Use Case: Preparing Middle School Students for High School Math

Posted by Courtney StevensO

September 26, 2019

Educators need easy access to actionable data-driven insights to help middle school students make the transition from middle school math to high school math.

In the wake of the digital revolution, an individual’s aptitude in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) has become a key indicator of their ability to thrive in the modern economy. As a 2018 report from the National Science & Technology Council puts it, “Simply to function as an informed consumer and citizen in a world of increasingly sophisticated technology requires the ability to use digital devices and STEM skills such as evidence-based reasoning.”

However, according to the report, students in American schools are struggling to develop the math skills they need to succeed later in life. From 2006 to 2015, American 15-year-olds as a whole scored below the international average in assessments of mathematics proficiency. Addressing American students’ struggles with math will take a comprehensive effort spanning the country’s entire K-12 education system, but special attention will need to be paid to the pivotal transitionary period between middle school and high school.

At Hoonuit, we have seen first-hand how building robust support systems to help students transition from middle school math to high school math can be a powerful way to improve both on-time graduation rates and students’ college and career readiness. As such, we have designed our data dashboards to provide stakeholders across a district with actionable information throughout every stage of the academic year — not just at traditional reporting intervals.

Below, we explore the various ways teachers and administrators can leverage these dashboards to help students prepare for the often challenging jump from middle school math to high school math.

How Math Teachers Can Use Hoonuit’s Data Dashboards

Identifying — and then providing additional support to — struggling students is one of the most important tasks on every middle school math teacher’s plate. This process begins with surveying students’ grades. Hoonuit’s dashboards give a math teacher a comprehensive overview of where the students in their class stand not just in the moment, but historically as well. The teacher can configure their dashboards to display trends in their students’ grades at whatever interval they choose — daily, weekly, monthly, etc. — helping them differentiate between a performance blip in the wake of a particularly difficult test and a long-term issue.

If the teacher determines they are dealing with the latter, they are able to navigate to a list of students who currently have a failing grade (or near-failing grade) in their course. As illustrated below, this list can be customized to show the number of grading periods specific students have had failing grades, enabling the teacher to see which students have only recently started to struggle and which students have been struggling for quite some time (perhaps since the start of the course).

Sample Hoonuit data dashboard

While understanding these trends is important, letter grades (or point totals) do not always tell the whole story. For instance, an Algebra I course may be broken down into four clearly defined academic standards: arithmetic with polynomials and rational expressions, creating equations, reasoning with equations and inequalities, and seeing structure in expressions. While a student’s failing course grade might reflect moderate struggles across all four standards, it could just as easily reflect significant struggles with one or two standards. Armed with this granularity of insight, a teacher will be able to deliver far more precise, far more effective support systems and interventions. Consider the sample dashboard below:

Sample Hoonuit data dashboard

Students like Sheyla Deol and Shawn Lynch are clear-cut cases — they have been unable to meet any of the four Algebra I standards, which will inevitably be reflected in a failing overall course grade. Conversely, a student like Stephani Viramontes presents a much more nuanced case. Depending on the degree to which she is struggling with seeing structure in expressions, Stephani may be receiving a poor overall course grade despite the fact that she has met or exceeded expectations in the other three standards. By using Hoonuit’s dashboards to break down students’ performance into defined academic standards, Stephani’s teacher would be able to see that Stephani simply needs targeted support in one area in order to get back on track and be ready for high school math.

The teacher could also leverage this dashboard to assess which lessons have been effective and which lessons may need to be retaught. For instance, three-quarters of the students represented in this dashboard are not meeting the defined standard for reasoning with equations and inequalities. For whatever reason, the lesson(s) the teacher taught to develop students’ skills in this area did not register with most of the class. Fortunately, thanks to Hoonuit’s dashboards, instead of wondering where their course went wrong, the teacher will be able to provide additional instruction precisely where it is needed.

Ultimately, helping students stay on track — and figuring out how to get them back on track if they start to waver — is the most effective way for a middle school math teacher to ease students’ transition from middle school to high school. Hoonuit’s dashboards make it easy for a teacher to understand how students (and various cohorts of students) are doing in their course, how this performance tracks with the students’ performance in previous math courses, and even how this performance corresponds with the students’ performance on standardized math assessments. The dashboards also provide details about the support systems and interventions that have already been delivered, the outcomes of these efforts, and even predictive insights into further actions that should be taken to help prepare struggling students for high school math.

How School and District Administrators Can Use Hoonuit’s Data Dashboards

While school principals share the same overarching goal as classroom teachers — i.e. ensuring every student is equipped with the requisite foundational skill-set to succeed in high school math — their responsibilities are more macroscopic in nature.

A principal must take advantage of the panoramic visibility their position affords to make assessments and trigger actions that individual classroom teachers simply do not have enough context to do themselves. For instance, a principal can utilize Hoonuit’s dashboards to assemble a cohort of students who are failing Algebra I that includes students from every section of the course being taught at their school. By tracking this cohort’s progress (or lack thereof) over time — again, not only at traditional reporting intervals — the principal will be able to decide when to place these students in a formal cross-section interventionary program.

The principal will also be able to cross-reference the cohort’s struggles in math with other key data points that may be affecting their performance. While it can be difficult for an individual teacher to definitively nail down the relationships between, say, chronic absenteeism and Algebra I performance, by observing such relationships across multiple Algebra I sections, a principal can pinpoint causal or mutually informative relationships between multiple datasets.

By combining their knowledge of these relationships with by-teacher, by-section grade breakdowns (see below), a principal is able to assign paraprofessionals and/or co-teachers where they are needed most, ensuring their school’s support resources are put to efficient, equitable use. They can also use Hoonuit’s dashboards to track the effectiveness of these support resources over time.

Sample Hoonuit data dashboard

District leaders can leverage Hoonuit’s dashboards in a similar way, just one level higher. A district leader can observe and analyze data across multiple domains and locations, using data filters to view, for instance, cohorts of rising freshmen who struggled with math in middle school. Since multiple middle schools often feed into a single high school, district leaders need to be able to view groups of students based on their performance in various courses — not solely based on which middle school they attended — in order to make well-informed high school placement and staffing decisions.

As illustrated below, district administrators can also use Hoonuit’s dashboards to see which (and how many) coursework factors have been flagged for a cohort of rising freshmen, enabling them to proactively plan targeted support systems to help these students make the transition from middle school math to high school math. By informing school principals and classroom teachers of which incoming students have been flagged as at-risk of falling behind in math — and why — district administrators can ensure the high schools in their district are properly prepared to catch these students if they stumble.

Sample Hoonuit data dashboard

Preparing Students for Long-Term Success

In today’s day and age, supporting students during their transition from middle school math to high school math is one of the most meaningful ways educators can set students up for success in high school, in college, and beyond. To do so effectively, educators need access to intuitive data dashboards that provide actionable insights into student performance both in the moment and longitudinally.

Hoonuit’s dashboards give district stakeholders of every stripe access to the critical data they need to understand which students need additional support, what kinds of support they need, and how far they are from being ready for high school math. With these insights in hand, teachers, principals, and district administrators can help every student realize their full potential — as sure as one plus one equals two.

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