Creative problem solving helps more students succeed

We recently held parent/guardian-student-teacher interview night at Eastview. During that event, I had the opportunity to participate in a meeting for parents/guardians of students in the second installment of our Grade 9 Math Skill-Building Cohort and it reminded me of the powerful impact educators and school administrators can make when they collaborate to problem solve in the interest of student success.

Let me give you a little history.

Several years ago, we offered an Applied Modified Grade 9 Math course at Eastview. It was designed to better support students who struggled in Grade 8 math than the general Applied Math course did. The Applied Modified course still satisfied the prerequisite for Grade 10 Applied Math. While success rates in the Grade 9 Applied Modified Math course were high, we found that students coming out of that course were not being successful in the Grade 10 Applied course.

We knew we had a problem and we needed to solve it. Much work was done to collect data, brainstorm and engage in dialogue with various partners. We knew that students who were not meeting Grade 8 expectations were not ready for Grade 9 Applied Math . We needed to find a better way to fill in curriculum gaps before students got to Grade 10 Applied Math.

Members of the Math, Guidance, Resource and Student Success departments collaborated on how best to meet the needs of struggling math students–and so the Grade 9 Math Skill-Building Cohort was born, offered for the first time in September 2013.

Working towards math success
Now students who are not meeting Grade 8 math expectations are counselled in conjunction with their Grade 8 teacher and Special Education Resource Teacher (SERT) to determine if they are eligible for this cohort. Students in this special cohort take Grade 9 math all year long. In first semester, they work toward the locally developed credit (MAT1LL), with a specific focus on the skills needed for the applied course. In second semester, they work toward the applied credit (MFM1P1). This way, it’s possible for students to earn two compulsory math credits in a single year, and a range of math pathway options then exist for Grade 10. All of the students in the cohort have a common SERT and Guidance Counsellor at Eastview who support the students with accommodations and pathway planning.

In its first year, 14 students were in the cohort in the first semester and they all earned their MAT1LL credit. All but one of these students chose to continue with the MFM1P1 credit in second semester, and 100% of those students were successful. Lots of positive feedback was received from the students, specifically about the increased confidence they felt heading into the Grade 10 Applied course. Parents also said they knew their child felt supported and were pleased with the opportunity.

This year, we have 21 students in the cohort in the first semester. The program is being team taught by the two teachers who developed the curriculum in its pilot year. The year is off to a fantastic start for the second Applied Math Skill-Building Cohort.

Making a positive difference in student success is what drives teachers every day. It has been such a rewarding experience for me to be a part of the planning team for this program.

Leave a comment to share your creative problem solving successes.