State Superintendent of Public Instruction Janet Barresi today announced a digital pilot program that is expected to significantly help students who are struggling in Algebra 1.
In a collaborative effort with districts, the State Department of Education has contracted with Apangea Learning Inc., of Pittsburgh, Pa., to provide supplemental online math instruction and tutoring services to 10,000 8th- through 10th-grade Algebra I students statewide currently attending “priority” or “focus” schools. Priority schools are identified on the state’s Waiver request from No Child Left Behind as the lowest performing 5 percent of schools in the state. Focus schools are the next to lowest category.
“We wanted to reach students who are most struggling in Algebra I as they prepare to take end-of-instruction tests – one of the requirements for Achieving Classroom Excellence,” Barresi said. “This is one of the state department’s efforts to assist low-achieving schools by providing additional resources to teachers and students.”
Sixteen high schools and 23 middle schools from across the state are participating in the pilot. The program, including teacher training, is free to school districts. Teachers will use the program as a supplement to Algebra I instruction, meaning they will not be taken from their classes to teach the program separately. Teacher training via webinar will be Feb. 1-8.
Apangea Math is a research-based, interactive, online application that provides students with individualized math instruction and has shown to be successful in improving math skills, problem solving abilities and overall confidence in math.
Barresi said she hopes after this pilot year to be able to expand the program across the state and reach students in younger grades as well.
The state is spending $470,000, or $47 per student, for the pilot. Funds came from efficiencies recognized at the State Department of Education, Barresi said. The state department is asking the Legislature for $1.5 million to continue the program in the next fiscal year.
Jeff Downs, STEM director for the State Department of Education, said seven programs were reviewed before the department selected Apangea. He said other states such as Texas, Idaho and Indiana have seen success from the program.
“We were very impressed with the demonstration of this product and can see the high potential for Algebra I students who are struggling,” Downs said.
He said during the pilot year Apangea will collect massive amounts of data from participating school sites showing the progress of each student. The data will be available for parents and teachers to see as well as be reported regularly to the State Department of Education.
Students also can receive some incentives from Apangea for showing progress. But the system is designed so that students can’t just do guesswork, he said.
“The program will stop and pace them to ensure progress and higher learning,” he said.
The announcement comes just before National Digital Learning Day, Feb. 1.