Closing the math skills gap and boosting achievement
As with so many other schools around the country, it was apparent that too many of our students, at all grade levels, were struggling with math and were performing significantly below grade level. Many of our students came to us with skill gaps of up to six or seven years, for which they had to attain proficiency within three, two or, unfortunately, even in one year. How could we reasonably expect our teachers to prepare students for higher-level math when many of their students were still functioning at such low-grade levels?
Over the years, we tried several math intervention approaches, but many of our students still did not understand math and continued to perform at significantly lower grade levels. As such, we knew we needed to find a different math intervention solution that would enable our teachers to teach math at grade level, but also meet the needs of those below-grade-level students, supporting a diverse set of needs and different learning styles.
Research shows that if our students fail science and math in the sixth grade, it will increase their risk of dropping out, and we wanted to decrease the likelihood of that happening to our students. We knew that the math intervention solution we chose had to identify the skill gaps not mastered in earlier grade levels, and then deliver targeted instruction to close those gaps through a prescriptive course plan that would quickly bring them up to grade level.
We wanted a solution with a strong instructional component that was designed by real teachers for struggling math learners. To support our diverse student population, we needed quality video instruction with extensive descriptive graphics. Plus, to help our students with the more difficult math concepts, we needed educational explorations, manipulatives, and practice to reinforce learning. Other critical needs included ongoing assessments and easily accessed and understandable reports for teachers, students, and parents to measure progress. In addition, we needed all of this at an affordable price.
Fort Stockton Middle School, located in west Texas, serves 540 students in a district of 2,378 students. Sixty-five percent of our students are economically disadvantaged, 412 are minority students, and many are English language learners. While Fort Stockton Middle School has a rich tradition of outstanding student achievement and provides a sound, standards-based education, some of our students continued to demonstrate weaknesses in math achievement year after year.