Tuesday, November 10, 2015

IMPROVE LITERACY! or Fail to Improve Mathematics Scores by Sabrina Morgan of J&J Educational Bootcamp

Double penalty? Are students being penalized for one subject because of a weakness in another? With the performance standards written as they are, all students are required to be literate in language in order to be proficient in mathematics.
As data continues to reveal, readers scoring below the basic achievement level have been shown to perform at a basic level on the mathematics section of the state assessment.  However, struggling readers fail to ever demonstrate proficiency or advanced proficiency due to this weakness.

The 2015, NEAP reports reveal that only 67 percent of fourth-grade students were basic or above in reading while 82 percent of the same population of fourth-grade students were basic or above in math.   For more than 15 years, the difference between basic level reading and math scores has been on average 14 percentage points. Yet, the same report reveals that only 36 percent of readers are proficient, while 40 percent are proficient in mathematics.  When dissecting the reading test scores for individual students, it becomes obvious that more than 95% of the readers at proficient levels are also among the proficient in mathematics. 

Standardized tests require elementary students to think strategically through the use of logic and reasoning to address real-world problems as an assessment for proficiency.  Studies show that most elementary-aged learners have not yet developed the cognitive skills to comprehend certain abstract concepts embedded in the real-world context of a problem.  Generally, students begin to develop true abstract thinking abilities between ages 11 and 14.  Yet again, the underlined literacy skills are a requirement for proficient on the state assessments at ages 9 through 11. 

Many of us remember a time when learning math included a series of problems that we practiced repeatedly, with the word problems as extra credit towards the end of the assignment.  During this time, you were truly assessed on mathematical abilities; you followed a series of memorized steps. As a result, you either got the correct or incorrect answer.  In today’s world, this is now classified as a basic level of achievement.  According to item specifications, students must now be able to convert a word problem into a mathematical equation, solve, analyze, and provide proof to support their logic.  In order to meet the educational goals of such specifications, frustrated and overwhelmed teachers must master-mind methods to accelerate cognitive development in the learners of their classrooms.

J & J Educational Bootcamp has formulated a solution to this problem that involves game play and journaling strategies. The solution is Math Bootcamp Intervention (MBC). It provides products to help students interpret the language of mathematics. MBC combines the foundational development of mathematics (basic concepts, skills, and key words) with MBC Journaling Strategies and practice activities to ensure that our struggling readers are afforded the opportunity to demonstrate their understanding of mathematics and score at proficient levels.

The four MBC Journaling Strategies are crafted to help learners use pictorial, numerical, and/or symbolic representations to express numerical operations and work best when coupled with daily journaling practice.

Monday, November 2, 2015

A Day in the Life of a Teacher

Written by Sheri Spivey of J & J Educational Bootcamp 

A teacher rises early to get a start on his or her day like so many other people.  Their contracted hours are 8:00am - 3:30p.m, however, if that was the only time they put in to preparing for their classes, they would be woefully unsuccessful.  Many teachers arrive at work 30 minutes to 1 hour before they are required to be there and stay 1-2 hours later than their contracted time. They know they are not getting paid for these extra hours they spend at school, but they work for free just the same.

The job expectations and stakes to show progress are higher for a teacher than ever before.

Teachers are expected to wade through reams of standards and teach students to the “full intent” of these standards, while meeting the needs of the individual student.  An elementary teacher is required to teach 5 or more subjects, being an expert in all of them. Teachers are expected to “differentiate instruction”, which means they make sure that every student is being instructed in a way that each student can be successful.  If students have an Individualized Educational Plan or are on a Response to Intervention plan (or BOTH), the teacher must also keep documentation of the steps/lessons that have been taught and how successful the student has been.  If the student is a candidate for other services, there is documentation for that as well. Teachers are expected to communicate with parents, check homework, write authentic feedback on assignments, create assessments, provide meaningful center time activities, and write in-depth lesson plans that document how the teacher meets the needs of the English Language Learners, some who may not even speak English, and the special education student. The teacher must maintain classroom management, counsel students, teach manners and social nuances, and be a watchdog over their students for signs of neglect.

Teachers are basically in SURVIVAL MODE most of the time.

Many teachers begin their career $20,000-50,000 or more in debt due to student loans, but make a salary that does not lend to them even being able to maintain a household on their own salary.  Many teachers will tutor after school, or even work jobs like waiting tables, being a cashier at a grocery store, or have a lawn maintenance business on the side, just to get by.  I know a teacher who is a single mom that has been working at Red Lobster for over 10 years and works every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday waiting tables and bar tending..

Teachers do all of this because they love teaching. They will spend their summers off going to classes that they pay for in order to become better at what they do. They will spend their own money to buy supplies for students who have none, and copy paper and ink cartridges because school budgets do not provide for the printing it takes to create individualized lessons or run reports for their data folders they must keep for each student. Some will spend their summer break writing lesson plans so they can get ahead during the next school year, only to be told at the beginning of the year the county had changed the way they want lessons planned or instructed, so all that time they spent over the summer has been for nothing. 

In a nutshell, teachers NEED OUR BOOTCAMP PRODUCTS.  We understand what they are going through, what they need, and have created a product that solves many of their problems. Our job is to communicate this to the powers that be in these schools so that they will see the value of what we can do for them.