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Last modified: Friday, June 25, 2010

IU School of Education summer math academy at Gary school caps first three years of partnership success

June 25, 2010

GARY, Ind. -- Faculty, staff, and graduate students from the Indiana University School of Education held a summer math camp for selected students at Frankie Woods McCullough Girls Academy in Gary, Ind., last week, giving students a boost of learning just as the school learned it had made unprecedented strides in student achievement.

McCullough and the Dr. Bernard C. Watson Academy for Boys just completed three years of a partnership with the IU School of Education to provide continuing professional development for teachers and student enrichment opportunities. The elementary schools are part of an ongoing collaboration with the Gary Community School Corp. (GCSC).

Gary Math Camp

IU doctoral student Rick Hudson works with students at a summer math camp in Gary, Ind.

During last week's four-day camp, results from the ISTEP-Plus statewide learning assessment were released and revealed a sign of great progress for McCullough. "When we looked at the benchmarks according to No Child Left Behind for 2010, we exceeded the benchmarks for reading, language arts, and science," said McCullough principal Pearl Prince. "This is the first time we've exceeded the benchmarks."

McCullough showed tremendous growth in nearly every category for each grade and subject tested. Those improving categories rose by at least 8 percent, the most dramatic rise coming in sixth-grade science, where the percentage of students passing that portion of ISTEP rose from 27 percent to 70 percent. Ninety-two percent of fourth-graders at McCullough passed the math portion, and 91 percent of fifth-graders passed the math section.

Prince said the efforts of IU faculty and staff through structures like the summer camp are paying off. "It's working, and we want to continue that partnership," Prince said. "We value the partnership and we know what it means not only to our teachers but to our students as well."

The GCSC partnerships are coordinated by the Center for P-16 Research and Collaboration in the School of Education. The center, founded in 2006, is devoted to developing partnerships with schools and communities by understanding their needs and connecting them with groups at IU that can help promote student achievement. Through various activities, the P-16 Center is focused on improving high school graduation and college-going rates to better prepare students for the 21st-century workforce.

In the Gary partnership, science education professor Gayle Buck has led many of the science professional development projects, particularly through the "Power Up for Science" project funded by the Indiana Commission for Higher Education. Gary teachers visited the IU Bloomington campus last week for professional development sessions. Gerald Campano, associate professor in the Department of Literacy, Culture, and Language Education, has headed up literacy-related professional development, particularly at Watson Academy.

The summer math camp at McCullough built upon new project-based teaching techniques Gary teachers have used to help their students learn math concepts. "One of the things that I wanted to do was provide the students at the school with an opportunity to really engage with mathematics in a different way," said Dionne Cross, assistant professor of mathematics education. Cross organized four days for McCullough students to select a problem they wanted to investigate, gather data to analyze, then present statistical findings and recommendations to the school's principal.

"We designed a project that would be authentic because it was based on issues that were going on in their own school environment and it would see how the statistical tools and the ideas played out within that project," Cross said. "So they would be able to think about and use them in real ways and also to make decisions that would impact their school later on."

The students enthusiastically surveyed their fellow classmates throughout McCullough to gather raw data for the issue they investigated -- what type of breakfast food would students be most likely to eat on the day of an ISTEP exam. Based on the recommendations, the school would provide that breakfast to students. The participants decided upon the topic after learning another school claimed it boosted its results by making sure students ate breakfast before the test.

Within the students' own examination of data, IU staff introduced key statistical terms -- such as mean, median, and mode -- piquing students' interest through their subject matter. "We would rather talk about the data first and talk about what the students see in the data," said Rick Hudson, IU doctoral student. "We try to bring out the terminology based on the need that the students present."

By the end of the four days, the students had built graphical presentations, written conclusions and recommendations, and then presented an oral report to McCullough administration. "I think they were just very empowered," said Olu Adefope, an IU doctoral student. "It was because it was not only a realistic context, but they were actually able to carry out the whole process. It wasn't like we're giving them, 'oh, this is what you do,' but it's coming from them."

Cross plans to build upon this brief summer math camp to hold larger-scale camps in the future. As a part of the continuing IU School of Education partnership in Gary, she said, it's part of creating a "math family" with teachers and students.

"It's not just a one-shot deal," Cross said of the partnership. "You can't come in for two months or three months and decide you're going to change their world and go out. We're going to see not only the change in the teachers, the change in what they're doing in their classrooms, but we'll see how it impacts their students over an extended period of time."

To see a video about the math camp and the School of Education-Gary Schools partnership, click here.