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Districts with experience using standards-based middle school mathematics curricula share their implementation stories.

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Implementation Story

Mathematics in Context

Ames, Iowa

 

Ames, Iowa is a city of about 50,000 and is the home of Iowa State University. It is located near the geographical center of the state. The Ames Community School District has about 5,000 students in nine elementary schools, one middle school, and one high school. There are 350 to 400 students per grade level in the public schools.

Implementation

The school district appointed a design team in 1990 to study current research and develop a philosophy and vision for mathematics education in Ames. There was a feeling that mathematics could be taught in better ways and the school district wanted to provide students with the best possible education. In 1991, outside consultants helped the design team establish a focus for change and during the next two years study teams reviewed ways of undertaking educational changes and implementing various instructional practices. Then from 1993 to 1995, Ames, Iowa was a field test site for Mathematics in Context (MiC). The district formally adopted MiC as its curriculum for grades 5 through 8 in 1995. In grades 5, 6 and 7 almost all students except those in special education classes are now using the MiC materials. In the eighth grade, some students study the MiC materials and some take algebra.

Measuring Success

The Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS) is a multiple choice mathematics test used by a number of school districts in the nation. Currently, the school district in Ames, IA only gives the ITBS to students in odd-numbered grade levels. Table 1 below gives the 5th grade ITBS results for 1993-99 and Table 2 gives the corresponding results for grade 7. Table 3 gives the percentage of Ames 7th graders at or above the proficient level on the ITBS, while Table 4 shows the number of students scoring in the given percentiles.

Table 1
Grade 5
Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS)
National Percentile Ranking Score Reported as a District Average

 

1993-94

1994-95

1995-96

1996-97

1997-98

1998-99

Mathematical Concepts

84

78

92

90

91

96

Problem Solving

93

87

97

94

97

99

Math Total

90

88

96

96

96

99

Computation

59

40

78

70

78

78



Table 2
Grade 7
Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS)
National Percentile Ranking Score Reported as a District Average

 

1993-94

1994-95

1995-96

1996-97

1997-98

1998-99

Mathematical Concepts

86

86

89

90

92

93

Problem Solving

97

95

98

94

98

98

Math Total

94

92

96

92

97

97

Computation

77

36

77

72

80

79



Table 3
Grade 7 ITBS Mathematics Trends.

Year

% of Students Proficient
(at or above 41st national percentile)

1999

87%

2000

86%

2001

86%



Table 4
Grade 7 ITBS Mathematics Total. (2001)

National percentile Rank # of Students % of Students
1 - 40 52 14%
41 - 89 201 54%
90 - 99 119 32%


Until 1997, the ITBS was the only external assessment used to measure student achievement. While the ITBS continues to be used the district began to use the New Standards Reference Exam (NSRE) in 1997 to provide a deeper look at students’ conceptual understanding and problem solving ability, district goals that were not being adequately assessed by the ITBS.

The New Standards Reference Exam (NSRE) is designed to show student achievement in mathematics in three areas: skills, concepts, and problem solving. Unlike the ITBS which consists of multiple choice items, the NSRE exam is made up of constructed response items. Results for the NSRE are reported in five achievement levels: little evidence of achievement, below standard, nearly achieved standard, achieved standard, and achieved standard with honors.

The following table shows the percentage of grade 8 students in 1996-97, 1997-98, and 1998-99 achieving the standard or achieving the standard with honors as compared to the percentages for the U.S.

Table 5
Grade 8
New Standards Reference Exam (NSRE)
Percentage of Grade 8 students achieving
standard or standard with honors

 

1996-97

1997-98

1998-99

Skills

79%

79%

87% (33%)

Concepts

57%

56%

70% (20%)

Problem Solving

50%

51%

61% (11%)

Numbers in parentheses are the percentage of U. S. students achieving standard or standard with honors in 1998-99.

 

When comparing the same year results from the NSRE to that of the ITBS, it is worth noting that the scores report two different measures of achievement. The ITBS score given is the mean of National Percentage Rankings for all students in the reported cohort. These normative rankings are developed from a national sample of students previously tested by the ITBS developers. The NSRE score is the percentage of students in the reported cohort achieving a particular standard.

 

Lessons Learned

  • It is important to make sure teachers have a firm understanding of the NCTM Standards ahead of time. There was some professional development stressing the Standards and how to present materials using them, but it would have been helpful to have more such development. This curriculum is written according to the Standards and teachers need a good understanding of them in order to give the best possible instruction with these materials.
  • It is important to continue to communicate with parents and others in the community. Of course, it is particularly important to let people know how things are progressing in the first year or two. However, the need for communication is ongoing and should not be ignored. Among other things, it is helpful to have parents come to meetings and go over some of the materials so they have a better understanding of the depth and value of the MiC curriculum.

Acknowledgement: The Showme Center is indebted to Jean Krusi and Tony VanderZyl of the Ames, IA public school system for assistance in developing this story.