Education Week and others have been reporting concerns that the new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) will no longer accept super subgroups in place of individual subgroups of students for accountability purposes.
Under the 2001 NCLB law, the federal government created a system that held all states accountable on two measures—the number of students who tested “proficient” in math and reading each year. However, the Department of Education authorized waivers that allowed states to lump some of their subgroups—like their 25% lowest-income students, students with special needs, and ELLs, for example—together into more broadly labeled categories such as “disadvantaged students.” These “super subgroups” enabled states to release more data about how their high-needs students were doing, since they now had larger sample sizes of students and could more easily avoid concerns about violating student privacy, but it also obscured performance of specific subsets within that larger group.
This change in reporting need not be a concern if schools and districts can only come to understand that under-performing students need to work on their individual skill gaps. Each student is unique. Although they can be assessed and the results reported in groups, they must receive individual instruction.
The Hechinger Report recently published an article describing the challenges many Elementary School teachers still face teaching Common Core math objectives. They conclude: “If the Common Core is to improve the math education of U.S. students as intended, experts agree that teachers who are meant to get students excited about math and become proficient in its basic concepts need more help and support.”
I concur. A recent study of pre-assessment results by Ascend Education shows that elementary students struggle with the new conceptual objectives more than any other objectives. More than 16% of grade 2 objectives are conceptual. However, data show that 30% of the grade 2 objectives that 5th graders least often understand are conceptual. These skill gaps follow them because a) they’re challenging for students and b) they are challenging for teachers to teach.
Elementary school teachers have so much on their plate. They need help providing appropriate instruction to students not understanding the new objectives. Support programs need to offer improved instruction for the conceptual objectives found in common core and other revised state standards. That’s why we added more than 60 new learning objectives written to the Common Core and rigorous state standards and updated many others.
A couple of weeks ago, a new analysis of reading and math test score data was released by Stanford CEPA (Center for Educational Policy Analysis). If you didn’t hear about it or get the chance to read the excellent New York Times article on the subject you really should.
The analysis confirms just how much socioeconomic conditions matter to academic achievement. Students (particularly minority students) from areas with the highest concentrations of poverty score an average of four grade levels below children in the richest districts. Far too often, students from poorer neighborhoods have math skill gaps two or more grade levels below their current grade.
I’ve said this before and will continue to say it. These students cannot successfully begin to compete with their peers without an individual study plan that focuses only on their skill gaps. Without a plan that guides them through their unique study path at each grade level they will continue to fall further and further behind.
According to the NY Times article, “The study found that by contrast, the communities with narrow achievement gaps tend to be those in which there are very few black or Hispanic children, or places like Detroit or Buffalo, where all students are so poor that minorities and whites perform equally badly on standardized tests.” Many rural areas are affected in the same way. But this simply means that the need for individual study is even more pronounced.
There is hope. Schools that use a product like Ascend Math to assess individual student skill gaps and guide each student to successfully complete their unique gaps at each grade level are seeing tremendous improvement. http://ascendmath.com/gold_2016.html
This year, Ascend Math is honoring 17 Gold Medal schools whose math intervention efforts have brought about a turnaround at their schools.
The Ascend Math Gold Medal Award was established in 2010 to honor the schools or districts that demonstrate a dedication to ensuring that all students become successful at math. The Gold Medal nominees all used Ascend Math for math intervention, enhancement or blended learning.
Educators at the seventeen Gold Medal schools demonstrated exceptional progress in helping students succeed in math. This is the strongest group of nominated schools we have seen yet. We are extremely proud of what these educators have accomplished this year.
Taylor County Elementary School, Taylor, FL, Worth County Elementary School, Sylvester, GA, Delta Middle School, Delta, OH, and Fair Park High School in Shreveport, LA were named the Gold Medal Leaders for 2016.
In addition, Bibb County Schools, Macon, GA was named the Gold Medal District of the Year. Allendale Association, Lake Villa, IL will receive the President’s Choice Award.
You can see all the Gold Medalist Schools and learn of their exceptional results at http://ascendmath.com/gold_2016.html.
Last week, the New York Times ran an article on Kahoot, an online quiz system from Norway being played in some schools. The article is well worth reading for its smart discussion of “engagement” and “gamification.”
These are two subjects near and dear to my heart. The article, by NY Times reporter Natasha Singer, also made mention of Ascend Math.
“Readers who attended school in the pre-laptop era may have played classroom games like multiplication bingo, an offline exercise in which students win acclaim or prizes for being the quickest to remember their times tables. Today, students may use Ascend Math, a learning app that rewards students who complete a level by letting them play short video games.”
NY Times, April 16, 2016 http://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/17/technology/kahoot-app-brings-urgency-of-a-quiz-show-to-the-classroom.html?_r=
Those of you who have been reading my blog posts are likely aware of Base Camp, the newest addition to Ascend Math. Ascend Math Base Camp is a virtual world offering inventive games and activities. It was created in response to teachers who told us that their students wanted an occasional fun break from the lessons in Ascend Math. An evolving formula built into Ascend, including time on task and the passing of assessments, units, and levels determines when students can access Base Camp. Students understand quickly that they must earn their time in Base Camp. Time in Base Camp is held to three minute intervals so as not to detract from time needed learning in Ascend.
Base Camp does fit the mold of gamification but it is held in reserve as a reward for student’s hard work and progress in filling math skill gaps. Gamification is not necessary to achieve student engagement.
In a world of Kahoots and cartoon learning software it can be easy to get confused. While games can be engaging, what is important is to make actual measurable learning engaging as well. Making lessons interactive and providing a hands-on understanding of a given objective can and does make learning math engaging. Games can be like a little treat after a good meal, but it’s the learning that provides the nourishment they need.
This week we will devote the blog to math problems celebrating Earth Day, Friday April 22. For starters, here are a couple of our favorites:
If each person uses an average of 700 pounds of paper products per year, how many pounds of paper does your family use a year? Your class?
Americans buy 29 billion bottles of water a year, more than any other nation. It takes 17 million barrels of crude oil to make this many plastic water bottles. How many billion bottles can be manufactured from one barrel of crude oil?
Extra Credit: If Americans only bought 10 billion bottles next year how many barrels of oil would that take?
In just a few weeks we will reveal the 2016 Ascend Math Gold Medalist Schools. So far, six schools have been added to these honorary ranks. Math Intervention students at all six have made amazing progress this year. The nominated schools thus far include:
Long Beach Elementary School, Montgomery, IL
Oneida Elementary School, Oneida, TN
Giddings Elementary School, Giddings, TX
Desert Edge High School, Goodyear, AZ
Delta Middle School, Delta, OH
Mountain Ridge Junior High, Highland, UT
Nominations will continue to be accepted over the next three weeks.
In past articles I’ve written “Interactive engagement, not entertainment, is at the core of a computer game’s ability to motivate. Finding ways to make math more interactive and more engaging is the key to making math software better as well.”
When students play a game they expect to face a struggle of some kind at which they may need to try multiple times before succeeding. In an app or mobile game this is sometimes referred to as “the grind.” At the end a reward is expected. They level up, acquire a new tool or coins in which to purchase something of value to them.
Having monitored students using Ascend Math, it is clear to me that students are more willing to accept the math grind, if like their games, they see an appropriate reward. Intrinsically, success measured by moving up in levels in math is its own strong reward. Providing virtual badges and tokens commemorating the success is consistent with gaming but also supports the intrinsic reward in learning.
The addition of extrinsic motivation at the time of success can add further incentive. Base Camp is a virtual world with fun games and activities added to Ascend Math this school year. After spending time on task in Ascend and successfully completing post-assessments a student gains access to explore Base Camp for three minute increments. In Base Camp they can visit the Treasure Room containing the honors and accomplishments they’ve earned in the Ascend Math program. They can also spend the three minutes playing games like Hungry Bears that require logical thinking and an understanding of geometry.
Since the launch of Base Camp, students are more active than ever this year in Ascend Math. Their usage, gains and growth have all increased completing more objectives and moving up additional grade levels.
Don’t Call Them for Travelling
This week, four teams will travel to Houston, TX to play in the Final Four of the NCAA National Championship. Oklahoma is the closest and will fly just 432 miles. Syracuse is the furthest away and will fly 1439 miles. How many more miles will the Syracuse players be flying?
If there planes cover the distance at an average speed of 320 miles per hour how long will it take each team to arrive?
Final 4 X 19
North Carolina has been in the Final Four more often than any other team, 19 times. In fact, the other three teams combined do not have as many appearances. The tournament has been played consistently since 1939, 77 years. What is the percentage of times North Carolina has been in the Final Four?
Defense or Offensive?
Both the Oklahoma Sooners and the Villanova Wildcats beat the number three and number one seeds in their divisions to make it the Final Four. Use the scores below to determine which team held their opponents to the lowest combined score. Which team put up the highest overall offensive score?
Oklahoma won 77-63 and 80-68
Villanova won 92-69 and 64-59