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Four States Collaborate to Improve Test Scores

The Ohio Board of Regents is spearheading a $15 million, five-year project to improve middle school

The Ohio Board of Regents is spearheading a $15 million, five-year project to improve middle school reading and math scores. Called the Middle School Achievement through Technology-Rich Interventions, the project brings together partners in Ohio, California, Kansas and New Mexico to develop games, activities and learning resources for iPods, PDAs, video cameras and other mobile technologies.

Tim Best, project director for the Ohio Board of Regents, says that MATRIX will focus on rural and urban schools that are not making AYP. "This project is what the Bush administration is looking for--nontraditional partnerships," says Kitty Salinas, project director for the Alliance for Distance Education in California. "The five main partners are three universities and two nonprofits. All of us have a lot of involvement in public schools."

Some partners will create and share handheld curriculum units; others will conduct research and evaluation. The Advanced Learning Technologies in Education Consortia at the University of Kansas, for example, is developing a program to help struggling learners with math vocabulary. "We want to come up with ways for kids to interact with the vocabulary on a mobile device, to get them to manipulate the words in a context that's meaningful to them," says Marilyn Alt, director of ALTEC. Barbara Chamberlin is part of New Mexico State University's Cooperative Extension Service. Her group, which is working on interactive math games for the iPod, would like to take advantage of the video capabilities to reach different types of learners. "Part of what excites us is the sexy coolness that comes with the iPod, that 'gee whiz' factor that motivates kids," she says.

The final and perhaps most important piece of the project is research and evaluation. "We'll spend the first three years doing formative evaluation and the next two doing scientifically based research," says Sheila Cassidy, executive director of the Wexford Institute. Cassidy says she'll conduct lots of professional development about using emerging mobile technology and Web-based programs. Her group will then study how technology helps underperforming students and what it's like for the teachers to use all of this equipment. "During the first three years, our goal is to help people collect data and learn from it," says Cassidy, who wants to understand how mixes of technology can help kids in underperforming schools. "We expect to learn a lot, and with four different states' worth of kids to study, I think we will.",