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School Board discusses Comprehensive Math Plan

By Staff | Oct 24, 2012

The Lee County School Board discussed the Comprehensive Math Plan during its briefing meeting Tuesday afternoon. The plan has to be fully implemented by the 2014-2015 school year.

Dr. Constance Jones, chief academic officer, said the district is not happy with its math scores.

“With new assessments we are determined to get scores up and close the achievement gap,” she said, which includes curriculum as well as a transition to common core standards.

Board member Thomas Scott asked if there has been a turnover in math teachers to cause the dip in test scores.

“It is critically important that we have the right people in there that are passionate,” he said about mathematics teachers.

Scott said they should look into having an intensive recruitment process to find passionate individuals in the subject area of mathematics.

Jones said they we will work on the turnover data, as well as how long that teacher taught in the district.

Board member Jeanie Dozier said the data should also be broken down by grade level. She said once you get into the higher grade levels – 6th-12th grade – it should be broken down into subject matter specifics.

The vision of the Comprehensive Math Plan is to provide “quality teaching and learning in mathematics” and the mission is to “support teachers with the implementation of the mathematical practices.”

The ultimate goal of the Comprehensive Math Plan is to increase student achievement by decreasing the achievement gap.

In order to achieve the overall goal, Jones said they have to make sure the district is above the state average in FCAT 2.0 math scores grades 3-8, as well as having the district’s Algebra 1 and geometry EOCs above the state average. She said the district must also exceed the annual measurable objective growth targets.

“The ultimate goal is to be the first in the state,” Jones said.

The state has provided the district a plan that will help it transition into common core standards by 2014-2015. She said the district began implementing the plan last year.

One of the transitions includes teaching mathematics through literacy.

“Knowing how to read is critically important,” Jones said.

The transition includes vocabulary development for academics and math specific language, she said, because it will provide a better understanding of math problems. Reading and writing to develop and enhance understanding of math concepts is also included, as well as enhancing questioning skills through high-quality questions and critical thinking and problem solving questions of the real world.

Elementary Math Coordinator Sharon Vandeventer said there are six major shifts in instruction, which includes focus, coherence, fluency, deep understanding, application and intensity.

“We want to teach standards at a greater depth,” she said.

Vandeventer said coherence is important because it is the connections between grade levels.

She said there needs to be more problem solving going on within the classrooms once the skills are mastered.

“The most important part of the new standard and the most difficult to change in the classroom are the mathematics standards,” Vandeventer said.

She said once students go through elementary, middle and high school, they should be proficient in math once they graduate.

“They have to learn perseverance,” Vandeventer said. “It is a massive undertaking to change the look of our classroom.”

Vandeventer said there should be a minimum of 60 minutes of mathematic instruction in every elementary classroom daily.

“You cannot successfully teach mathematics without at least 60 minutes a day,” she said, adding that 30-40 percent of that time should be spent on problem solving.

Vandeventer said they are trying to get as much as they can into the academic plan, so they can provide easy access for the teachers to implement in their classroom.

She said the district has provided math coaches for five focus schools, as well as providing support for all schools with professional development on Common Core standards.

Fourth grade students are currently being targeted because their math scores are slightly below average.

Secondary Mathematics Coordinator Jim Propert said there are major changes taking place at the middle school level, due to moving all 8th grade students into Algebra 1 over the next few years. He said they are beginning that transition this year with the 6th grade class.

Propert said most of the students will be in Algebra 1 in their 8th grade year, which improves the success rate in continuing education after high school.

“Not all students will be able to meet these requirements,” he said, so they will continue to keep double block programs in place.

Propert said AGILE MIND will provide additional resources to help develop the skills that are needed for Algebra 1. He said the program provides more wordy type problems, which will give the student a good variety throughout the school year. These questions, Propert said, are providing a different way for the students to learn, which will enhance their ability to pass.

Propert said students learn the most within the first 15 minutes of class.

An Algebra Fantasy League was also created last year to provide students with additional practice. He said the league provides 15 questions per week – 10 practice and five quiz questions – which are not problems the students will be getting in their lesson that day.

This provides the students with the ability to take the skills they have already been taught and apply them so they will not forget them.

There is also a Fantasy League for geometry.

The Comprehensive Math Plan also includes a parental involvement portion that provides them with training options. Propert said it provides parents with the resources and tools to mentor the student’s progress.