Writer believes new math program will help Antioch students

Dear Editor:

The numbers cry failure. In 2011, according to the U.S. Department of Education, only 32% of American 8th graders scored proficient in math. This earned a 32nd ranking among 65 nations participating in PISA, the math test administered by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

By contrast, Shanghai boasted a 75% proficiency rating and Korea, Finland, Switzerland, Japan, Canada and the Netherlands all scored above 50%. Distressingly, California, the Golden State, scored 24% proficiency. Little wonder our colleges are scrambling for interventions as a paltry 44% of American high school graduates are ready for the math needed in higher education and, ultimately, in higher paying careers.

Algebra, after all, is the gateway to academic mastery. It is the #1 trigger of dropping out in high school, with 70% of students who don’t pass algebra by ninth grade dropping out.

Given the crisis my summer visit to a tutorial program at Antioch’s Deer Valley High especially intrigued me. Walking into the classroom I was immediately struck by the fact that you could hear a pin drop as 20 some-odd students worked independently on fundamentals.

The program, called Math Intensive, is designed to take students markedly deficient in basic skills to grade level proficiency. Developed by John Crowder, a tutor, teacher, and private school administrator the class, with 21 three-hour instructional days, was open to everyone but was taken mostly by African-American males.

Crowder recently partnered with Angel Luevano, a teacher and leader of Todo Unidos. They then teamed with the education group Parents Connected to pilot this program at Deer Valley.

Twenty-one key concepts necessary for success in a rigorous Algebra program were both pre and post tested. The results were very encouraging. The average student’s score rose on Algebra I readiness rose from 35.4% to 49.6%, an increase of 0.7 per cent per instructional day.

Most promising was the transition out of ‘basic concepts.’ Students went from 64.7% to 90.1% proficiency in topics that included multiplication, fractions, math terminology, exponents, radicals, proportions and solutions of equations. Essentially, that’s a remarkable jump from a D to an A- level.

Crowder himself admitted shock by the results of the short program. Beyond the startling statistics he said he was most amazed that “Students who had given up on math, if not on their school prospects, and possibly even on themselves, had such a quick turn-about that they could not only learn but learn well.”

Bridget Swan remarked of her son Jordan, a DVHS Junior; “He has never before been so engaged with math.”

Jordan acknowledged he was finally understanding what was before him.

What’s working?

#1. Buy-in: After an introductory presentation prospective students and parents interview and agree on expectations. Nobody is begged. #2. Zero tolerance: Cell phones, electronics, back talking, goofing off, tardiness and excessive absence are disallowed. #3. Assessment: Students take a 260 question placement pre-test, daily quizzes, and a post test. #4. High expectations: 80% correct qualifies for moving on. #5. Immediate feedback: Results and corrections come in minutes, not days or weeks. #6. Teacher- student ratio: A supportive 8 to 1. #7. Continuous review: Every test is cumulative.

With a class of 24, and given that a student moves thru the program into 80% plus proficiency and Algebra 1 entry in generally anywhere from four to twelve weeks, one open entry class could cycle some 95 students a year.

Regrettably, we spend so much of our time and energy with high-risk students on traditional punishments or alternative behavioral intervention programs. Much, though, of misbehavior is fueled from an inability to keep up with peers in reading and math and the endless loop of simmering frustration and inadequacy that failure develops.

Two things can’t occupy the same place at the same time. Position academic success into the equation for failing students and positivity can help replace rage and acting out.

Math Intensive is the type of systematic, rigorous, no-nonsense, personalized intervention we need adopted. The alternative is to embrace the definition of insanity by doing the same things we’ve done before and expecting different results.

Walter Ruehlig

A.U.S.D. Trustee

13 Comments to “Writer believes new math program will help Antioch students”

  1. Doug Knowles says:

    Walter, you will never make any headway while common core principles are being taught as math to today’s young students. If they can’t see apples and oranges for what they are, they will never be able to see them in the abstract that is needed to move to the next levels of mathematical theory.

  2. Angel G. Luevano says:

    It is Great to be part of the successful Math Intensive Program! There is no substitute for knowing. Either you know it or you don’t know it! All of our students feel accomplished and have actually learned Math for Life!

  3. gabby says:

    Mr. Crowder has been helping me with math for many years. My understanding of this subject has improved a lot with his help.

  4. Nancy Fernandez says:

    I had the pleasure of observing the class one day this summer and it was very good. Student to teacher ratio is remarkable and you see the results. There is no fussing around. Students, parents and teachers are on-board with commitment and it shines through. I wouldn’t hesitate to enroll someone in this class. John Crowder and Angel Luevano deserve the praise they are receiving for their commitment to get this up an running.

  5. Tito Shafique says:

    I have had the pleasure of knowing Mr. Crowder for several years. My daughter was in his school. Recently he has been helping my daughter with high school math with the Common Core Math books. As most people are aware of, the Common Core Math books are notoriously non-user friendly and very difficult for the young students to understand. Thanks to Mr. Crowder, my daughter is showing substantial progress in understanding the principles of Math, despite the Common Core books. His teaching method/system definitely works.

  6. Argentina Davila-Luevano says:

    Walter you have hit the nail on the head! We must get Math Intensive into our Antioch schools and help our students raise and retain their achievement levels!!

  7. Arne says:

    What is making this program work is the buy-in by the parents and the rules the students have to adhere to after being accepted into the program.

    Clearly, it is only for serious students who want to get a grasp on Algebra and math so hopefully they can go on to plain and solid geometry.

  8. Jeff says:

    This is the kind of program that makes sense. I want to see my kids learn from school and this program looks like it will do that. I see my kids go to school and come home with mounds of homework that I need to help them complete. My question is “Why don’t the teachers teach during the day so I can enjoy my kids at night?” I have seen this program in action and have seen how feedback is given right away so bad habits can’t form.

  9. Thanks for the feedback!

    Yes, student and parental buy-in makes ALL the difference in the world and so does a no-nonsense atmosphere where teaching and learning can flourish. The fact that this is INTENSIVE adds even more to the equation.

    As for Common Core, that’s a whole other story. As so many feared, it has morphed into more than just standards. Interest groups(publishers, and consultants come to mind) have long tentacles. With math there is this vogue methodology of student led facilitation.

    Anything in moderation and done with common sense is worth considering but, as is usually the case, extremism wins the day.. this idea work might work better if kids weren’t so far behind the eight ball. At best, the new methodology of small groups can be very time consuming, at worst it can be the blind leading the blind.

  10. Julie says:

    I also visited the Math Intensive program this summer and found it to be very well structured. The students working diligently on their assignments. This program would be a great advantage to all students.

    My personal experience is that Math was looking more and more foolish for my son (who at the time was in 5th grade). I pulled him and in his 6th grade year, we used the same curriculum as the Math Intensive program. I have seen my son learn and retain what he has learned throughout the year.

    Common Core has been in our schools now for a few years, but last year was when the school district finally bought all the books that are common core aligned. (But not all the schools have received the necessary supplies) As the years go by, teaching the Common Core, the students will need Math Intensive starting earlier and earlier. It would be better to teach them correct principles from the beginning.

    Now some would argue that if we are teaching math, it really doesn’t matter which way it is taught, it is all the same. This is just not true. James Milgram, a Stanford Mathamatics professor, that was on the validation committee for the Common Core standards, would not sign off on them because he feels that the teaching starting in 1st grade will ruin a child’s interest and ability in math for the rest of his life. If you don’t teach the basics, for example, math facts, during the early concrete phase of childhood, it will be more difficult to teach them when they are older.

    A good program encompasses parent, student buy – in, good curriculum and good teachers. Currently our district is doing our students a disservice because they have spent millions of dollars on Common Core aligned math books that are of poor quality.

    The Math Intensive program is exactly what our students need to be successful. Thank you Walter for bringing this to the attention of all parents.

  11. Tina says:

    Common Core is liking having a horrible boss. You cannot expect good results if you are not given the information to do your job; you cannot expect to teach math abstractly without teaching students how to do it first. A great tutor taught my daughter Geometry last year, not her Common Core math teacher. I will probably continue to pay over $150 a month, so my child can learn math. She told me that no one in her Advanced Algebra class at Deer Valley High School knows what is being taught in her Common Core math class. Maybe you need to sit in a few math classes at Deer Valley HS.

  12. Alia says:

    Math has always been a struggle for me, but with Mr. Crowder’s systematic teaching, I have learned the algebraic fundamentals that have given me success in college level Statistics and Pre-Calculus.

    I attended Mr. Crowder’s school, Paideia Academy, for my junior and senior years of high school. His independent study like approach allowed me to learn and progress at my own pace as well as develop academic discipline. He challenged me to correct all math problems marked wrong, making sure that I understood the concepts. Mr. Crowder was also willing to go over anything I still could not master.

    I know he uses this same teaching style for his Math Intensive program because of the success exhibited by the students. Mr. Crowder’s program should be implemented into more schools!

  13. Martin says:

    Math is definitely a tough subject for most people. For me, I loved Math and because of that passion, it came easier. However, that does not mean I struggled. I definitely struggled and often had to ask for help whether it be office hours or a few videos on youtube.

    I agree that we are falling behind in education as a nation. Spreading programs like these on a national scale will help boost our proficiency. When I was volunteering in the program, I realized that the students are serious about their education. All the students are there not because their parents told them to, but because they want to make a change and catch up on their education.

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