JENNIFER JACKSON’S PORT TOWNSEND NEIGHBOR COLUMN: Pilot program aims to raise math scores in Washington state

FIVE YEARS AGO, Mark Barga, principal of Chimacum Creek Elementary School, came to Gay Eisenberger and the Port Townsend American Association of University Women (AAUW) with a request to help reduce the high school dropout rate by addressing one of the risk factors: students who can’t read at grade level by the end of third grade.

Led by Eisenberger and Macy Galbreath, a cadre of two dozen AUUW members mobilized to provide twice-weekly phonics tutoring sessions for kindergarten students.

The goal: to give each student the basic reading skills needed to succeed in school by providing instruction and feedback in small groups.

Last year’s testing was typical of the results: By the end of the school year, 30 percent of Chimacum Creek kindergarten students had met benchmarks for identifying letters, sounds and word units.

More impressively, another 50 percent to 60 percent had exceeded the benchmarks.

AAUW takes on math

Now, the AAUW is taking on math.

Called the Math Competency Demonstration Project, the pilot program was launched earlier this year to address the fact that in 2010, less than half of the 162 third-grade students in Port Townsend and Chimacum public schools met the grade-level standard on the state Measurement of Student Progress.

“A group of us in AAUW spent last year gathering information about education in Jefferson County through school visits and reading,” Eisenberger said. “We were concerned about the low math achievement of third-graders in Chimacum and Port Townsend schools.”

So Eisenberger and Mary Weeding, another AAUW member, decided to adapt the concept used in the phonics model — working with students in small groups — and added another component: ALEKS, an interactive computer learning program that allows each student to proceed at his or her own pace. The 14-session pilot project, held at Chimacum schools, wound up last week.

“It’s awesome,” said Ian Inman, 8, as he worked on identifying congruent shapes on the computer screen. “I like doing geometry.”

ALEKS is not new; Title 1 has funded subscriptions for a dozen or more students each year for five years, according to Barb Greenwood of the schools’ Learning Assistance Program.

What is new: providing every third-grade student at Chimacum schools with ALEKS, which goes from third grade to college math.

Students work at school during the twice-weekly math lab time and also access their program from any computer 24/7, meaning they can work at home.

‘It engages them’

Fred Akins, who teaches third grade, said ALEKS definitely makes a difference.

“It’s more practice, and it’s another format, so it engages them,” Akins said.

“There is some choice, and it’s leveled instruction, which is different from what I do in class.”

The online math program is set up so that the students choose what area to work or be assessed on, starting with addition and subtraction and moving through multiplication and division to fractions, decimals and geometry.

When they hit something they don’t understand, an explanation is a click away.

The computer also will demonstrate how to solve a problem step by step, then provide a similar problem to practice on, Greenwood said.

The computer program also keeps track of the time each student spends and monitors progress, filling in a section of a pie-shaped graph when an area is mastered.

“It’s immediate feedback,” Greenwood said. “They’re really excited about it.

“It encourages them to work on it more.”

Teachers also can monitor progress, post their own quizzes and pull data to see what the students have learned and what standards have been met.

And when a new student comes in during the year, ALEKS tests at what level the student is and sets up instructions to go from there.

Cody Clark, like a number of Chimacum students, has completed the third-grade level and is working on fourth-grade math, Greenwood said.

“What’s wonderful about this program is it doesn’t hold back any student,” she said.

“They can excel at any level of their ability.”

After computer lab time, students meet in small groups for activities and games with an adult volunteer.

Eisenberger and Weeding led training for the volunteers and put together a packet of card games, puzzles, Sudoku-like squares and Bingo boards that require a knowledge of math.

With two tutoring programs going on at the same time, AAUW had to cast its net wider for volunteers, drawing in family and friends, including Don Givens, John Sroufe and David Weeding.

“Here’s another adult in their lives,” Akins said, watching his students interact with their group leaders.

Chimacum sixth-grade students also helped with the project: Jade Taylor, Cole Miller, Maya Taylor, Kelle Settje and Kayla Calhoun volunteered to work in the computer lab.

At the end of the pilot project, 7 Cedars Casino and bridge clubs donated decks of cards that students could take home, Mary Weeding said, along with rules for versions of “War” that are won by adding or multiplying the turned-up cards.

$1,652.50 grant

The University Women’s Foundation of Jefferson County, the fundraising arm of the Port Townsend AAUW, provided a $1,652.50 grant for the project.

The ALEKS Corporation donated 57 three-month subscriptions, enough with the 17 subscriptions the school already had to cover the entire third grade.

School districts normally pay $35 per student for a seven-month subscription, Greenwood said.

Follow-up tests are scheduled after spring break.

Then, the teachers and volunteers will evaluate the project and make recommendations concerning the adoption of a seven-month program, Eisenberger said.

The numbers that AUUW is shooting for: 80 percent of third-grade students meeting or exceeding the state standard for math by spring 2012.

________

Jennifer Jackson writes about Port Townsend and Jefferson County every Wednesday. To contact her with items for this column, phone 360-379-5688 or email jjackson@olypen.com.

More in News

Customers at the Nordland General Store on Marrowstone Island look over cards and other items during a weekend of activities to celebrate the re-opening of the store after it had been closed for six years due to a fire. (Steve Mullensky/for Peninsula Daily News)
Nordland General Store reopens with new model

Cooperative, board of directors leading operations of facility

Makah to cut ribbon on sawmill

Mill built in partnership with Port Angeles company

Elizabeth Resager of Bainbridge Island turns a sheep over so it is comfortable as she sheers its year-old woolen fleece, a highlight of the 41st Shepherd’s Festival at the Sequim Prairie Grange on Monday. The festival was half inside and half outside and included many vendors with sheep, goats, llamas and related products. (Dave Logan/for Peninsula Daily News)
Shepherd’s Festival

Elizabeth Resager of Bainbridge Island turns a sheep over so it is… Continue reading

Centrum awarded $45K grant from national endowment

Centrum has been approved for a Grants for Arts… Continue reading

Helen and Greg Starr, executors of James Minsky’s estate, cut the ribbon for LtCol James Minsky Place on May 17 with Cheri Tinker, executive director of Sarge’s Veteran Support, right, and Sarge’s board president Lorri Gilchrist, and city council members Harmony Rutter and Rachel Anderson. The facility will permanently house six disabled and/or elderly veterans in Sequim. (Matthew Nash/Olympic Peninsula News Group)
Minsky Place opens to support elderly, disabled veterans

Sarge’s Veteran Support seeks five veterans for permanent housing

Public comment opens on Dabob Bay

State, county look to move lands into conservation

Clallam renews pact with investigative unit

Agencies are currently investigating shooting outside PA bank

Motrocyclist airlifted to Harborview after wreck

A San Antonio man was airlifted to Harborview Medical Center… Continue reading

WomenSpirit Coalition staff members include, from left, Michelle Williams, Dee Koester, Diane Good (in back), Cheryl Neskahi Coan, Erin Lopez Neskahi and Laura Fierro. (Elijah Sussman/Olympic Peninsula News Group)
WomenSpirit Coalition steps into new phase

Multi-service indigenous support organization to host open house

Members of the Mount Olympus Detachment 897 of the Marine Corps League give a 21-gun salute at a Memorial Day ceremony at Mt. Angeles Memorial Park in Port Angeles on Monday. The ceremony was hosted by the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6787 of Carlsborg and was one of many Memorial Day events held in Clallam and Jefferson counties. (Peter Segall/Peninsula Daily News)
Solemn ceremonies honor America’s war dead

Flowers, wreaths decorate gravesites across Peninsula

Peninsula College, teachers agree on contract

Three-year deal to raise faculty salaries

Clallam County pledges $1.5 million toward preserving two farms

Commitment would provide conservation easement on properties