Tuesday, September 28, 2004
Consistently low student performance on state and district math assessments has South Routt School District officials searching for ways to improve the way math is taught and received.
For the past several years, the district's math test scores have fallen below state averages, a trend that reached a new low this summer in the latest round of Colorado Student Assessment Program tests, for which results showed Soroco students achieving less than their peers in the seventh, eighth, ninth and 10th grades. None of last year's 10th-graders tested proficient or advanced on the CSAP math test.
"We need to do a better job," Superintendent Steve Jones said. "It's not just CSAP."
The district also administers Measure of Academic Progress tests to its students. MAP math scores are low, too, Jones said.
"I think that we don't do as good a job with instruction in math as we do in reading and writing," he said, emphasizing that the main problem is with district programs, not personnel.
District students typically score well above state averages in reading and writing, and those scores have increased in recent years, possibly the result of increased literacy-based efforts. But math scores have not followed suit, something Jones attributes to a couple of factors. For one, he said, math is taught only by math teachers, but teachers in all subject areas provide reading and writing instruction.
"We only spend a small amount of time each day on math, and I think that's a huge issue," Jones said.
Increasing the amount of time students spend on math is a new district focus.
Soroco High School juniors and seniors have been given the opportunity to enroll in an online ACT/SAT math preparation class. Students can access the class at home and at school, and a tutor is available to enrolled students, Jones said.
For freshmen and sophomores, the district is offering a math support workshop that provides an additional class period for math instruction and assistance. At the middle school level, the district has implemented an additional 50-minute math block every other day, increasing the amount of time each student spends on math to an average of 75 minutes each day.
All students in seventh through 10th grades will be placed in a math monitoring system geared toward recording individual student progress throughout the year. Tutoring will be offered to students who need the extra help, Jones said.
Jones also thinks math success is hampered by the discomfort that many adults, including parents and nonmath teachers, have with the subject. Emphasizing the importance of math to the community and students is another step the district plans to take this year to boost student achievement.
"We have to let people know how important it is that these kids learn math," Jones said, adding that high school graduates who enter the work force uncomfortable with math decrease the careers available to them by about 50 percent.
On Thursday, the district is encouraging parents of all Soroco students to attend Math Night, a Parent-Teacher Organization-sponsored event that features Dr. Glenn Bruckhart of the Colorado Department of Education. Bruckhart will, among other things, discuss why math is important, how math instruction and testing has changed during the years, why math is for all students and what parents can do to help their students.
The event, which begins at 6 p.m. with a free dinner, includes complimentary baby-sitting. Math Night will be held in the district's boardroom, located behind the high school in the administration building.