Magnolia School District, Arkansas
The Magnolia School District covers 290 square miles in Columbia County in southwest Arkansas and has an enrollment of approximately 3,000 students. The median income in the county is $26,826 and 30.7% of the children are below poverty level. Fifty-three percent of the student population is enrolled in the free and reduced lunch program.
Magnolia Public Schools has five campuses. Kindergarten is housed separately at West Side Elementary. Grades 1 through 3 attend East Side Elementary. Central Elementary School includes grades 4 through 6. The junior high houses grades 7 through 9 and the high school campus houses grades 10 through 12.
Teachers are departmentalized beginning in grade 5. In 6th grade there are five teachers who teach mathematics and science. As a result of teaming at the junior high, there are two mathematics teachers in grades 7 and 8.
In 1998 a core group of Magnolia Public Schools' faculty attended a state-sponsored leadership academy for the purpose of considering a mathematics curriculum revision. Following the retreat, the group recommended that a standards-based mathematics curriculum be adopted. In the spring of that year, one Connected Mathematics Project (CMP) book was piloted in the 6th grade.
The following year Investigations in Number, Data, and Space was adopted in grades K-5 and Connected Mathematics Project (CMP) was adopted in grades 6-8. An external mathematics consultant from Southern Arkansas University helped faculty decide which CMP books would be taught during the first year of implementation. The mathematics faculty participated in a week-long, state-sponsored CMP training workshop the summer before full implementation. In addition, another mathematics consultant from the Arkansas Center for Mathematics Education at the University of Central Arkansas conducted book-by-book training sessions before these books were taught during the school year.
One of the most difficult parts of the implementation process was the tendency to spend too much time on each book. This resulted in not being able to cover enough books which represented all five mathematical strands. The development of grade-level curriculum pacing calendars helped overcome this problem.
The 8th grade teachers faced the greatest challenge. During the first two years of implementation, 6th and 7th grade CMP books were selected for grades 6 through 8. Each year, as the teachers become more familiar with the material and the students adjusted to the investigative approach, books were moved to their intended grade-levels and new 8th grade books were introduced. During the 2004-2005 school year, Data About Us, Ruins of Montarek, and Prime Time will be taught in the 5th grade mathematics classes. Ruins of Montarek will also be taught in 4th grade art this year.
In 2001 Magnolia Public Schools was selected as one of four national pilot sites to participate in the CMP curriculum revision process. Magnolia is continuing to pilot the revised CMP materials and to provide feedback to the CMP authors regarding the materials.
Magnolia Public Schools is totally committed to CMP. Summer enrichment programs utilize CMP curriculum materials not taught during the regular school year. In addition, Say it with Symbols and the Shapes of Algebra are being incorporated into the Algebra I curriculum.
Arkansas began administering a criterion-referenced test in 8th grade four years ago and in 6th grade three years ago. Each of these tests has 40 multiple-choice questions and five open-response questions. Each multiple-choice question is worth one point and each open response question is worth eight points. The questions are distributed evenly across five mathematical strands: Numbers, Properties, & Operations; Geometry and Spatial Sense; Measurement; Data Analysis, Statistics & Probability; and Patterns, Algebra, & Functions.
The percent of Magnolia's students performing at the proficient or advanced level at both grades 6 and 8 have been consistently above the state average. In addition, scores on the state-mandated norm-referenced tests have been consistently above the 50th percentile in 7th grade and the 60th percentile in 10th grade. This year the state changed from SAT-9 to the Iowa Test of Basic Skills with mandated administration in grades 5 and 9. Magnolia Public Schools performed at the 54th percentile on the 9th grade test.
Magnolia's successful implementation of this excellent mathematics curriculum can be attributed to a strongly committed administration and faculty. Adequate training and support is critical.
A six-year teacher of Connected Mathematics (CMP) offers the following advice for new teachers and experienced teachers new to CMP.
Acknowledgement: The Show Me Center is grateful to Kittena Bell and the teachers and staff of the Magnolia School District for their work in developing this story.