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Posted: 06/12/13

RCS taking steps to
improve math scores

Observer Staff Writer
      Romeo administrators have figured out that more software plus more hours equals better math scores.
       Eric Whitney, assistant superintendent, informed the Board of Education on June 3 of a number of initiatives taken to improve math curriculum and test scores.
       Whitney said math has been a tough subject for Romeo students in the past, as seen with Michigan Educational Assessment Program (MEAP) test scores showing only 26 percent of third-grade students proficient in 2011.
       "We looked at our student achievement in math and I think we are concerned about that," he said.
       Whitney said something had to be done to strengthen the curriculum, and within the last year the district implemented a number of changes to improve learning. For instance, he said instructional time for elementary math was increased to 60 minutes a day for every classroom.
       "We were finding that it would be any range of time, and we never specified that in Romeo," he said.
       The district has also used IXL Math, an online math program, to bolster instruction in elementary, middle school and academic support classes. Whitney said the program could be used at the high school level, and will play a larger role as the district's technology bond rolls out.
       For struggling students, he said buildings have used Title I funds to provide assistance with math specialists, while summer school program offerings have expanded into math.
       Proficiency on the most recent MEAP test show the changes are working, with an increase of at least 4 percent in every grade level. The most significant jump was in third grade math, where 26 percent of students were proficient in 2011 but jumped to 43 percent in 2012.
       In following the same group of students, 2011's third-graders were 40 percent proficient as fourth-graders in 2012.
       However, when the averages are compared to the state percentages, only five out of seven assessed areas are above Michigan's averages. Similarly, only five out of seven are above the county average for Macomb County.
       Whitney admitted that having 30 or 40 percent of students proficient in math isn't "exciting" and requires continued improvement to increase that number.
       "I'm very happy that we're moving in the right direction, but we've done a lot this year that wasn't really reflected on those tests that will be very telling in the fall of 2013," he said.
       He said assessments created by teachers that align with common core curriculum will be used, with data from them beginning to come in for analysis.
       The changes to math curriculum also reflect how the subject is taught differently in today's classroom. Whitney said students are encouraged to explain their answers as opposed to memorizing formulas and processes.
       "The demands of our students in math are really changing to problem solving to figure out lots of different ways to approach a problem instead of just memorizing the one process," he said.

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