Middle School 385, NY - 2014 Transformation Award Winner

Mary Kate Appel

Transformation Award Winner: For introducing a personalized in-class online tutoring program to help students master mathematics concepts, resulting in dramatically improved state math exam scores.

In 2013, Middle School 385 – School of Business, Finance and Entrepreneurship, which is located in the heart of Brooklyn, was struggling when New York adopted the Common Core State Standards, and three quarters of its students did not pass the math exam with Common Core content. When looking for a way to improve math comprehension and exam scores, Principal Anne-Marie Malcolm knew she needed to look beyond the standards and the test, and focus on finding a way to personalize instruction to meet the individual needs of her students.

Principal Malcolm decided to pilot LearnBop, an automated tutoring system for grades 5–9 mathematics, because it simulates a one-to-one tutoring experience. An exclusive partner of Fuel Education, LearnBop guides students through problems step-by-step so they can learn fundamental math concepts at their own pace. Principal Malcolm selected two teachers and three classes—a sixth-, seventh-, and eighth-grade class—to participate in the pilot program. Only 20 of the 50 students in the program had passed the year-end state math exam that included Common Core math content.

During the 2013–2014 school year, the math teachers presented concepts in class, and then students used the LearnBop tutoring and assessment program for one hour a week, either during class or in an after-school program. Student performance data was reported to the teachers each week, and the teachers used this information to target classroom instruction to better address some of the students’ common mistakes, and personalize instruction.

At the end of the year, 48 of the 50 students who participated in the program passed the state mathematics exam. Beyond that, the students’ self-confidence grew as they learned higher-level methods of reasoning and problemsolving skills.

Not only did Middle School 385’s program produce a greater number of students who passed the test, but it also helped prepare them for a world in which STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) is increasingly important in many career paths.

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