Did you know SJB started an Accelerated Mathematics Program this year?
The new course was piloted to select students in the 4th quarter of last year. Based on positive results and feedback, SJB launched the new math class for the 2018-19 school year.
The new, third-level math class was added to the school’s regular math curriculum, which includes algebra and pre-algebra. The new, accelerated class was offered to 27 students in 5th-8th grades with demonstrated aptitude for math.
SJB is one of very few schools in the Archdiocese of Washington with a third-level math class in middle school. The results have been promising so far. The new accelerated class is unique in that students work constantly at their challenge point. They are assessed individually and continuously by an artificial intelligence system called ALEKS.
Based on the question-and-response pattern of each student, ALEKS creates a map of each student’s math knowledge and an individual plan of concepts and skills that the student is ready to learn.
By introducing a particular concept or skill when the student is ready to learn that skill or concept, research shows, the student’s learning rate increases.
The learning rate of students using the ALEKS program is about 90 percent.
Here’s how the developers of ALEKS explain it:
ALEKS avoids multiple-choice questions and instead uses flexible and easy to use answer input tools that mimic what would be done with paper and pencil. When a student first logs on to ALEKS, a brief tutorial shows him how to use these ALEKS answer input tools. The student then begins the ALEKS Assessment. In a short period of time (about 45 minutes for most courses), ALEKS assesses the student's current course knowledge by asking him a small number of questions (usually 20-30). ALEKS chooses each question on the basis of his answers to all the previous questions. Each student, and therefore each set of assessment questions, is unique. It is impossible to predict the questions that will be asked.
By the time the student has completed the assessment, ALEKS has developed a precise picture of her knowledge of the course, knowing which topics she has mastered and which topics she hasn't. The student's knowledge is represented by a multicolor pie chart.
The pie chart is also the student's entry into the Learning Mode. In the Learning Mode, she is offered a choice of topics that she is ready to learn (she has the prerequisite knowledge to successfully learn these topics). When she chooses a topic to learn, ALEKS offers her practice problems that teach the topic. These problems have enough variability that a student can only get them consistently correct on understanding the core principle defining the topic. If a student doesn't understand a particular problem, she can always access a complete explanation. Once she can consistently get the problems for a given topic correct, ALEKS considers that the student has learned the topic and the student chooses another topic to learn. As the student learns new topics, ALEKS updates its map of the student's knowledge. The student can observe the most current summary of what she knows and what she is ready to learn.
To ensure that topics learned are retained in long term memory, ALEKS periodically reassesses the student, using the results to adjust the student's knowledge of the course. Because students are forced to show mastery through mixed-question assessments that cannot be predicted, mastery of the ALEKS course means true mastery of the course.
What is the Learning Rate?
ALEKS keeps server statistics that measure learning success of all students, namely how often they succeed at learning a concept that ALEKS offers them as "ready to learn." When ALEKS determines that a student is ready to learn an item, the student is able to learn it a very high percentage of the time. In the small percentage of cases where the student is initially unsuccessful, the topic is presented again to the student later on. Because of the artificial intelligence in ALEKS, students are almost always successful at learning the material ALEKS offers them. The level of instructor involvement doesn't affect this.
The Average Historical Student Learning Rates with ALEKS are ~90%
SJB is excited about bringing a third-level mathematics course to the middle school.
The creation of the new course has had a positive impact on all of middle-school students in the form of more targeted instruction and more appropriately challenging problems.
Four times a week, selected students in grades 3 and 4 experience mathematics education at a level one or two steps above their regular classroom instruction. Two math teachers invite small groups to the upper school Math Room to challenge the students in new ways. The students learn complex mathematical ideas and advanced problem solving.
The focus of this program is to provide accelerated, targeted math instruction designed to deepen the students’ understanding of number sense, computation, algebraic concepts, measurement, geometry, data analysis. Students still attend regular math classes, but the enrichment program provides an opportunity to accelerate. Students are selected based on teacher recommendations and their latest Scantron performance scores. The content, lessons, and activities are constructed around the small group and the standards related to the current mathematical strand. When the content has been sufficiently covered and checked for understanding, a new group is chosen based on a different area of the math curriculum, new strands, and new Scantron scores. This enrichment program encourages students to think critically and to work efficiently, and it exposes them to new content in an exciting way.
In grades 5-8, classes are divided so that students receive small-group math instruction each day. Students in grade 7 receive pre-algebra instruction at different rates of acceleration and levels of complexity, and students in 8 receive algebra instruction and advanced algebra instruction. Students who need a greater challenge and a more accelerated pace are placed in an independent ALEKS mathematics course. In the independent course, the student is limited only by the challenge of the content. SJB has the capacity to provide geometry and Algebra II/Trigonometry.
The primary goal in middle-school mathematics instruction is to prepare students for success in freshman math courses in the Catholic high schools and to give advanced math students the best opportunity to test out of freshman math and into an honors or higher-level math course at the start of high school.
In attaining that goal, SJB has been successful -- 94 percent of our students succeeded in testing out of freshman algebra, according to a survey of the last three graduating classes conducted over the winter of 2018.
The students were accepted into the honors math program, 10th grade geometry course, or 11th grade trigonometry/algebra II, according to the survey.
The honors placement tests are taken at the end of 8th grade at the students' new Catholic high schools, or the placements are made based on admissions test scores.
SJB constantly strives to improve its math program. The school provided new textbooks and math resources for students in 7th and 8th grades this year. Math teachers regularly attend professional conferences with the aim of learning the most effective, evidence-based teaching methods, and they seek alternative and online instructional options to meet particular needs and challenges of individual students.
SJB student math scores compare favorably to average math scores of students in Montgomery County and students statewide in Maryland.
Private schools hit Blue Ribbon marks when average math and reading scores of students in each grade meet or exceed scores at the 85th national percentile. SJB is represented by the solid light blue and solid dark blue. The blue ribbon marks are represented by the lighter patterned bars.
SJB 8th Grader Awarded 1st Place Scholarship in Essay Competition
Congratulations to Riley Langan. She has received the first place award in the Catholic Business Network's annual 8th grade essay competition. The Catholic Business Network will award Riley a $2,500 high school scholarship at its awards breakfast on Friday. Riley plans this fall to attend St. John's College High School, where she has received a scholarship and entrance into the De La Salle Scholars Program. Eighth-grade students across the archdiocese were invited to write, in 250 to 500 words, an essay about the combat of hate with extraordinary love.
SJB Eighth Grade Students Show High School Colors
If you see a couple of 8th grade students walking to the library in their Holy Cross and Good Counsel sweatshirts, they're not out of uniform. We encourage the 8th grade students to proudly wear the sweaters and sweatshirts of the high schools they plan to attend, and we do this for a few reasons.
1. Eighth graders deserve privileges for their perseverance.
2. We have a fair number of buddy-class activities, and we want the younger students to see where their older buddies will be in school next year.
3. We want the younger students to make the connection between the rewards and the dedication and hard work that our 8th grade students displayed.
High School Acceptances
Each spring, we give a brief rundown of how our 8th grade students fared in their applications to the Catholic and private high schools.
Of the 22 students who applied to Our Lady of Good Counsel, 16 students were accepted, and 6 were placed on the wait list.
Of the 8 students who applied to the Academy of the Holy Cross, all 8 students were accepted.
Of the 11 students who applied to St. John's College High School, 6 were accepted, 2 were placed on the wait list, and 3 were rejected.
Of the two students who applied to Georgetown Visitation, one was accepted and one was placed on the wait list.
Of the two students who applied to Stone Ridge, one was accepted and one was placed on the wait list.
Of the one student who applied to Sidwell Friends School, the one student was accepted.
Of the two students who applied to St. Vincent Pallotti High School, both students were accepted.