Charter School Sees Growth at Every Grade Level
Determined to reverse declining math score trends, Avon Grove Charter School took a new approach to instruction. Read how they turned the tide.
Home to more than 1,800 K–12 students, educators at Avon Grove Charter School in West Grove, Pennsylvania, noticed declining math scores on the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA).
Determined to reverse trends, educators at Avon Grove took a new approach to instruction during the 2018–2019 school year —implementing a strong MTSS process and coaching for all fourth- and fifth-grade teachers. The change resulted in an immediate improvement in math scores. In fact, the percentage of fifth graders scoring as “proficient” or “advanced” jumped from 29% to 54% in just one year. To build on this initial success, Avon Grove extended its math coaching process to teachers in kindergarten through third grade. The school also created a curricular framework to align all K–8 math resources and assessments with state standards.
Despite this, educators still noticed gaps in students’ foundational math skills, so leaders implemented SpringMath, a K–8 math intervention solution created by Dr. Amanda VanDerHeyden, strengthening not just individual student interventions, but classwide Tier I instruction as well. Paired together with an MTSS process and coaching, SpringMath provided a proven instructional resource for improving teacher-led instruction.
Providing a proven methodology
SpringMath is grounded in research showing that:
(1.) conceptual and procedural knowledge are both critical to math achievement and should be taught together rather than in isolation, and
(2.) students achieve better results when teachers correctly align the intervention they deliver with the precise instruction that students need.
SpringMath includes streamlined tools for math assessment, reporting, and intervention, helping students master foundational math skills in just 15 minutes of use per day.
Avon Grove’s Curriculum Coordinator Kim Treml and Director of Teaching and Learning Jen Weaver noted that they chose SpringMath because of its efficacy as a tool for improving students’ fluency in foundational math skills, not only through highly targeted individual or small-group interventions, but also through classwide instruction and intervention.
SpringMath uses a paired learning approach to build enduring math confidence and mastery in all students, and this feature also appealed to Avon Grove leaders. After teachers explain and model a math concept or procedure, students work on the skill in pairs, with students talking through their understanding and helping each other achieve deeper learning.
Ensuring staff buy-in at a challenging time
Avon Grove purchased SpringMath with the help of federal COVID-19 pandemic relief funding, and implementation began in January 2021. However, at first, leaders encountered some resistance among teachers.
“We had difficulty with staff buy-in due to the learning environment occurring at the time,” Weaver said.
Normally, there are some challenges involved in rolling out a new solution and encouraging teachers to use it under the best of circumstances. Teachers already had a lot on their plates in managing a hybrid model of instruction, with some students attending school in person and others still learning from home. Some teachers felt that learning a new approach to math instruction simultaneously was too much to ask.
What turned the tide was seeing the early success their colleagues had with SpringMath in their classrooms.
“Our computational benchmark scores increased from winter to spring that year among students whose teachers embraced the SpringMath approach,” Weaver said. “These results convinced faculty members that the school was on the right path toward success.”
An implementation with school-wide support
By the fall of 2021, full implementation was underway, and SpringMath staff trained all teachers how to use the solution. Teachers designated 15 minutes of their daily math period to classwide Tier 1 instruction guided by SpringMath data. Another 15 minutes per day was focused on small-group math intervention.
Avon Grove administrators relied on several strategies to ensure teachers continued to use SpringMath effectively.
“Principals were fully on board and committed to successful implementation and long-term usage,” Treml said.
For instance, principals conducted multiple walkthroughs of each classroom throughout the school year, guided by a “Fidelity Checklist” of what successful implementation of SpringMath should look like.
The school’s leadership team also created professional learning communities based around SpringMath and included tips and tricks in staff newsletters. They established a peer coaching program in which teachers who were using the program effectively were paired with those who could use more help. They sent emails recognizing and praising teachers when goals were met.
Growth at each grade level
Although implementing SpringMath during the pandemic was difficult, having a comprehensive and well-developed implementation plan helped drive success. In fact, Avon Grove saw overall growth in students’ math achievement at each grade level.
From the 2020–2021 school year to the 2021–2022 school year, Tier 1 growth in math was:
· 17% for first graders
· 21% for second graders
· 18% for third graders
· 33% for fourth graders
· 26% for fifth graders
· 35% for sixth graders.
Teachers now see the benefits of using SpringMath, and they’re more confident in their use of the program. Kindergarten teachers report that it’s their students’ favorite part of the school day.
What’s more, students feel more confident in their math abilities.
“The kids are extremely motivated and engaged,” Treml said. “Kids are fully aware of expectations. They set their own individual goals, and they hold their teachers accountable.”
“SpringMath continues to be a focus area in all K–6 math classrooms,” Weaver concluded. “We’re hopeful that state assessment scores increase over time now that our core instruction includes both the computational fluency and the conceptual understanding components that are necessary for success in math.”