Rio Grande City High School (RGCHS) serves almost 3,000 students from several rural communities just north of the Texas-Mexico border. The school is located in Rio Grande City, a border city that has experienced significant growth in the past decade. More than 98% of the students are economically disadvantaged, 99% are Hispanic, and 28% have limited English proficiency.
RGCHS has partnered with the Dana Center and Agile Mind in mathematics since 2003. Our work together began with a small group of Algebra I teachers at a time when fewer than 20% of the school’s students were passing the TAKS mathematics exam, compared with an overall state passing rate of 57%.
Today, RGCHS offers Agile Mind Algebra I, Geometry, and Algebra II as it’s primary mathematics program in those subject areas. As a result, over a three-year period the school not only closed its achievement gap with the state, but also exceeded the state passing rate for all students—more than double the statewide rate for high schools, despite the fact that the school’s poverty rate exceeds the statewide average by more than 30%.
As many states and districts implement new teacher-effectiveness measures based, in part, on student performance on high-stakes tests, many educators fear that their work to enact the Common Core State Standards will result in a decline of their students’ achievement on these tests and, as a consequence, on how they as teachers will be evaluated. Data from Agile Mind partners show that enactment of the new standards can instead result in substantial growth in student achievement.
Anderson High School and Speedway Senior High School, in central Indiana, have completed their third year participating in Agile Mind Common Core Mathematics programs. Both partner schools serve students in grades 9 through 12. Anderson, located in a suburb northeast of Indianapolis, serves almost 1,400 students, while Speedway, in a small town within the Indianapolis city limits, serves 500.
Burnet, a small town in Central Texas, is home to the Burnet Consolidated Independent School District (CISD). The district serves a total of 3,265 students, 59% of whom are economically disadvantaged.
In 2012-13, two teachers in Burnet CISD implemented the Intensified Algebra program with their 8th grade students. This was a change in policy for the district as Algebra I was not an option for 8th grade students the year prior.
The middle school students directly benefitted from this change. Every one of the 8th grade students enrolled in Intensified Algebra passed the Algebra I End-of-Course exam (100%) while the high school students achieved a passing rate of 79.6%. Even more notably, more than twice as many of the Intensified Algebra middle school students performed at the commended level as compared to the high school Algebra I students.
Collier County, located on the southwestern tip of the Florida peninsula, is served by the Collier County Public Schools. The district includes 48 schools serving 43,793 students, 63% of whom qualify for free and reduced lunch. The student population is 46% Hispanic, 38% Caucasian, and 12% African American.
In 2012-13 the district enacted the Intensified Algebra program, targeting students who had scored at the lowest levels (Levels 1 and 2) in mathematics on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, or FCAT. The district then examined the growth of students participating in Intensified Algebra by comparing their performance to the performance of the Level 1 and 2 students from the year prior.
Students at every level improved, with those originally scoring at Levels 1 and 2 experiencing significant gains. After the implementation of Intensified Algebra, the percentage of Level 1 students who advanced one or more FCAT levels increased by 57.5%, while the percentage of Level 2 students who advanced one or more FCAT levels increased by an impressive 210%.
The number of Collier County students passing the Algebra End-of-Course exam also increased after the implementation of Intensified Algebra. Almost three times as many Level 1 students and more than triple the number of Level 2 students passed the Algebra EOC exam in 2013, an achievement marked by scoring at Level 3 or higher.
Serving the Tampa area, the Hillsborough County Public Schools district includes over 200,000 students in 266 schools. Its student population is diverse, including 39% Caucasian, 31% Hispanic, and 22% African American students. More than half (56%) of the students qualify for free and reduced lunch.
Intensified Algebra was initially implemented in six Hillsborough high schools in 2012-13. Incoming 9th grade students who had scored at the lowest level (Level 1) in mathematics on the FCAT were targeted for inclusion.
Fifty-seven percent of the students participating in Intensified Algebra achieved an improvement of one or more levels on the 2013 FCAT Math exam. In contrast, only 49% of the higher achieving Level 2 and up students participating in Algebra 1B gained at least a level.
The Leyden Community High School District 212 is a small district in Franklin Park, a suburb of Chicago, Illinois. The total student population is 3,500 students, of whom 59% are Hispanic and 35% are Caucasian. Almost half of the district’s students (47%) are from low-income families.
In 2012-13, the district implemented Intensified Algebra for its incoming 9th grade students who had performed at the lowest levels on the 8th grade ACT EXPLORE exam. When the 9th grade students took the subsequent ACT Mirror-PLAN exam, the Intensified Algebra students achieved a gain of 3.77 points, more than twice the gain of the other Algebra I students.
The performance of the Intensified Algebra students is even more impressive when compared to the national growth rate in mathematics, with a rate of growth more than three times that of the national average of 1.2 points (Principles for Measuring Growth Towards College and Career Readiness, ACT Research Policy and Issue Brief, September 2011).
Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), the second-largest school district in the country and home to one of the most diverse populations of learners in the nation, has made addressing student failure rates in Algebra I a district priority.
Consistent with that mission, in 2011-12, several LAUSD schools implemented Intensified Algebra for their lowest-performing 9th grade students.
These results from the 2011-12 California Standards Test (CST) in Algebra, show that the Intensified Algebra students experienced significant gains, with the lower-performing students (those who had previously scored in the Far Below Basic category) achieving the largest gains.
The following are summaries of promising outcomes from school districts that have implemented AYD. The data, where presented, were provided by partner school districts:
In Evanston—a diverse, mixed-income suburb of Chicago—the AYD program was enacted in the summer of 2010 for rising 8th grade students who had struggled in mathematics. In the school year before the AYD program was implemented, scaled scores for those students had increased by only 1 point, and just 20% of the group had met the district’s growth target on its Measures of Adequate Progress (MAP) test. In the following year, AYD students achieved a 12-point increase on the MAP test, and fully 85% met the district’s growth target, while non-AYD students recorded just a 6-point increase on the assessment.
The Alief Independent School District—located in an economically distressed region and serving mainly low-income Hispanic and African American students—first enacted AYD in 2010. Students who participated in the 2010 Summer-Start AYD program earned higher average grades for each nine-week grading period during the 2010-2011 school year than did their non-AYD counterparts—more than four points higher on a 100-point scale. AYD participants also experienced higher performance on the state’s mathematics assessment: 71% of AYD students taking Algebra I met the state standard for mathematics, as measured by the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS), while only 65% of non-AYD students taking Algebra I met the state standard.
During the 2009-2010 school year, the University of Illinois at Chicago conducted an AYD pilot program in the Chicago Public Schools. Students who participated in AYD performed significantly better than did their non-AYD counterparts, they earned higher grades, and they experienced a smoother transition to high school, as demonstrated by their much lower rates of assignment to detention.