Maine Township High School South (2019)

Park Ridge , IL

Closing the Gap


Analyzing data from 2016-2017, we identified an academic gap via reports on freshman course failures. During 2016-17, 50 freshmen failed at least one semester of Algebra; eight failed both semesters. Of all freshman courses failures in 2016-17, 61.8% were math courses. Because math is sequential, some failing students become stuck until they pass to the next level. Of students who didn’t graduate on time in 2016-17, 80% were deficient in math credits (despite having four years to complete three required math credits), and all fell behind in math as freshmen. We explored current research that deepened our understanding of these issues. A policy brief entitled “Algebra 1 and the Underprepared Learner,” published in June 2013 in the UIC Research on Urban Education Policy Initiative by Timothy Stoelinga and James Lynn, emphasizes the connection between failing Algebra 1 and falling behind on graduation credits. A June 2015 Education Week blog post by Susan Fairchild, entitled “Why Students Fall off Track,” explores how freshman math failures connect to eventual failure to graduate on time.

We chose activities for this closing-the-gap goal based on school counseling best practices and research on the impact of math failures on overall graduation rates. We instituted weekly counselor check-ins because of the importance of making connections with at-risk students. Regular face-to-face interactions with students are reflected in the ASCA model, Standard B-SS 3: Create relationships with adults that support success. During these check-ins, we followed a curriculum we developed for struggling freshmen. Lessons and discussions focused on time management, organization, notetaking, regular attendance, goal setting, and self-advocacy. We engaged in conversations about the pitfalls of procrastination, checked assignment notebooks to see if students were writing down their homework, and encouraged students to monitor their attendance, set goals, and ask questions in class. We also collaborated with math colleagues to develop a systematic, research-based and data-driven Tier 2 intervention for struggling students. Though this intervention was implemented by the math department, it was also a counseling intervention because we collected data on struggling students and advocated for students to access support. We initiated math level changes because our Algebra 1 Part A curriculum included 20 additional minutes of targeted math support designed to address learning gaps in the classroom. Finally, we promoted summer school enrollment because of our research into the impact of math failures on overall progress toward graduation.

The data results from this closing the gap goal will enhance our future work with struggling math students as follows:

-We will deliver interventions more effectively through productive working relationships with math colleagues and systems to collaboratively identify students who need intensive support. Furthermore, we anticipate having more informed conversations with math colleagues to proactively identify the right math classes for incoming freshmen.

-These results have prompted us to collect targeted data about which students would benefit from moving to slower paced math courses so we can identify these students earlier, thus reducing the incidence of math failures and credit deficiencies. Furthermore, we noted a gap in the data: we did not gather information about students’ homework completion other than self-reporting on pre- and post-tests. We plan to take regular snapshots of each student’s academic progress to explore links between homework and grades.

-The data results from this goal will help us to further target ASCA Mindsets and Behaviors, particularly B SMS 5, Demonstrate perseverance to achieve long- and short-term goals. Our data results indicate that perseverance is key to success in math, as seen by the number of students who improved their grades significantly by retaking their math classes in summer school. We plan to implement targeted lessons for freshmen about perseverance and grit.

-These results also provide clear direction about the interventions we should continue. We will continue to implement lessons for struggling students to teach and reinforce skills including time management, organization, notetaking, regular attendance, goal setting, and self-advocacy,and hope to expand these to a wider audience of freshmen. Although a clear connection between regular counselor check-ins and grades wasn’t seen, we plan to continue this intervention so as to reinforce skills and build relationships.

-We will also use level changes and summer school as part of our menu of support for struggling math students. Due to equity and access concerns about summer school, we are also developing an online credit recovery option during the school year. Since some students in the daily tutoring groups did improve, we plan to continue work on this intervention with the math department.

Goal: Ninth grade students with failing grades in an Algebra 1 course as of the 8 week progress grade report will improve their grades and/or recover lost credit so that they start sophomore year with at least 0.5 math credit in order to stay on track toward graduation.

Target Group: 11 freshmen with “F” grades in an Algebra 1 class as of the 8-week progress report

Data Used to Identify Students: School records (Aspen and Tableau) - progress reports and online grades

School Counselor(s): All counselors

ASCA Domain, Mindsets & Behaviors Standard(s): REVISED: B-LS 3 B-LS 4, B-LS 8, B-SMS 4, B-SS 3

Type of Activities to be Delivered in What Manner?: REVISED 1. Weekly counselor check ins with students during 1st semester to review progress; in these meetings, counselors use curriculum to teach skills and behaviors including time management, organization, notetaking, regular attendance, goal setting, and self-advocacy 2. Small-group tutoring: Counselors collaborate with math department to identify students to assign to daily small-group math support during study hall 3. Level changes: requests to change math placement initiated by counselors after discussion with students, teachers, parents, and math department chair 4. Summer school communication with parents and students: Communicate with students and parents about the importance of credit recovery in math via summer school or online courses; collaborate with math and summer school staff to make sure students are enrolled in the right courses to recover credit

Process Data (Number of students affected): Eleven 9th grade students in in individual and small group meetings for 40 minutes

Perception Data (Surveys or assessments used): Likert Scale Responses 1-4 I ask my math teacher for help when I need it. Pre: 2.29 Post: 3.11 35.8% Increase I do my math homework daily. Pre: 2.88 Post: 3.11 7.99% Increase I seek assistance through the math lab or peer tutor when I need it. Pre: 1.57 Post: 2.11 34.4% Increase I study for math tests and quizzes. Pre: 2.71 Post: 3.00 10.7% Increase I write my assignments and tests/quizzes in an assignment notebook. Pre: 2.29 Post: 3.67 60.3% Increase I understand that math is essential to reach my future goals. Pre: 2.86 Post: 3.22 12.6% Increase

Outcome Data (Achievement, attendance, and/or behavior data): Achievement data: 90% of the students (10 out of the group of 11) earned at least 0.5 math credit; seven earned 1.0 math credits. Three of the eleven students (27%) raised their math grades to passing for semester one; seven of these students (64%) passed their semester two math course All six of the students who changed math levels after first semester passed their second semester math class. Of the six students who changed math levels at the semester, the average increase from semester one to semester two in math grade point was 2.67 grade points on a 4.0 scale. Seven students enrolled in summer school; all of these students passed their summer school courses. Of the 11 students in the targeted subgroup, seven (64%) started 10th grade with a full year of math credit as a result of pursuing credit recovery over the summer Overall freshman math failures were down, with 45 math semesters failed by freshmen during 2017-18 as compared to 68 math semesters failed by freshmen in 2016-17.

Implications: The achievement data demonstrate that our closing the gap goal was achieved. Interestingly, the interventions that we thought would have the most impact - weekly meetings and small-group tutoring - were not as effective as making level changes and connecting students with credit recovery options. All of the students who changed math levels at the semester passed their second semester math class; in contrast, only one student who stayed in the same class all year passed semester two. These results indicate that students who struggle as freshmen in regular Algebra 1 may need more intensive academic support than is available in the regular freshman curriculum. The six students who moved from a regular Algebra 1 class to a slower-paced Algebra 1 Part A course that includes an extra 20 minutes built in for additional support showed dramatic improvements from semester 1 to semester 2. In fact, two of these students earned A grades, one earned a B, two earned C grades, and only one earned a D; all six passed their second semester math class. However, this extra support was implemented after the students struggled for an entire semester in an Algebra 1 class that they ultimately failed. As a result of this initiative, we have changed our process in 2018-19 to streamline level change requests and identify struggling students earlier so that we can move these students more quickly to Algebra 1 Part A if needed. Given that our goal was to put students on track to graduate with sufficient math credits, having more than half of our group finish the year with a successful math experience is a good sign that these students are likely to stay on track to earn their required math credits. Summer school credit recovery is clearly a highly effective way to keep students on track toward graduation. However, we are concerned about the implications for student equity and access, as we recognize that summer school isn’t an option for all of our families since some students need to work full time in the summer and/or take care of younger siblings. The more we can help students avoid failing math during the school year, the more we help all students stay on track toward graduation. For the 2018-19 school year, we are following up on this initiative by exploring online credit recovery options that can be completed during the school year with guided study support, so that summer school isn’t necessary for students who fail math.