Resourceful math teacher tackles low proficiency rates

Ever since Erica Hogan got a glimpse of students working at their own pace through Renaissance Accelerated Math® as a student teacher years ago, she had longed to use the program in her own third-grade classroom. She got her chance last fall when her school, Bartley Elementary in Fulton, Missouri—already a user of Renaissance Accelerated Reader® and Renaissance Star Reading®—implemented Accelerated Math and Renaissance Star Math® to provide individualized math practice and concept reinforcement.

According to my findings, a class average of about 20 minutes a day with Accelerated Math should put about 90 percent of the class above the 50th percentile rank. It clearly showed that adding this program and using it with fidelity really can help.

Erica Hogan | Third-Grade Teacher | Bartley Elementary

Hogan took that opportunity and ran with it, says Bartley Principal Connie Epperson. Intent on overcoming disappointment in her grade level’s math achievement on the Missouri Assessment Program (MAP) in 2013, Hogan challenged herself to make a difference in the level of instruction she provided, using Accelerated Math to identify areas of struggle and offer small-group instruction to build their understanding.

“Through this process, Miss Hogan was able to successfully intervene for students in need of additional support and provide enrichment to those who had mastered the necessary grade-level skills,” Epperson said.

Results and confidence in the first year

In 2014, 86 percent of Hogan’s students scored proficient or advanced on the MAP test, compared to just 42 percent the year before. At a third-grade level, 78 percent were proficient or advanced, fifty percentile points higher than the previous year.

“For the first time ever, I felt confident that I knew where every student was and could easily project what each would get on the MAP test because of Accelerated Math and Star Math performance,” Hogan said. “I’d had open, one-on-one conversations all year with kids on their percentage accuracy and overall percentage in Accelerated Math, as well as where they were scoring compared to state standards. They know the reports as well as I do.”

More engaged time, more growth

Hogan’s experiences with AM inspired her active research data analysis for her recent educational specialist degree in curriculum leadership. She explored the correlation between average engaged minutes with Accelerated Math per week by class and class average percentile ranks as measured by the Star Math assessment.

“According to my findings, a class average of about 20 minutes a day with Accelerated Math should put about 90 percent of the class above the 50th percentile rank,” said Hogan, whose own students had the highest average of student engagement time with Accelerated Math at 21 minutes daily. “It clearly showed that adding this program and using it with fidelity really can help.”

Epperson agrees, adding, “I truly believe math improvements can primarily be attributed to our introduction and use of Accelerated Math. No other substantial changes can be attributed to our success from last year.”

A data community culture

As a professional learning community (PLC) that relies heavily on data to drive instruction, Bartley also looks to Star Reading and Star Math to help gauge students’ proficiency levels and form intervention groups. In biweekly grade-level data team meetings they identify specific standards needing extra lessons. Epperson said the varied and extensive reports through Star Reading and Star Math are a bonus, as they allow for a quick glance at student performance as well as deeper interpretation of student results.

The PLC culture includes monthly professional development days, where Hogan presented her research findings on Accelerated Math and tips based on her success to a school that is still quite new to the program. One of those tips was to pair up classes, which Hogan did with kindergarten teachers last year. There was an initial concern that their young students wouldn’t be able to use computers for Accelerated Math.

“My students taught their students while I showed teachers how to assign objectives and generate exercises and tests,” Hogan said. “I’ve always had success with peer-to-peer collaboration in my classroom.”

Teachers asking for help, helping each other

Hogan says she is no Accelerated Math expert, especially given that the current online version is so different from the paper/pencil version she used as a student teacher, but she loves to “jump in” and isn’t afraid to ask for help—both from the students who are learning with her, and from Renaissance's Live Chat support. “I tell everyone here to use Live Chat because it was my best friend starting out, Hogan said. “They were always so quick and helpful.”

But Hogan is also happy to be an ever-available resource. She helps her colleagues understand and find the most valuable reports and brainstorm ideas, such as how to rotate students so everyone gets more time with Accelerated Math. This is especially important for classes that don’t yet have the 1:1 technology available in grades three through five—something that Hogan feels has been critical to her students’ success. She also recommends teachers keep a computer on hand during small-group Accelerated Math work in order to simultaneously move other students in the room forward with new assignments and objectives.

Brainstorming and collaboration are central to Bartley’s mission of “We are one,” and Hogan said this strong team culture has really taken root to drive the school’s success.

It’s like a speaker said at a recent conference: Culture trumps strategy,’” Hogan said. “We’re there! No matter what challenges and opportunities come, we can take it on and learn from each other.”

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