with minimal investment in new equipment. In addition, the Glenc'e/McGraw-Hill sales representative initiated and handled all of the paperwork involved in the statewide training and installation phases, keeping her in the loop but saving her a tremendous amount of time.


Faculty and Student Enthusiasm

PassKey has been in use at a number of West Virginia sites since the spring of 2000. Lynn Fugaro, curriculum specialist for Marshall Community and Technical College and director of the STEP program, has been using PassKey in a pilot program for adult learners since May. She “fell in love with PassKey immediately because of its simplicity and graphics, and the fact that it d'esn’t talk down to adult students.” In addition, she “loves the immediate feedback it provides.”

One key feature is the overall format of each lesson. PassKey provides a pre-test to help diagnose individual areas of need. This is followed by a tutorial to provide practice as needed before concluding with a post-test. Ms. Fugaro “loves how it immediately bumps a student up to the next level when that student has reached mastery of a particular skill.” She also noted that the program “is very user-friendly. The students caught on within half an hour of being introduced to PassKey.” Enthusiasm for the program is so strong that students often arrive at 8:30 a.m. to begin working on it, even though class d'es not start until 9:00 a.m.

PassKey has provided a side benefit to these adult learners as well. Most of them came into the class on the first day “terrified of the computer.” Because they have found the program so easy to use, however, “their confidence in their computer skills has skyrocketed.” She sees many of them surfing the Net and working on their word processing skills. For these students, “PassKey was the bridge to their computer confidence.”

Sister Libby Deliee, director of the Eckman Learning Center, ech'es Ms. Fugaro’s sentiments. She has been using PassKey for an adult population ranging in age from 17 to 72 and she states, “We love it. The students are so excited about it.” Sister Libby selects a series of lessons for her students and provides them with open choices. A number of the students have approached her to say, “I finished all of those. Please give me more.” In particular, the students love the instant rewards and immediate feedback provided by PassKey. “The lessons have very good explanations. If a student gets something wrong, the program tells them why it was wrong. Whenever they get an answer right, they are given positive reinforcement.” In addition, the students like the content very much because “it uses adult and practical examples.”

Ms. Pierce noted that PassKey is being used effectively in a pilot program for developmental English and reading at Southern West Virginia Community and Technical College. “So far we’re very impressed and happy with it.” She added that accuracy of the material was a particular concern because the school experienced trouble with competitive programs in the past. PassKey, however, has proven to be extremely accurate thus far. “We’re impressed with the accuracy of the program—both the accuracy of the questions and the grading of student responses.”


A Time Saver

Both Sister Libby and Ms. Fugaro commented that the administrative tools of PassKey are both user-friendly and time saving. Sister Libby noted that she can access the program very easily and see exactly what each student has completed. She can adapt what she wants printed out and how she wants it printed out. In addition, because the lessons are pre-matched with the West Virginia IGOs, she can simply print out the results for an individual student and put it in his or her folder to demonstrate mastery of specific goals and objectives.

Ms. Fugaro appreciates the fact that she can “make assignments on Monday night while working in my office across campus and know that they will be waiting for the students on Tuesday morning when they arrive.” In addition, she can “get into the program at any time and see how each of my students did that day and where their individual frustrations and areas of need are. I don’t need to see the students to know how they’re doing.”

She finds that the accessibility of information to the teachers on the computer screen is a significant time-saver. As she noted, “We know immediately how the students did. We can know on Tuesday at noon what we need to do on Wednesday morning. We can see who’s struggling with what skill. PassKey allows us to sit with each student on an individual basis and to develop individual plans for each student.”

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This article originally appeared in the 10/01/2000 issue of THE Journal.