Personalized Learning Drives Math Proficiency
Greater Needs with a Growing Enrollment
Valdosta City Schools is an urban district in southern Georgia. Many of the schools are Title I, and the majority of students receive free or reduced lunch. Consequently, district administrators actively seek new initiatives to help every child succeed. Although enrollment has been steadily increasing at Valdosta City Schools since 2010, the district’s budget has not. A limited budget coupled with the district’s focus on Response to Intervention (RtI), means that district administrators must explore alternative ways to support each student’s individual needs.
With a focus on improving their students’ math achievement, administrators decided to explore supporting student learning through adaptive technologies. “We needed something that the students could work on independently that would motivate them, all while tracking data and informing the teacher’s in-person interventions,” said Dara Holt, Valdosta’s Director of Pre K–5. “We spent a year and a half looking for an online intervention solution in math, particularly one that challenged, encouraged, and engaged each student individually, freeing the teacher to give one-on-one and small group attention to the students who need it.” They decided to do a pilot with DreamBox Learning Math at S. L. Mason Elementary, one of the schools that were performing below expectation.
A Solution as Unique as the Students
DreamBox Learning Math provides the solution the district needs to individualize learning and increase achievement. Within DreamBox, instruction adapts to student needs to deliver learning opportunities individualized for each student. While students work independently, the teacher is free to work more closely with struggling learners.
A robust reporting suite provides the teacher with an up-to-the-minute pulse of student understanding. As learning trends start to develop, the teacher can adjust whole-group lessons to align with student needs.
“As we rolled out the Common Core standards, we saw that students were lacking the conceptual understanding in math that’s really foundational for the higher order and critical thinking skills the standards call for. They were just memorizing information,” remarked Holt. “DreamBox supports the development of higher order and critical thinking skills students need while filling concept gaps that third, fourth, and fifth graders have had since kindergarten.”
Always On—and Students Still Wanted More
During school hours, students use DreamBox Learning Math on either a PC or iPad for 45 minutes per day during their intervention block in a rotational blended learning model. Outside of school hours, “We very intentionally make DreamBox available 24/7 in order to increase learning opportunities,” said Holt. Students access the program at home or through the local Boys and Girls Club after-school program, which serves about 400 students. This program serves a vital need for students who don’t have access at home.
The Only Thing Different Was DreamBox
“The only thing different among the schools last year was DreamBox at Mason,” reported Holt. The eagerly awaited results of the 2014 Georgia Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests (CRCT) did not disappoint. The math proficiency of third and fifth graders at S. L. Mason grew by 10 percentage points in just one year, outpacing gains made at other district elementary schools.
Based on such strong student math performance, the district now uses DreamBox in its other four elementary schools. Cisco Diaz, principal of Nunn Elementary states, “The academic success Mason had with DreamBox speaks for itself. What was interesting to us was that the promise of student engagement with the program was also true. The kids like it so much we use it as a motivational tool”