Chicago schools honored for math gains

A group of Chicago Public Schools which showed impressive gains in math achievement after using technology-based instructional software for one year was recognized last month by the nonprofit MIND Research Institution.

A cluster of South Side schools within CPS’s Area 13 began using MIND Research Institute’s ST Math software during the 2009-10 school year. Under the leadership of Chief Area Officer Shawn Smith, the program was implemented in 27 elementary schools.

With the support of school administrators and teachers, schools in Area 13, which runs along the State Street corridor and extends west into the Englewood and Back of the Yards neighborhoods, the project resulted in math score gains that in some cases far exceeded the district average in standardized testing.

Founded in 1998 at the University of California-Irvine, MIND is dedicated to applying research to the creation of revolutionary and effective math education programs. MIND’s ST Math is a visual approach to teaching and learning mathematical concepts without immediate reliance on language, numbers or symbols. Problems are easy to begin with and get progressively more difficult.

An analysis of first-year growth for students in third, fourth and fifth grades at 14 of the lowest-performing schools in Area 13 – each with less than 60 percent of its students meeting or exceeding state standards in math in 2008-09 – showed growth of almost 10 percentage points in school year 2009-10.

By comparison, year-over-year district-wide growth in math was about 2.8 percentage points.

“These results are proving this focus is beginning to break down old barriers in urban education and replace them with new opportunities for our students,” Smith said.

CPS plans to use ST Math in its Additional Learning Opportunities initiative which is being rolled out this fall. ALO will serve to extend the school day in a total of 15 elementary schools by 90 minutes with online instruction in math and reading during the 2010-11 school year.

CPS was honored for its accomplishment at the MIND Institute’s annual awards dinner in California. Keynote speaker was astronaut Dr. Sally Ride, the first American woman in space.