Montgomery County high schools map out math plans -- Gazette.Net


Montgomery County public high schools now all have a plan of action when it comes to math.

The plans stem from Montgomery County Public Schools efforts to study students’ performance in math courses following the release of poor math exam scores, said Christopher Garran, associate superintendent of high schools.

Each high school was charged with developing a plan that incorporated both practices already in place as well as new efforts to help students struggling in math.

Through the plans, Garran said, the school system aims to address not only exam scores, but “math achievement overall.”

Garran said that he and others recently completed meeting with representatives from each high school — including principals, math resource teachers and math department heads — to discuss their plans.

Schools, however, were encouraged to start implementing their plans before those meetings, he said.

Garran said schools’ plans go “beyond interventions and supports” and also address how the delivery of instruction might be changed, such as through group learning or adding more critical thinking.

The plans also were required to “name names,” and therefore be specific about exactly which students are struggling.

“The names are going to change,” he said. “We have to know that and be on top of it.”

Garran said he anticipates the high schools’ plans will change when a school system work group examining the issue of math semester exams releases its findings.

At Clarksburg High School, Principal James Koutsos said the school is putting an emphasis on its 9th grade Algebra 1 students.

A new practice in place since mid-September in math as well as other classes involves teachers setting aside a time period toward the end of class when they focus specifically on providing extra help to students struggling with a particular concept, he said.

Koutsos said the school also is in the process of building an after-school program for its algebra students.

The school already has held two of the weekly meetings, the most recent of which about ten students attended, he said.

“Although we’re not making it a requirement, we’re strongly encouraging it,” he said.

He said the school will continue to provide opportunities for students to receive help before and after school as well as during lunch.

Koutsos said the recent math exam scores were not a “primary driver” in how the school assessed its position.

“We look at it from a more holistic approach,” he said.

Marjani Isreal, a math resource teacher at Albert Einstein High School in Kensington, said the school’s action plan involves a more systematic approach for strategies and teaching practices already in place at the school.

Isreal said the math exam data provided some information, but that the school was more concerned with who was passing the classes.

In its math action plan, she said, the school is focusing on two group of students: 9th-graders who, based on data from their middle school performance, look like they might not pass algebra; and seniors who need math credits to graduate.

Ninth grade, she said, is an important year because algebra is critical to the rest of students’ high school math education.

“If they don’t get those basic skills, those foundations, then they can’t be successful,” she said.

In algebra classes, she said, teachers are placing students in rotating groups to “encourage student discourse.”

The school also has developed a more systematic approach to how it monitors students who are receiving D and E grades in math classes, she said.

Magruder High School Principal Leroy Evans said his school is focusing on algebra as well.

Through its plan, he said, Magruder aims to improve its practices rather than adding different ones.

Evans said the school’s math teachers are among those who will continue to offer extra help to students after the last bell rings.

“Our teachers and other staff are here long after the school day ends,” he said.

As the school developed its plan, Evans said, it did not look at recent math exam scores, which he said are “not as relevant right now.”

Magruder is tracking current students to help identify which ones need help and how, he said.

Evans said his discussion with central office staff involved an in-depth analysis of the plan to make sure the school is able to make a difference for struggling students.

“This is not a dry run,” Evans said. “This is no rehearsal.”