A formula for achievement in mathematics education
Two years ago, when it became clear that their previous curricula for grades 6 through 8 did not align with required math standards, school leaders at Berwick Alternative K-8 School in Columbus, Ohio, began looking for a replacement. Berwick has 700 students, 60 percent of whom qualify for free or reduced-price lunch.
Keith Emrick, a sixth-grade math teacher at Berwick, was among the first to use Glencoe Math from McGraw-Hill Education in the classroom. During the 2013-14 school year, Emrick saw a 24 percent increase in student achievement. The next school year, Glencoe Math was purchased for the entire middle school.
Glencoe Math is a robust middle school math program designed to engage students and to develop their critical-thinking ability. It is interactive, highly customizable, and incorporates the latest standards on a blend of print and digital platforms. In the 2015-16 school year the school purchased ALEKS, another McGraw-Hill Education product, and teachers began using Glencoe Math and ALEKS together. ALEKS delivers a personalized learning path for each student. This robust digital-learning program adapts to each student’s level by delivering periodic assessments that determine what each student is most ready to learn.
Over the last few years, Emrick has created his own formula for using Glencoe Math and ALEKS together in the classroom.
“I usually put the Glencoe Math lesson on a projector and go through it with the kids,” says Emrick. “Then I have them work in their student textbooks. I stress that they need to follow everything we do in class with ALEKS. This year, their only homework is ALEKS.”
Once students complete their homework on ALEKS, Emrick pulls data to see how well they did. This allows him to monitor progress and adjust his lessons as needed. It is generally recommended that ALEKS be used a minimum of two hours per week to achieve significant learning outcomes.
“I tell my students, ‘Anything you haven’t mastered, you should be doing on ALEKS when you are not in class,’” says Emrick. “They have eight topics per week to master, and they do it. I don’t have many students emailing me with questions, because they are really engaged by the explanations in ALEKS. It gets them to practice.”
Thanks to the combination of Glencoe Math and ALEKS, Emrick says he is getting accustomed to success stories.
“We’ve really seen our largest growth in math in the last year,” says Emrick. “It’s become a competition with students to show the topics they’ve mastered.”
He notes that several of his current sixth-grade students are already working on seventh-grade curriculum. He adds that some seventh-graders are taking the eighth-grade curriculum, and some eighth-graders are taking high school math.
For the foreseeable future, Berwick will continue to use the combination of Glencoe Math and ALEKS.
“The students love it because they feel confident in what they know, and the parents love it because they know we are on top of it,” says Emrick. “We never have to say, ‘We tried this, and we tried that, and it just isn’t working.’ We can see where students are, and we know exactly which skills are lacking and need to be addressed.”