Do Right for Education with Lifelong Partnerships
I talked with Edmentum President and CEO Jamie Candee shortly after she was honored by the Minneapolis-St. Paul Business Journal as one of the top women in business. The Journal wrote; “In the education-technology industry and beyond, Jamie Candee gets high marks for leadership.”
In 2005, Candee began her career with Edmentum (formerly PLATO Learning) in Human Resources. From there, she worked in just about every department from Director of Sales and Service Effectiveness to Chief Revenue Officer. She left the company in 2013 to become CEO of Questar Assessments. Under her guidance Queststar thrived and was purchased by ETS Assessments. She returned to Edmentum a little over a year ago when the opportunity of CEO presented itself.
“There is absolutely nothing more fulfilling than being at the center of innovation and education. We have the capability to educate the world…every kid. We can bring access to high quality, life changing instruction for every kid, everywhere”, expressed Candee. She then added, “We get to inspire teachers to serve every student the way they need to be served. I cannot express enough my gratitude for being part of a movement that can truly change the world. I love that I can come to work every day and be around diverse people who share my commitment and mission.”
With three offices, Dallas and Minneapolis in the US and one in Oakham, a village in England, Candee’s positive reinforcement brings the 700 full-time and 2000 part-time employees to a bright and creative atmosphere. Of those 700 full-time employees, only about 325 of them work in one of Edmentum’s three offices. The majority of part-time employees are teachers. They teach through the company’s Virtual Academy, which is the EdOptions Academy. She visits the Oakham office twice a year, working with the staff in the UK, to continue to build their growing presence in the Middle East and Asia. Within that part-time group the company also has educational consultants who work for them seasonally, as well as different groups that work with them in developing their software product.
First, she makes sure the company’s programs are competitive and meet the educators needs. “The people working here have very high expectations of the work that we do: research-based design, very intuitive software, and technology. Eighty percent of the employees in this company are former educators. The expectations are to engage them, motivate them, and retain them. We are focusing on the teachers. We are building great programs and we are standing behind our mission and our values.”
She centers her attention on empowering the employees to ensure that everything they do as a company supports the best interests of the teachers. “I’m proud of the fact that all of our products and services incorporate teacher feedback. That doesn’t stop when the product is released. We listen to teachers at post-release and, if there’s something that can be improved, we’ll work to correct it. So, teachers can give their students the best possible education.” She makes sure the company pursues an outcome where every teacher feels like they built Edmentum programs. “I want lifelong partnerships with my employees and our customers,” expressed Candee.
Throughout Edmentum’s award-winning 60-year history, Candee explained how their growth strategy has maintained the same objective: Creating engaging curriculum and tools for measurement that empowers teachers to differentiate instruction, improve academic outcomes, and create equitable learning conditions. “What’s different now is the technology at our disposal. So, a big focus for us, right now, is ensuring our digital programs demonstrate evidence of growth and learning as well as align to every teacher’s instructional strategies.”
She adheres to the fact; “Behind every successful student is a great teacher.” Our call to action is called Educator First. It’s our commitment and vision to empower teachers with the tools they need to assess the skills and needs of their students.”
One of their programs; Exact Path is an excellent example of assessing the students' skills and needs. The program puts students on a customized learning path tailored to their skill level. Teachers can easily monitor their progress and give more attention to students who are struggling. “We strongly encourage home use of our programs and provide teachers with resources to educate their students’ parents on our programs and their child’s progress,” adds Candee.
She expects data will continue to become more important as education technology moves forward. "What can it tell us about how students learn and what’s next in that learning continuum? How can we use it to improve our programs and help guide students on a path of success that extends more broadly than just college?"
Candee sees all sides of the educational culture in maintaining the company’s mission. “On the other side of everything we do is a student and a teacher. On the other side of every decision we make, every process we build and implement and the programs we launch, we have a heavy responsibility to do right for education. We have to constantly ask ourselves: is this a decision that will benefit educators? If the answer to that question is 'no,' then we have to start over.”
"At the end of the day, our mission is simple. We want to make sure every student in the world has access to the tools that will help them achieve success. No school should be left out when it comes to access to quality educational resources."