District Spotlight: Pinellas County Schools Accelerates Math Learning By 5 Points in 8 Weeks

(Image credit: DreamBox)

As educators continue to meet the needs of students in an ever-changing landscape, it’s critical to adopt learning solutions that demonstrate a positive impact on student growth. 

Pinellas County Schools, one of the largest and most diverse in the nation, helped students achieve over 5 percentile points of growth on NWEA MAP assessments in just eight weeks.

During a recent Tech & Learning webinar sponsored by DreamBox Learning, Michael Feeney, Executive Director of Elementary Education District at Pinellas County Schools, shared the critical steps educators took to ensure program success and how they helped students at all learning levels meet academic goals during challenging times.

Watch the on-demand version here 

Key Takeaways

Getting ahead of the slide. From the outset of the pandemic, Feeney and PCS focused on preventing COVID slide and boosting student achievement by removing barriers to learning. The district tries to create personalized learning paths for every student, so when the pandemic began, each was given a device and provided internet access. 

“We're very committed to that equity piece,” said Feeney. “You've got to have devices and you’ve got to have broadband, so that investment it's really important.”

Time was also provided before and after school to give students extra opportunities to work, and the number of recommended weekly DreamBox math lessons was doubled, which only took students about 1.5 to 2 hours to complete.

Five is the magic number. Feeney repeatedly stressed that across grade levels and demographics, students who received the same instruction in the classroom but also completed at least five Dreambox lessons per week, doubled their growth on NWEA MAP scores.


(Image credit: DreamBox/Pinellas County Schools)

“Every district leader wants to know: ‘Is this tool really working?’” said Feeney. So being able to provide data to show that Dreambox, in conjunction with the instruction provided by the district’s teachers, is working is critical. 

“Dreambox is like GPS,” he added. “If we take a wrong turn, it will update and adapt to our students and put them back on track.”

Tools are nice but teaching always matters. “We need to earn teachers’ trust, we need to earn their time, and none of this success happens without them,” said Tim Hudson, chief learning officer for DreamBox Learning.

To that end, in addition to regular monitoring and weekly professional development, the district now has designated a DreamBox education lead and developed “champions” at each school to support teachers helping one another. 

“We need to engage brains–kids have thoughts, and in personal learning, we want students to progress through the development of an idea, including the critical thinking and sense making pieces of it,” said Hudson. “Just because students get the right answers sometimes doesn’t mean that they have the depth of understanding. So we focus on developing the pedagogy.”