Common Core LearnZillion

When Eric Westendorf was the principal at E.L Haynes Public Charter School in Washington DC, things were going well. The school started to get recognized as a top performer. While many principals and educators may have just basked in the glory of the recognition Westendorf wanted to know how his teachers were doing it and then share that.

What Westendorf found was that these high quality teachers in his classrooms at E.L. Haynes were developing this instruction on their own. After watching 6th grade teacher Andrea Smith teach her students what it meant to divide by fractions, Eric wondered, “could powerful learning experiences be captured so that teachers didn’t have to re-invent the wheel every time they taught a standard?”

LeanZillion-LogoObviously some teachers were better than others, so in an attempt to collaborate and improve resources throughout the school he started an experiment, recording instruction and sharing it.

He found that teachers and even parents were benefiting from these lessons that were being shares on a small website that Westendorf and the other teachers had created. This is actually an amazing idea. One teacher may have an excellent way of teaching one area of a curriculum but may be scratching their head on a way to effectively teach other areas. The collaboration from that small platform enabled those teachers to share, and focus their efforts, all the while trickling down to the students, improving test scores and academic performance.

Westendorf was amazed at how well the experiment was working and he wanted to expand on it so that teachers everywhere could benefit. After receiving a Next Generation Learning Challenge Grant he was able to grow that idea into LearnZillion.

Today LearnZillion offers hundreds of free resources created by teachers. All of these resources are geared towards students in grades 2-12 and everything in their free section is totally free.  LearnZillion offers a premium participatory curriculum to schools, districts and states, which enables them to continue growing both premium and free resources.

LearnZillion Premium helps schools and districts provide vital support for teachers who need to both understand the new standards and prepare students for next-generation assessments.

LearnZillion Premium provides math teachers in grades 2-12 with complete curricular resources, including task-based lesson plans, practice problems, exit tickets and differentiation support. English language arts (ELA), social studies and science teachers in grades 2-12 will be able to use both a modular close reading/writing program that addresses one of the more difficult shifts called for by the Common Core State Standards, and WriteAlong, a video-based writing intervention program.

By reflecting the deep content knowledge and varied pedagogical experiences of LearnZillion’s Dream Team of top teachers, LearnZillion Premium enables every educator – from first-year novices to thirty-year veterans – to benefit from thoughtfully structured lessons, engaging visuals, and clear, conceptual explanations of the new standards.

“I work with teachers who are just trying to figure out one element in a standard, and trying to get a visual representation of it – what does it look like, sound like, feel like,” said Lorenzo Robinson, a math instructional coach from Fulton County, Georgia, and member of the 2014 Dream Team. “To be able to create something that gives them a jump start on what they want to do – not to take away their thinking and creativity – but to provide a sense for what’s possible – that’s powerful.”

In addition to content built by educators directly from the Common Core State Standards, LearnZillion Premium offers a job-embedded professional learning platform that principals and other instructional leaders can use to enhance the efficacy of professional learning communities (PLCs).

“We want to save teachers time and provide models for great instruction,” said Westendorf, said. “We’re excited about helping districts to free up teachers with high-quality lesson plans so that teachers can focus on delivering powerful learning experiences for all students.”

Although Westendorf says he misses the day to day interactions with his students at his school, he loves helping other teachers across the country and he still has two school age children that are benefiting by learning from teachers who are in the LearnZillion community.