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Press Release: Santa Ana USD takes nontraditional, blended approach to Algebra

Sierra Preparatory School implements Pitsco Algebra Academy for eighth-grade students

SANTA ANA, California – “We had to find a way to get the attention of our students by making Algebra not only fun, but relevant to them,” says Jeff Bishop, principal at Sierra Preparatory Academy in Santa Ana, California. That is a familiar challenge for many schools in California and across the nation. “Instead of just having them memorize facts and rules to solve equations and other unconnected facts to their own lives, we preferred them to be able to apply their learning to building or creating something they would more likely understand and value,” says Bishop.

With this vision in mind, the school recently launched a new eighth-grade Algebra Academy by Pitsco Education. The new program incorporates nontraditional instruction, multimedia resources, cooperative student pairing, and hands-on Algebra Readiness and Algebra I activities designed to reinforce cognitive learning through psychomotor reinforcement. Individualized Prescriptive Lessons are used to evaluate and address student competencies and needs, and whole-class Culminating Group Activities led by the teacher tie grade-level math concepts and curricula together.

Algebra Academy teacher Rosie McCabe characterizes the Santa Ana Unified School District as very forward looking. “We offer music, drama, and fine arts, but we have also embraced technology with smart classrooms and some of the largest academic technology initiatives West of the Mississippi.” The school features a number of innovative offerings including a popular woodshop, a MESA (Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement) elective, and the RST (Rocket Science Tutors) after-school program. The Sierra Prep Algebra Academy by Pitsco Education – created with a hands-on, high-relevance philosophy in mind – was seen as a perfect match for the school.

McCabe says that the school is “embracing the Common Core standards to prepare students to be college and career ready and to assume their role as part of the global citizenry.” This, she explains, is the expectation to which the district is holding the Sierra Prep Algebra Academy from Pitsco Education.
Jane Kleinschmidt, Math TOSA (Teacher on Special Assignment) and close collaborator with McCabe, expresses very similar sentiments. As she sees it, there were two big reasons to favor the Pitsco solutions. “First, with the Common Core standards coming down the pike, we knew that we needed a revamp of our algebra program to make it a more real-world, hands-on experience for our students. . . . Secondly, and most important to the kids, is an engaging, fun, collaborative, and challenging atmosphere where they perceive the course not as a class they have to pass, but as preparation for higher education and life beyond that!”

The stakes for success are high. As Bishop explains, “The data suggests that without a strong foundation in Algebra, students find it extremely hard to master the rigor of higher-level math in high school or college.”

That is why the confidence of Bishop, his teachers, and his fellow officials means so much. “Our goal is to become what I refer to as an ‘earned authority’ in the area of student success in Algebra – carving a new path to Algebra student success. We now feel that our Algebra Academy is on a new pathway to becoming what Algebra instruction should look like in the 21st century.”

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