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

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Implementation Story

MATH Thematics

Kirkwood School District, MO

 

This district, chartered in 1865, is the oldest in St. Louis County and one of the oldest west of the Mississippi River. Located in southwest St. Louis County approximately 15 miles from the city of St. Louis, Kirkwood School District covers an area of 15 square miles and serves all or portions of eight suburban communities. The majority of students come from upper middle class families Eligible students from the city of St. Louis, through participation in the St. Louis Voluntary Transfer Program, are also students. The community may be described as a close-knit community.

The district has five elementary schools, two middle schools (North Kirkwood Middle School and Nipher Middle School), and one high school. The 2003-2004 student enrollment was 5,101, including 629 voluntary transfer students of which 1250 were middle school students.

Background of the Implementation

As part of the 1994-1997 M3 project (Missouri Middle School Mathematics) the district tried all of the NSF funded curricula, choosing MATH Thematics because they considered it a complete program. The district found the following aspects especially important: the way it is integrated with science, language arts; the richness of the problem solving activities; and the fact that student self-assessment is a component of the program.

Adoption Process

In 1995, Kirkwood district piloted units from Math Thematics and other curricula. They chose Math Thematics and that year all sixth graders were using Math Thematics. During the next two years, an additional grade was implemented leading to full implementation of the curriculum in the 1997-98 school year.

An extensive teacher preparation program was key to the success of the implementation process. Teachers worked with test pilot materials at the beginning. The richness of the problems and the way it got students to think was what really turned their teachers on. A grant received by the district in July 1996 allowed them to devote more resources to teacher in-service development. Monthly meetings were held. There was training for the teachers from the summer of 1996 and continuing throughout the 1996-97 school year.

By the time the curriculum was fully implemented, the teachers had gained enough experience with it, through piloting the materials and collaborative discussions on the implementation process, along with other professional development activities, to determine that the curriculum worked really well for their students.

The following table summarizes the adoption process:

 

1995-1996

1996-1997

1997-1998

6th Grade

All classes used MATH Thematics

All classes used MATH Thematics

All classes used MATH Thematics

7th Grade

 

All classes used MATH Thematics

All classes used MATH Thematics

8th Grade

   

All classes used MATH Thematics except for Algebra I course

Note: Not all eighth-graders use Math Thematics. Some of them take an Algebra I class.

In the 2003-04 school year, 10 students received accelerated math instruction, including 6 that go to the high school for math classes. About half of eighth-graders enroll in the Algebra I course.

Keys to Success

  • Implementing the program step by step. It is a very difficult thing to just start with all three grades, kids need to get used to it.
  • Involving the parents. That is part of the adoption process. The district has a Parent Advisory Committee. Communication with the parents was constant. Several presentations to the school board were made, explaining thoroughly what the teachers were doing.
  • Giving tremendous amounts of ongoing assistance for teachers. The biggest predictor of success of the students is the teacher. Assisting teachers on a regular basis.

Obstacles

  • It took a lot of time and effort to convince the parents that the teachers were not experimenting with their children. The field test materials didn't look like what they were used to. They looked like reading books and parents were concerned. After some parent-teacher meetings in which the teachers did some lessons with the parents, they talked about how the mathematics book may look different and the rationale for it. Parents were willing and did play an important role in the implementation process
  • The reading level expectation of the materials had an impact on students. The issue that had to be addressed was that materials required a lot of reading and some students were not very good readers. During the pilot stage, the computation scores went down, and this concerned the parents. Now they are getting better scores.
  • Homogeneous groups may create additional challenges. The teachers have to be prepared to deal with this situation. As an example, if a classroom has a concentration of students with behavior problems, working in groups, as expected by the curriculum, becomes more challenging.

Student Achievement

This curriculum makes a big difference in the way kids perceive themselves. They get excited about doing mathematics. The results for the low-ability students has been very good. MATH Thematics has really bought them into mathematics.

In 1997, a new state mandated test, the Missouri Assessment Program (MAP) was implemented.

MAP Math Scores-% of students scoring in the top two levels

1997-1998 1998-1999 1999-2000 2000-2001 2001-2002 2002-2003
Grade District State District State District State District State District State District State
8 23 13 18 10 23 14 22 15 27 14 20 14

MAP Math Scores-% of students scoring in the bottom two levels

1997-1998 1998-1999 1999-2000 2000-2001 2001-2002 2002-2003
Grade District State District State District State District State District State District State
8 42 60 46 61 42 57 43 54 33 55 42 51


Grade 6 Terra nova
Percent of Students in Top Two Quartiles ( > 50% )
  1999 2000 2001 2002 2003
District 78.2 75 68.8 73.3 70.5
Nipher 73.1 69.4 70.7 69.8 66.5
NKMS 82.8 80.2 61.8 77.3 75.3


Grade 7 Terra nova
Percent of Students in Top Two Quartiles ( > 50% )
  1999 2000 2001 2002 2003
District 73.9 76.3 77.4 67.8 77.8
Nipher 74.5 74.5 72.1 64.2 75.2
NKMS 73.4 77.6 81.9 71.9 80.3

 

The Show Me Center is indebted to Ms. Carol Sipes, Math Facilitator of the Kirkwood School District for assistance in developing this story.