Problem: In 2004, at-risk students at Lake Highlands Junior High School (LHJH) in the Richardson Independent School District (RISD), Texas, were falling behind mathematically, with none passing the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS). Performance by seventh- and eighth-graders on the TAKS needed improvement.
Additionally, a large district teacher turnover had increased the number of new teachers who lacked math-teaching experience.
Solution: In August 2005, a new math intervention was piloted at Lake Highlands Junior High for 125 students who had failing math scores on the 2005 TAKS. Of the eight teachers in the pilot program, four had an average of three years' experience, and four were new teachers who had taken an alternate teaching certification route.
Texas Instruments provided the technology, including the TI-Navigator Classroom Learning System and the TI-73 Explorer graphing calculators, training instructors and a program manager to oversee the project. LHJH instituted common weekly planning periods for teachers and IT staff and set assessment benchmarks.
Two very important needs were suggested, and both played a crucial role in the intervention process. Students were asked what they wanted out of a math class, and they said more time. Teachers were asked what they needed to be successful, and their answer was more math training.
Based on those suggestions-plus district needs and data-LHJH and Texas Instruments developed key points to positively impact math performance. They doubled instruction time from 50 to 100 minutes on a daily basis, integrated Texas Instrument's technology, used common aligned assessment, accelerated the curriculum, and set high student expectations.
Teachers learned how to integrate the TI-Navigator system's real-time feedback into their teaching and to instantly assess student understanding. Because they could quickly see whether students understood a concept, they knew when they could move forward, or if additional teaching was needed. Participation increased, which led to in-depth student explanations, where students planned how to solve problems. "I've actually seen the achievement gap closing," says Kristen San Juan, the Texas Instrument's math block program specialist, "and this has taught me that every student is capable of learning."
Based on initial benchmarks, the mid-year review showed LHJH students were enjoying math more than in previous years and that students were more motivated.
Over 30 percent of the students who participated in the intervention passed the 2006 TAKS after failing the previous year.
At the end of 2006, LHJH increased its district rankings from seventh to second for seventh-graders and from seventh to fifth for eighth-graders.
According to RISD Deputy Superintendent Patti Keiker, Texas Instruments and RISD have teamed up and implemented a successful math program. The pilot program's success has expanded this year to include a more heterogeneous, mixed-ability group of over 700 students and more than 20 teachers at five other district junior high schools. RISD has purchased over $60,000 worth of technology for the implementation, and Texas Instruments will continue to deliver professional development. RISD is hoping that the project will continue to show positive results, allowing the district to complete its plan to include all eight junior high schools in the district.
Ken Royal is associate editor.