New report shows SFUSD eighth grade students outperforming peers in Math
A new report from SRI Education on SFUSD’s Science, Technology, Engineer and Math (STEM) Learning Initiative shows SFUSD’s eighth grade students ahead of peers in other school districts when it comes to math performance.
Researchers analyzed responses to a Mathematics Assessment Resource Service (MARS) task in which students developed a linear model and had to both solve for the answers and explain their thinking. The report shows SFUSD had a greater percentage of high-performing students and fewer low-performing students than the comparison group derived from 8,629 diverse students from 34 different school districts. The SFUSD group included tasks from 599 students from 10 different SFUSD schools.
The Silicon Valley Mathematics Initiative scored the MARS tasks.
"SFUSD's results on the eighth grade MAC/MARS assessment are quite impressive,” says David Foster, Executive Director of the Silicon Valley Math Initiative. “The comparison group was comprised of several affluent school districts in the Bay Area.
Foster added, “Congratulations, this helps to verify the decisions and direction SFUSD has taken."
Major shifts to improve math instruction showing promise
Now entering its third year of implementation, SFUSD has been changing its math curriculum and course sequence to reflect the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and current research regarding the best ways to teach math. In addition to rolling out a new CCSS aligned math curriculum K-12, SFUSD stopped offering a stand-alone Algebra 1 class for eighth graders.
In the 2015-2016 school year, all eighth graders took CCSS Math 8, and this year all students will take CCSS Algebra 1 in ninth grade. Both CCSS Math 8 and CCSS Algebra 1 are more rigorous than the previous Algebra 1 course. These courses also include content previously taught in more advanced high school courses, as well as content not previously taught in middle and high school math, such as statistics.
“There is a misconception among some parents that students aren’t learning Algebra until ninth grade when, in fact Algebra is woven throughout the new Common Core aligned curriculum from elementary school on up,” says Brent Stephens, SFUSD’s Chief Academic Officer. “All students should have learning experiences in math that build deep understanding as they move from course to course to ensure that they will be college-ready by the end of high school. The new course sequence in mathematics does this by focusing deeply on fewer concepts, allowing students to gain a strong foundational understanding in each course.”
In the past, almost half of all SFUSD students who took Algebra in eighth grade had to retake it in ninth grade because they failed. In the 2015-2016 school year, the first ninth grade class in which essentially every student went through the CCSS Grade 8 and then took Algebra 1, 77 percent of all students earned a C or better in CCSS Algebra 1 and will be moving on to CCSS Geometry in their sophomore year. In eighth grade math, the number of Ds and Fs this past spring fell from 18 percent in 2015 to 12.6 percent in 2016.
“The way we had been teaching math wasn’t preparing our students, not just in SFUSD, but across the nation, as evidenced by international tests of math achievement. A change was needed,”says Superintendent Richard A. Carranza.
In the first administration of the new statewide standardized assessments in 2015, SFUSD surpassed the state results by more than 10 percent; 48 percent of SFUSD students overall met or exceeded standards for math compared to 34 percent statewide for math. This year’s results have not yet been released.
Carranza commented on the progress the district is making in its approach to math instruction.
“This is an exciting time for SFUSD schools — what we teach and how we teach are evolving to keep pace with the expectations our future graduates will face when entering college or the workforce,” says Carranza. “This is not business as usual - our world is rapidly changing and so must the way we approach teaching and learning. We have much work to do, but there can be no doubt that we are on the right track.”
SFUSD’s STEM Learning Initiative
In the fall of 2013, in partnership with the Mayor’s Office and Salesforce.com, SFUSD launched STEM Learning Initiative to infuse more technology and teacher training in order to improve instruction in middle school math and science. During the second year of the partnership, SFUSD rolled out a new math course sequence aligned to the Common Core State Standards in Maths (CCSS-M).
The SRI Education report indicates the initiative is generating positive results for both students and teachers overall.
SRI Education surveyed 85 teachers, or 51 percent of the total SFUSD middle school math teachers. Those surveyed reported that the math core curriculum increased collaboration and engagement in the classroom and increased students’ conceptual understanding in addition to procedural skills. Teachers indicated strong appreciation for the various professional development opportunities provided including common planning time at schools, Math and Edtech coaching, summer workshops and technology integration.
The report also pointed out some teachers face challenges in differentiating for all students, especially English learners or students with special needs. The district says it will continue to provide additional materials and support to ensure that all students can participate.
About SRI Education: SRI Education helps identify trends, understands outcomes and guides policy and practice. It provides research-based solutions to challenges posed by rapid social, technological and economic change. Its clients include U.S. and California Departments of Education, the National Science Foundation, state governments and major foundations and corporations.
About MARS Task: Formative and summative performance tasks aligned with the CCSS-M (concept and practices) developed by the Mathematics Assessment Project (MAP).
Page updated on 08/10/16