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Posted: 06/25/14

MATH SUPPORT. Above, elementary students in Romeo Community Schools received the eSpark program on their iPad Airs as a supplement to their math education. Assistant Superintendent Eric Whitney said the district is showing small increases in math, but to improve those scores, has adopted new curriculum known as EngageNY that aligns with Common Core. He said data from eSpark would be available this week to see if it is improving learning for students.

(Observer photo by Chris Gray)

RCS continues efforts to
improve math scores

Observer Staff Writer
      New data of elementary students at Romeo Community Schools shows mixed results on their comprehension of mathematics.
       The Board of Education received an update during its June 16 meeting on how the district is working to improve math scores.
       Math became an area of focus following the latest Michigan Educational Assessment Program (MEAP) exam results, which showed sixth-grade math dropping from 52 percent proficient to 35 percent. Fifth-grade math dropped from 39 percent to 28 percent.
       With both proficiencies and fourth-grade math below Macomb County's average proficiency, the district began researching how to improve scores.
       Assistant Superintendent Eric Whitney provided data from easyCBM benchmark testing, which the district has used for two years. Screening is done at the elementary level for literacy and mathematics three times a year for the results.
       He said the end-of-the-year results show how many students met benchmarks set by the University of Oregon for math in their grade levels. For instance 42 percent of the 2013 kindergarten students met the standards, while in 2014 it increased to 66 percent.
       The problem area of fifth-grade math was shown at 58 percent proficient in 2013. This year's fifth-grade students were 61 percent proficient.
       First-grade rose from 58 percent to 67 percent in 2014. Second-grade math climbed from 53 percent to 62 percent and third-grade from 58 percent to 65 percent. Fourth-grade math inched up from 49 percent to 50 percent.
       "You can see grade-by-grade there are gains across the way," Whitney said. "We are looking at second grade and fourth grade as well."
       Fourth grade in particular saw decreases from year to year. When examining the same set of students, known as a cohort analysis, the class of 2022 was 58 percent in 2013 as third-graders, but dropped to 50 percent in 2014.
       The class of 2021 (fifth grade) was 49 percent in 2013, but in 2014 they went up to 61 percent.
       To improve math scores, the district adopted new math curriculum, EngageNY, in May, with a three-day training session held June 16-18. The program is reported to be in line with Common Core curriculum.
       "The strength of it is really that it is getting our teachers to think a little bit differently about math," Whitney said.
       Trustee Sara Murray said there is controversy surrounding Common Core and its applications, such as its standards possibly being less stringent than what states require.
       "I know that there are states that have pulled out and I just want to be sure we're keeping a close eye and we're not dumbing down our educational standards at all," she said.
       Whitney said the district hasn't simply adopted Common Core practices, but has instead provided incremental changes to curriculum.
       "We're ratcheting up that thinking process and that's what kids need in their careers now," he said.
       In addition to EngageNY, the school board approved of the third edition of Connected Math Projects in May. Whitney said the middle schools will implement the program for the upcoming school year, and training will continue throughout the year with help from the Macomb Intermediate School District.
       He said unit common assessments are in place for 2014-15 to track student progress more frequently. This data will be reviewed on a monthly basis by staff and administrators.
       The district also uses eSpark, an interactive program used by students on the iPad Airs. Whitney said the first four months of data would be reviewed on June 24 by administrators.
       "It hasn't been a long time, but we have some initial data we're going to see," he said.

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