Cornerstone Schools implement new teaching program

When Ernestine Sanders, president of Cornerstone Schools, took a long, hard look at the academic progress of her students, she noticed strengths and weaknesses, portrayed as peaks and valleys in the data.

Statistical data analyzed annually indicated approximately 42% of Cornerstone's incoming students tested below average on measures of grade-level achievement.

Looking for ways to help veteran and novice students grow academically, Sanders researched computer-learning programs that concentrated on individualized skill building and mastery-based learning. She eventually selected the PLATO Individualized Learning System. Plato seemed to be the key that fit the needs of her students because the technology enabled teachers to create individual learning plans to address the students' needs, enabling students to learn through self-directed processes.

The Skillman Foundation awarded Cornerstone Schools $370,000 over three years to implement PLATO. Under this grant, the school will:

  • Assess the student's current skill level
  • Use the data on each student to create personal academic programs
  • Cross reference the data across the three campuses for comparison purposes
  • Expand the use of technology to improve the academic performance of students.

"This program allows a variety of data [such as demographics, family income, student attendance, past grades, test scores, etc.] to be used to create a student profile," Sanders said. "The profile is an aid for teachers to not only learn more about the students, but also direct specific learning tools towards them."

Each of Cornerstone Schools' three campuses now has its own PLATO computer lab and all staff is trained on using the program. This year, parents and other family members will be able to access the program from their home PC's and help the children with homework or monitor their skill development.

Fifth-grade teacher Nichole Putman and her students are excited about PLATO Learning. "Students are given the opportunity to practice and reinforce core concepts through prescriptive individualized learning activities that are both visually stimulating and technologically interactive,' said Putman.

For more information on Cornerstone Schools, call (313) 892-1860 or visit