Middle school math teachers are uniquely tasked with helping their students master the skills that they were introduced to in elementary school, but never fully grasped. Unfortunately, available resources to assist with this game of “catch up” haven’t been nearly as abundant as needed. Teach to One: Math (TTO) began in New York City as a school-based approach that integrates multiple learning modalities to provide teacher-led mathematical learning experiences. TTO is applauded for their dynamic approach to math education and successful modalities that solve these educational gaps. In Ector County Independent School District in Texas, Teach to One has provided middle school math educators with the long-awaited resources to guarantee their student’s academic success.
“Minding the Gap” in Ector County
Access to quality education relies on an ample supply of physical resources and a skilled workforce of teachers. The combined utilization of physical resources and robust teachers should acknowledge that on a micro-level, quality education is innovative, evolving, and forward-thinking. There is not a one-size fits all technique to every learner, especially in the math discipline. As middle school math students transition to increasingly complex topics, those who haven’t mastered elementary school math are put at an immediate disadvantage. The longer this disadvantage isn’t addressed, the longer the disadvantage becomes a problem. This forces students to “catch up” to their classmates while struggling to process new material.
It is for this reason that middle schools in Ector County Independent School District implemented Teach to One: Math. Cinda Brown, head of Wilson & Young’s Middle School math department, was appointed as the district’s math director under Teach to One. At the beginning of the 2019-20 school year, 420 Ector County middle school students took a placement test. This placement test helps place each student at a personalized level to guarantee their long-term success. For example, Brown noticed that some of the district’s students “never learned how to really divide from third grade. It was just a skill they never understood how to do and they never mastered it and so this program backs them down and reinforces that skill.” By highlighting areas of strength and weakness in relation to the middle school math curriculum, Teach to One provides a much-needed resource in addressing math education gaps in Ector County.
How Ector County’s Math Education Program Integrated Teach to One
Without intervention, gaps in math education pose serious threats to college preparedness and long-term education success. Teach to One was designed with these gaps in mind. For example, TTO offers two rounds: one round where the teacher instructs a live lesson, and another with virtual instruction on the computer. If lessons are to be repeated in a second round, then they can be presented in several new digital formats based on the student’s most effective learning styles. After the second round, students take an exit slip. How the student performs on that exit slip determines whether or not the student is ready to proceed to the next lesson. If they’ve mastered the lesson, they can have a chance to practice it and move on. This is especially helpful in ensuring that those who need extra reinforcement of elementary school topics receive that, while those who are ready to move on are simultaneously able to progress.
What makes TTO’s learning modalities unique are that they are each personalized for every student, every day. Teach to One implements algorithms and classroom-specific information to organize a daily math curriculum for 10,000 students per day. Their innovative approach to math education is made possible by their New York offices, whose responsibilities include daily curriculum development. For Ector County, each lesson also takes into account Texas’s testing requirements and the student’s tendencies. It is this personalization that positions their students to learn math their way, the best way.
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic and the transition to remote learning, TTO has helped Ector County math teachers stay on track with their goals. Brown reported that 50-60% of their math students are logging in on a daily basis to complete their exit slips. These figures far exceeded the anticipated predictions in student engagement. Brown has also observed that students are “instilled with a desire to do their best,” even while checking in through Google Classroom.
Ector County’s current TTO implementation is a pilot program. As a result, Brown reports that “the whole state is looking at them” as a case study. The fact that most students receive the program well is especially promising to accurately showcase how TTO meets and exceeds a student’s math education potential. It is a daily effort, Brown reinforces. Teachers collaborate daily to discuss what they are teaching that day, as well as best practices for when a student doesn’t understand a concept. According to Brown, teachers strive to convey “that we’re working together, collaborating, coming up with resources” to make TTO’s learning modalities as effective as possible.
The Evolution of Teach to One
From the New York City Department of Education (DOE) emerged the transformative Teach to One: Math approach. Christopher Rush and Joel Rose, TTO’s Co-Founders, started as leaders of a NYC DOE modality called School of One. School of One was created as an approach to middle school math that integrates technology in the development and implementation of personalized curriculum. This solution to educational gaps in middle school education made national headlines. In fact, TIME magazine named School of One one of the Best Inventions of the Year in 2009.
In 2011, Rose founded New Classrooms Innovation Partners, a New York-based nonprofit. Rush serves as the organization’s Chief Program Officer, and Joel Rose serves as the organization’s Chief Executive Officer. New Classrooms: Innovation Partners is credited with scaling the instructional approach to School of One and with developing Teach to One. Since Rose and Rush had identified significant math education gaps among sixth and seventh grade students, sixth and seventh grade math were TTO’s initial focus. TTO, by way of New Classrooms: Innovation Partners, has since expanded to incorporate education gaps in fifth and eight grades. The content can reach all the way from second grade through high school. Teach to One hopes to one day spread into all grades, and even become multi-disciplinary with a science branch.
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