Comprehensive digital math program leads to real growth

Tennessee district sees dramatic achievement gains by engaging Thrive‚Ñ¢ Math
By: | Issue: July, 2016 | Case Study
May 31, 2016

Upon receiving a special School Improvement Grant to implement a Tennessee-approved turnaround model in 2013, leaders for Shelby County Schools in Memphis selected seven sites to transform. These schools, designated by the district as i-Zone schools, fall in the bottom 5 percent in the state. Douglass K8 Optional School is one of the selected schools.

“The state recently shifted from skills-based standards to the Common Core, and we knew our students were going to need an instructional lift since the new standards are packed with so much more that students need to learn” says Lionel Cable, instructional leadership director for i-Zone and former principal of Douglass K8.

Powerful intervention

Math instruction became a key area of focus. After evaluating several math curriculum sets, Thrive Math from McGraw-Hill Education, powered by Time to Know¬Æ, emerged as the clear choice for improving skills for Douglass K8’s middle school students.

Thrive Math, which was created specifically to help students meet the new standards, provides a focused set of concepts for total comprehension. The all-digital program consists of engaging media and digital tools that complement the clear explanation of terms and ideas. Problem-solving is presented in a scaffolded way, and instant feedback helps students work on areas of need.

“We wanted to be strategic and pilot the program in grade 6 through 8 in 2015-16” says Cable.

Structured yet flexible

Both novice and veteran teachers participating in the pilot enjoyed using Thrive Math, says Cable.

“The step-by-step lesson plans and pacing guide are excellent for new teachers who may struggle with pedagogy” he says. “Yet Thrive Math still allows for veteran teachers who feel comfortable being creative and stepping outside the box.”

Because Thrive Math is a holistic, teacher-led program, support and strong professional development are key to reaching its highest potential.

“The i-Zone and virtual school teams were very helpful” says Cable. “But Linda Levine, a coach from McGraw-Hill Education, was particularly outstanding at providing strategic support. She facilitated excellent PD and allowed teachers to experiment until they found the Thrive Math format that worked best for them.”

Powerful results

On a growth towards mastery assessment used in Shelby County, students are given a skills growth goal from fall to winter, winter to spring and fall to spring. A growth score of 100 percent means they achieved their growth goal, and any score higher indicates they surpassed their goal. From winter to spring 2016, the 127 students using Thrive Math achieved 375.6 percent growth toward mastery. From the beginning of the school year until spring 2016, the overall growth rate was 250 percent. And 89 percent of students met their projected growth.

Cable attributes much of the program’s success to the focused pilot; doing so enabled school leadership to provide intensive support to educators.

“Students are drawn to the technology and the real-time data. They are engaged in a completely different way than in a traditional classroom” says Cable. “And our teachers now say they cannot do without Thrive Math.”

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