Fiker began the school year as a shy, introverted kindergartner at Truesdell Education Campus in DC Public Schools (DCPS). As an English language learner, he faced an additional challenge in accessing the foundational math understanding that would help him succeed in future years.
With an ELL population of more than 60% school-wide, Truesdell Principal Mary Ann Green Stinson knew there were many others like Fiker who needed math support. In 2012, when the district offered a visual learning program called ST Math as a supplement for students like Fiker, Principal Stinson saw an opportunity.
She has since seen ST Math bridge the wide gap the language barrier creates. Kids who don’t yet have the language skills can still participate at a high level, Stinson says, and their learning doesn’t come to a halt.
DC’s Commitment to Deeper Learning
This is the kind of progress that’s been made throughout the district ever since DCPS Chancellor Kaya Henderson announced the district’s Capital Commitment plan in 2012, a five-year initiative aimed at “providing every student with a safe, academically challenging and inspiring learning experience.”
As one of the first districts in the country to adopt the Common Core Standards Initiative in 2012, DCPS administrators and teachers set out to find new tools that would advance the Capital Commitment goals and enable students to apply the deeper learning standards of mathematical practice introduced in the Common Core.
Enter ST Math. According to John Rice, DCPS Director of Educational Technology, Secondary Schools, ST Math stood out among its technological competitors, chiefly because of its success in other urban, metropolitan districts. Rice was encouraged that ST Math had results in Los Angeles and Detroit, and other urban areas.
In the summer of 2012, 31 DCPS schools started a trial using ST Math, thanks to funding assistance from the ST Math School Grants Program that has connected donors including Hyundai, Verizon and Capital Group to DCPS. The program was a qualitative success, with 17.4 percent more ST Math students testing Proficient or Advanced on the DC Comprehensive Assessment System (DC-CAS), the state test at the time, as compared to the 4.5 percent increase for non-ST Math students.
In 2015, as anticipated, the results of DC’s first year of transitioning to PARCC provided the district with the road map for improvement in coming years.
Rice sees this as an opportunity for teachers to learn new strategies for enabling deeper learning for students of all levels and backgrounds. And he sees how using ST Math aligns with this goal. Because of the program’s visual method of teaching math, students gain a deep conceptual understanding of the way math works, while strengthening procedural knowledge.
This analysis of PARCC scores for ST Math students shows more DCPS students performing at the highest levels of achievement:
From Hesitant Learner to Peer Coach
In addition to deepening procedural and conceptual learning, educators know the power of positive attitudes toward math in promoting self-regulated, student-centered learning. Rice has seen how kids love learning on ST Math and how they are showing that they can responsibly own their learning.
Fiker, our once introverted kindergartener, has thrived since using ST Math, says Michael Redmond, Truesdell Instructional Mathematics Coach. “We’ve seen the program support him in his traditional math class,” says Redmond, “but more than that, it’s opened up leadership opportunities for him.”
Because Fiker has reached 100% completion of ST Math with the school year still underway, he now serves as a mini-coach, helping other students master the concepts.
Overall, says Principal Stinson, ST Math has been a main driver for student engagement and for developing a growth mindset. “For students who have not been successful in school in the past, ST Math gives them the entry point for success. It’s enhanced not only their math engagement, but their overall school engagement, which is really powerful!”